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  • July 1979. Constable Andy Laptew turns up at the house of Peter Sutcliffe, a possible

  • murder suspect. He's met at the door by Sutcliffe's wife and is invited in for a

  • cup of tea and a chat. Sutcliffe appears in the living room, a man that doesn't look

  • dissimilar from a Hollywood portrayal of the antichrist. He has menacing eyes, almost like

  • black dots; black hair and a finely coiffed jet-black beard.

  • The police officer asks him, “Peter, do you frequent prostitutes?”

  • The response is quick, “No, not at all, I've no need – I'm only recently married.”

  • After the interview the cop leaves that house thinking this could be the guy. This could

  • be the animal that has made women fear for their lives for years now in the towns and

  • cities of West Yorkshire and beyond. Laptew goes back to the station and tells

  • his boss that the guy he just spoke to is a “dead ringerfor the photofit they

  • have. That boss, one of many cops who would be later accused of doing dreadful police

  • work, screams at the young constable. “Anybody mentions photofits to me again will be doing

  • traffic for the rest of their service!” he shouts. The higher ups have a tape recording,

  • one they're sure was made by the real ripper. They are wrong of course, and their shoddy

  • work will mean flagons of blood spilled on the streets that needn't have been spilled.

  • The case, still today, is arguably the most well-known serial case the UK has ever had

  • bar London's Jack the Ripper, who, it must be said, wasn't anywhere near as prolific

  • as the Yorkshireman. There's a saying in England that goes, “It's

  • grim up north.” If in the late 70s and early 80s you would have walked down certain streets

  • in the industrial cities and towns of West Yorkshire you wouldn't have disagreed. These

  • streets, with their dilapidated houses and rubbish piling up in gardens, were the hunting

  • grounds for the man that would become known as the Yorkshire Ripper.

  • Like many kids back in those days, Sutcliffe was born into the kind of family where higher

  • education was simply out of the question. For most working class teenagers, they left

  • school aged 15 or 16 and they either got a trade or worked in one of the industries in

  • what was known as the industrial north. One of Sutcliffe's first jobs was as a gravedigger,

  • a job perhaps quite apt for a man that would later ditch bodies. It's said that due to

  • the morbid nature of this occupation, as a teenager Sutcliffe sometimes surprised people

  • with his very dark sense of humor. Possibly something that happened during those days

  • shaped what he would become. We'll get around to that later. All we will say is that Sutcliffe

  • apparently enjoyed washing the corpses, something that shocked his few friends when he told

  • them about it in the pub. We don't know too much about his childhood,

  • but it didn't sound very pleasant. One of six children, Sutcliffe was a mother's boy.

  • As the saying goes, he was tied to her apron strings. His father never really gave much

  • attention to who he considered the quiet, oddball son. This is what one of Sutcliffe's

  • brothers later said about their father: “He used to belt the hell out of us when

  • we were kids. I remember when I was about four or five, there was a bit of an argument

  • and he smashed a beer glass into Peter's head.” It's also said most of the children

  • at times had to watch on helplessly as their father beat their mother.

  • Ok, so this once quiet child with a history of violence undoubtedly didn't have the

  • best of upbringings, but after a series of factory jobs and a stint unemployed, he landed

  • himself work as a heavy goods vehicle operator at a place called T. & W.H. Clark Holdings.

  • That's a name you're going to hear again. By this time, he'd already married Sonia

  • Szurma, a young woman he'd been dating for around seven years. They tried to have children,

  • but after a series of miscarriages, they gave up. She also had an affair at one point, but

  • still, they stayed together and bought a house in Bradford with her savings from school teaching.

  • The relationship doesn't exactly sound like one made in heaven, but nonetheless, a teacher

  • and driver living in a semi-detached property looked normal enough to family, friends and

  • neighbors. Together the couple had nights out with people. They attended weddings together.

  • They were just another couple like any other. What his wife didn't know, though, is that

  • her husband was a voyeur. Sometimes he'd go out at night and just watch women, especially

  • women working in the atrociously rundown red lights districts of Leeds and Bradford.

