Serial Killer Profile: Peter Sutcliffe
Peter Sutcliffe was born on June 2, 1946 in West Yorkshire, England. He is better known to the British public as the Yorkshire Ripper.
Peter Sutcliffe's first known assault took place on July 5, 1975 when he attacked 36 year-old Anna Rogulskyj when she was out walking on her own. Peter Sutcliffe hit her on the head with a hammer, knocking her unconscious and then slashed her stomach with a knife. Peter Sutcliffe was disrupted and he ran off leaving Anna Rogulskyj seriously injured but she somehow managed to survive. In August of 1975 Peter Sutcliffe then attacked 46 year-old Olive Smelt in a similar manner and once again ran off when she was disturbed.
On October 30, 1975, Peter Sutcliffe went to Leeds and attacked and killed a 28 year-old prostitute named Wilma McCann. He killed her by striking her twice on the back of the head with a hammer and stabbing her fifteen times. Despite the British police launching a massive investigation that involved 150 police officers and 11,000 interviews the police didn't find the killer.
Peter Sutcliffe didn't kill anyone again until January 1976 when he stabbed 42 year-old Emily Jackson 51 times in an attack that took place in Leeds. On the May 9, 1976 he attacked a 20 year-old prostitute, Marcella Claxton. She was left with hammer hits and 28 stabbing wounds.
In February of 1977, Peter Sutcliffe killed 28 year-old Irene Richardson, another prostitute, by hitting her hard a number of times with a hammer. He then stabbed her after she had died. Throughout 1977, Peter Sutcliffe attacked a number of other women, many of whom died. Along the way he left a few possible clues including blood drops and tire tracks. However, it was when one of his potential victims, Marilyn Moore, survived her attack in December 1977 that the police were able to get a good description of the attacker. In addition, the tire tracks found at the scene of her attack matched those that had been found at a previous murder.
By this time the case was known by the British public and media as the Yorkshire Ripper case, with some aspects of the cases echoing the historic case of Rack the Ripper. In January 1978, Peter Sutcliffe was interviewed as a potential suspect by the team investigating the case but he was dismissed. In the same month as he was interviewed by the police, Peter Sutcliffe killed two more prostitutes. One was killed in Bradford and the other in Huddersfield. One more victim was claimed by Peter Sutcliffe in 1978 when Vera Millward was killed on May 16, 1978.
Peter Sutcliffe killed again in 1979 but the police were following false lead when a hoaxer was sending then tapes where he taunted them for not being able to catch him and letters that he would sign 'Jack the Ripper'. The accent of the person on the hoax tapes suggested to the police that the Yorkshire Ripper was a native of Wearside and in particular the areas of Sunderland and Castletown. So, the police were looking in entirely the wrong area. In 2005, the hoaxer was identified as John Humble and he stood trial on courses of attempting to pervert the course of justice. In 2006, John Humble was sentenced to eight years in prison. Meanwhile, Peter Sutcliffe was still out there and he killed once more in 1979 and was brought in again for questioning - the 9th time in total - but once again wasn't considered to be a strong suspect.
In 1980, Peter Sutcliffe killed two more women and attacked an additional two. Then in January of 1981, Peter Sutcliffe was stopped and arrested by the police for having fake number plates on his car. At the time of the arrest he had a prostitute with him in the car. When Peter Sutcliffe was taken to the police station he was questioned about the fake plates and then, because he matched some aspects of the descriptions given, he was also questioned about the Yorkshire Ripper case. The next day, the police revisited the spot of the arrest and found a knife, hammer and rope that Peter Sutcliffe had managed to have dropped at the scene. Following that they obtained a warrant to search his home and brought his wife in for questioning.
After two days of being questioned by police, Peter Sutcliffe admitted to being the Yorkshire Ripper and gave the police details of his crimes. Peter Sutcliffe later claimed that he was killing women on the orders of God.
Peter Sutcliffe was formally charged on January 6, 1981 and he stood trial in May of 1981. At the trial Peter Sutcliffe was found guilty of thirteen counts of murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of thirty years. All of his attempts for an appeal have been denied.