Peter Sutcliffe’s reign of terror lasted five years (Picture: Rex; AP)
The case of the Yorkshire Ripper, aka Peter Sutcliffe, will become the central case in a new Netflix true crime documentary.
From 1975 to 1980, the women of Greater Manchester and Yorkshire areas were left terrified as a serial killer seemingly took inspiration from the notorious Jack the Ripper to target his victims.
The police were left stumped for years as the man known as the Yorkshire Ripper continued his reign of terror – until a break in the case meant Sutcliffe was finally caught and convicted.
Who was he? How did he manage to evade capture for so long? And when was he finally caught?
Here’s what you need to know…
Who was Peter Sutcliffe?
Peter Sutcliffe was born in 1946 and raised in Yorkshire.
While growing up, he took a series of jobs including one of a grave digger, which is often blamed for his ‘dark sense of humour’.
During his killing spree, he worked as a heavy goods vehicle driver around the area.
He met wife Sonia Szurma in 1967 and they married in 1974. They were later told that she was unable to have children.
Peter was known to have assaulted women throughout this period, and was believed to have developed an obsession with sex workers.
The first official murder of The Ripper occurred in 1975 – when Wilma McCann, a mother-of-four, was hit twice in the head with a hammer and stabbed multiple times.
The murderer remained in prison for more than 40 years (Picture: Rex)
However, this later progressed to women outside of the sex trade, and in total he is confirmed to have killed 13 women.
He was only caught on January 2, 1981, after being arrested while soliciting sex from 24-year-old Olivia Reivers, and had false number plates on his car.
Having been connected to the investigation previously, and bearing similar characteristics given by witnesses to the murderer, he was once again interrogated about the Ripper case.
At the scene of his arrest, police found a collection of weapons including a knife, hammer and a rope.
He finally confessed on January 4 to being the Ripper, giving details to the police about the murders and claiming ‘God told him to do it.’
The Yorkshire Ripper killed 12 women and tried to murder seven others (Picture: PA)
Who were The Yorkshire Ripper’s victims?
There are 13 confirmed victims of The Yorkshire Ripper, all taking place around Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, and Huddersfield.
Their names are:
- Wilma McCann (1975)
- Emily Jackson (1976)
- Irene Richardson (1977)
- Patricia ‘Tina’ Atkinson (1977)
- Jayne MacDonald (1977)
- Jean Jordan (1977)
- Yvonne Pearson (1978)
- Helen Rytka (1978)
- Vera Millward (1978)
- Josephine Whitaker (1979)
- Barbara Leach (1979)
- Marguerite Walls (1980)
- Jacqueline Hill (1980)
However, he is convicted of the attack of nine others, and there may well have been other murders and attacks that were never reported, or connected to the case.
Sutcliffe was eventually caught in 1981 (Picture: Rex)
Is Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe still alive?
No. In November 2020, Peter Sutcliffe died in hospital, five days after contracting coronavirus.
The Jehovah’s Witness said he didn’t want to prolong his life ‘artificially’ and decided to turn down hospital treatment.
He was 74 years old and had spent 40 years in prison, including 32 years in a psychiatric hospital.
He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1984, three years after he was given a life sentence for his crimes.
While staying at HMP Broadmoor in 1997, he was stabbed with a pen and as a result was blinded in one eye.
He was cremated in a secret ceremony.
What is Netflix’s The Ripper about?
The Ripper will focus on the police investigation of the murders, as well as interview those who were affected by the rampage.
Among the interviewees is Coronation Street actor Bruce Jones, who became a suspect in the case back in 1977 after finding the body of Jean Jordan.
There will also be archival footage of the news reports and protests that occurred at the time, as the area became paranoid about even leaving their house alone for fear of being the next victim.
The Ripper launches December 16 on Netflix.