  • In 1969, when Sutcliffe was 23-years old and had been with Szurma for almost two years,

  • he began his life of vicious crimes. This all happened after a prostitute had tricked

  • him out of some money. Later the same night, after having a few drinks with a friend, they

  • drove off in the friend's car. This friend is another matter of great importance that

  • we'll come back to later. Sutcliffe told his buddy he wanted to get

  • out of the car for a minute. He wanted to find the prostitute. He couldn't find her,

  • but he saw another woman working on the streets, so he followed her. In his hand was a sock

  • filled with a stone. This is what he later admitted about that night: “I got out of

  • the car, went across the road and hit her. The force of the impact tore the toe off the

  • sock and whatever was in it came out. I went back to the car and got in it.”

  • His friend might not have seen all this take place, but that didn't matter.

  • The cops had gotten the registration plate of Sutcliffe's friend's car and so they

  • ended up at Sutcliffe's home the next day. As you already know, this wouldn't be the

  • first time they knocked on his door. In fact, prior to his arrest, they'd interview him

  • nine times. Yep, this is one messed up case. What you'll discover is that it seemed the

  • police looked everywhere but the place they should have been looking.

  • Anyway, when Sutcliffe talked to the cops, he admitted he'd hit the woman, but he said

  • he had done so with his fist. The cops bought into that story, and also told Sutcliffe he

  • was fortunate because the woman didn't want to press charges. Had she been middle class,

  • not a prostitute, you can be sure the police would have urged her to take things further.

  • This was the late 60s, a time of widespread class prejudice and misogyny in England.

  • July, 1975. This time the place of the crime is a textile town on the outskirts of the

  • city of Bradford. Sutcliffe spots a woman walking down a quiet street at night. He walks

  • behind her, says something to her, and subsequently strikes her hard on the head with a ball-pein

  • hammer. He then slashes her stomach with a knife. Like many of his victims, she would

  • survive, but the attack was so traumatic she later said she sometimes wished she'd have

  • died. A month later, he stalked a woman in the town

  • of Halifax, a mill town not too far from Bradford. He asked her something about the weather before

  • hitting her over the head with a hammer. Again, he slashed the victim, this time on the back.

  • She also survived the attack. It should be said, neither of these attacks

  • happened in red light areas and the victims weren't prostitutes. The last woman had

  • been out at the Royal Oak pub in Halifax and had stopped off on her way home to buy fish

  • and chips for her and her husband. Sutcliffe had also been in that pub with the same guy

  • he'd been with in the 1969 attack. At one point Suttcliffe turned to his friend and

  • said, “I bet she's on the game.” The next day the friend read the newspaper and saw

  • a woman had been attacked after leaving the Royal Oak. It did cross his mind that the

  • perpetrator might have been Sutcliffe. Both times he could have killed the women,

  • but he was interrupted during the commission of the crimes. Many years later, Sutcliffe

  • told the police about the second attack, “I was going to kill her. I had the knife with

  • me at that time. I was going to kill her, but I did not get the chance.”

  • Just after the crime, this woman told the police something of great importance. She

  • said her attacker had a Yorkshire accent. This fact, and the fact both women hadn't

  • been attacked in red light areas, police just chose to forget.

  • This is very, very important for you guys to know. You see, maybe you don't know that

  • accents in England can change even when you don't travel too far. You can travel from

  • Bradford to Manchester, or to Liverpool, or to Newcastle in the North East, and the change

  • in accent is unmistakable. These places are all pretty close by, in USA terms anyway.

  • You can drive as little as 20 miles from one city and people can sound different.

  • Ok, not long after that last attack, Sutcliffe followed a 14-year old girl down a quiet country

  • lane. He approached her and they walked for a while and chatted. After about 20 minutes

  • he hit her five times over the head with a hammer. He then saw car lights, so ran, leaving

  • the girl for dead. She needed brain surgery, but when she came around, she could accurately

  • describe her assailant and say what kind of accent he had.

  • What we now have are three crimes that all look very similar that happened not too far

  • away from each other. Then, just a couple of months later he attacked another woman

  • with a hammer. This time he stabbed the woman many times and she died.

  • Even though these crimes were so similar, police hadn't linked them together. They

  • had some details about the attacker given from the surviving victims. They'd been

  • told he was about five feet eight (173 cm). They knew he had a Yorkshire accent. They

  • knew he had black hair and a black beard. Still, they believed one man was attacking

  • prostitutes and he wasn't the one attacking what they deemedgood girls”.

  • In fact, the photofit police put in the newspaper was his double. Little did police know that

  • when that photofit appeared in the newspapers Sutcliffe joked with his mother-in-law about

  • how much it looked like him. Just a few months later he picked up a prostitute

  • in Leeds. He drove her to some abandoned buildings where he hit her over the head with a hammer.

  • This time he used a sharpened screwdriver to stab her 52 times. He then dumped her body

  • in what looked something like a junkyard, but this was just another downtrodden area.

  • This time he stamped on her, leaving an impression of his boots. This is important, too. It was

  • a size 7 Dunlop Warwick Wellington boot. This bootprint would be seen again at a crime scene.

  • Over the next year, he attacked more women in a similar style. Usually using a hammer

  • to knock them out or subdue them, and then stabbing them. Some of his victims would survive,

  • but not without life-changing injuries. One woman he killed with a hammer, and then

  • he mutilated her dead body. This time he left tire tracks behind. That was another clue,

  • since police could investigate what kind of car or at least tires they were looking for.

  • Still, there were 100,000 possible matches for those tires.

  • When he killed a 16-year old girl, the police and the press all started talking about him

  • now killing normal people, as if the other victims were inhuman or something. Such were

  • the days, the cops ashamed themselves at one point by calling the last girl the firstinnocent

  • victim. They hadn't linked the 14-year old who survived, which was a pity, since she

  • had given an almost perfect description of him.

  • The cops had been sure they had a prostitute killer, but they were wrong. At one point

  • they'd even invited prostitutes from West Yorkshire to attend a meeting with them so

  • they could give advice and ask them questions. One cop smiled just before the women entered

  • the room and said to another cop, “I hope we're not going to catch anything sitting

  • on these chairs.” The other cop laughed and replied, “Well, I kept well out of their

  • way just in case.” It was only after this murder that police

  • really stepped up the investigation and the female public started thinking, “Oh, it

  • could be me next.” Time and again, the police said now a “respectablewoman had been

  • killed. One of the biggest manhunts in English history

  • was shaping up. Cops already had a lot of paperwork, so much, the station had to reinforce

  • the floor. On 1 October 1977, Sutcliffe had chosen the

  • city of Manchester as his next hunting ground. He made another mistake after paying a prostitute

  • some money and killing her. He realized the five pound note he'd handed her could be

  • traced. He returned to the part of Manchester where he'd dumped the body. This was described

  • as a wasteland. When he couldn't find the note, Sutcliffe

  • was enraged. He took a knife and mutilated the body as much as was possible, almost taking

  • off her head. The victim had worked on the mean streets, so she'd known to always hide

  • money in a secret compartment in her purse. The police found it, of course.

  • It was after this that cops narrowed down their search to some 8,000 men. That note

  • was issued by a bank for employee paychecks at certain companies. One of those companies

  • was T. & W.H. Clark Holdings. Sutcliffe was interviewed during his workday

  • there, but the police didn't find anything suspicious about his story. As we described

  • at the beginning, one cop ended up going to his house. There his wife said he'd been

  • with her at a party on the night of the murder. She was lying. She had no idea he was a killer,

  • but she was still giving false alibis for him.

  • Then there was another survivor and yet another woman who described a man who was a dead ringer

  • for Peter Sutcliffe. On top of that, the same tire tracks were found at the scene of the

  • crime. Maybe if they hadn't had so much paperwork

  • they would have known he was a prime suspect. So much information in the days when technology

  • was so backwards might have hampered the case. That, or the cops just sucked at their jobs.

  • They even questioned him yet again about why his car was seen so many times in red light

  • areas. It's said theRipper Squadhad talked to him several times at this point.

  • In '78, he killed again, twice, each time stabbing and slicing the corpses. He later

  • told the cops about 1978, saying, “I had the urge to kill any woman. The urge inside

  • me to kill girls was now practically uncontrollable.” In '79 he killed a 19-year old girl as she

  • walked home from her clerk job in the town of Halifax. The British tabloid press made

  • it a much bigger story when a young worker like this could be one of the Ripper's victims.

  • The pressure now on the West Yorkshire police was intense. To say the least, they looked

  • bad. That's one reason they sent the file to the FBI, an agency very experienced with

  • serial killers. It's then that someone posted a tape recording

  • packed into an envelope. It was addressed to the lead investigator. When they played

  • it, they heard, “I'm Jack. I see you're having no luck catching me. I have the greatest

  • respect for you, George, but Lord, you're no nearer catching me now than four years

  • ago when I started.” Obviously, if you know anything about the

  • Jack the Ripper letters, you'll know this person was imitating those. Linguists listened

  • to the recording and said this man was from Sunderland in Tyne and Wear in the North East

  • of England. That is about 78 miles (126 kilometers) away from Bradford, and if you know your English

  • accents, people from Sunderland sound nothing like people from West Yorkshire. Cops had

  • already heard how the attacker was short, had a Yorkshire accent, and how many people

  • now described him as having black hair and a black beard. It didn't matter.

  • They started investigating the man dubbed, “Wearside Jack.” This would become one

  • of the biggest embarrassments in UK policing history. Why? Because it was a hoax.

  • Wearside Jack even sent letters to the Daily Mirror newspaper. One went in part like this:

  • “I am the Ripper. I've been dubbed a maniac by the Press but not by you, you call me clever

  • and I am. You and your mates haven't a clue that photo in the paper gave me fits.”

  • Experts even told the investigators that the letter and the recording were very likely

  • the work of a hoaxer, but the cops stubbornly pressed forward with this line of investigation.

  • The FBI's Behavioral Unit, the people tasked with catching serial killers in the US, told

  • the Yorkshire cops that the tape was a hoax. They'd studied serial killers. They'd

  • invented profiling. They were leagues ahead of sexist, misogynistic Yorkshire cops.

  • One night Robert Ressler sat down for some pints in a quiet pub with the Yorkshire investigators.

  • This was the man depicted in the series Mindhunter and in real life the guy that helped bring

  • down the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy. He said to the cops, “You realize, of course,

  • that the man on the tape is not the killer, don't you?”

  • He told them the man on the tape was an extrovert, when they should be looking for an introvert.

  • They also said the guy they were looking for likely worked as a driver for a living. It

  • was being able to move around for a job that gave him cover, he said, adding that the man

  • was likely aged late 20s early 30s and had some serious mental health problems.

  • Even the surviving victims came forward and said this was not the man that had attacked

  • them. The actual killer, Peter Sutcliffe as you know, was even put at the back of the

  • suspect list because he didn't have a North East accent.

  • As the cops were looking for Wearside Jack the real Yorkshire Ripper killed three more

  • women and grievously injured two others. In 2005, thanks to DNA evidence that wasn't

  • available back then, John Humble was arrested on the Ford Estate in Sunderland. The man,

  • now a poor alcoholic, admitted he had been fascinated with Jack the Ripper and that's

  • one reason he pretended to be the Yorkshire Ripper.

  • It was also revealed that out of guilt, Humble had called the police during the investigation

  • and told them he was behind the hoax, but for some reason, the cops hadn't believed

  • him. Humble was released from prison in 2009. He was given a new identity in view of how

  • much the public despised him. His alcoholism killed him in 2019.

  • Ok, back to Mr. Sutcliffe. The game is almost up.

  • That guy who'd been out with Sutcliffe the night he used the loaded sock to hit a woman

  • over the head sent an anonymous letter to the cops markedPriority No1”. It fell

  • on deaf ears. This is what it said, “I have good reason to know the man you are looking

  • for in the Ripper case. This man has dealings with prostitutes and always had a thing about

  • them... His name and address is Peter Sutcliffe, 5 Garden Lane, Heaton, Bradford, Shipley.”