Peter Sutcliffe - The Yorkshire Ripper

Peter Sutcliffe - The Yorkshire Ripper

From 1975-1980, a cloud of fear hung over northern England. During this time, Peter Sutcliffe, who is now known as the Yorkshire Ripper, murdered at least thirteen women and attempted to kill at least seven others. The murders were committed in various locations, which increased the public's uneasiness. Even though he was convicted in 1981 of these crimes, is serving 20 consecutive life sentences and will never be released from prison, public interest in his life and killing spree remains strong.

Peter was the oldest of six children, born June 2, 1946. He lived his childhood in Bingley, Yorkshire. He was generally observed as being a quiet child and was bullied at school. Not finishing his studies, he left school at the young age of 15 to take odd jobs. One notable odd job that he held was a position as a gravedigger. After dating a young woman by the name of Sonia Szurma for more than eight years, they married in 1974.

Despite his nondescript appearance, Peter hid a dark side. At some point in his early life, he developed an obsession with prostitutes. He did not stop hiring prostitutes even after he was married to Sonia, and in fact indulged in this vice with a close friend, Trevor Birdsall. Peter became a lorry driver in 1975 which took him on travels and conceivably gave him ample time to continue to consort with prostitutes, and later, commit heinous crimes.

Peter's victims ranged in age from 18 – 42, but showed no common characteristics. True, most of his victims were prostitutes, but not all. Among his other victims were two female university students, a supermarket employee and a bank clerk. Peter would hit his victim with a hammer, move her to a new location, sexually assault her, and then stab her body multiple times. He usually covered the body up, many times with her own clothing. One of his victims was found under an abandoned piece of furniture.

While the police dedicated thousands of man-hours to the investigation into the crimes, they struggled to follow the clues and catch the murderer. In fact, Peter was arrested at least four times before the final arrest which led to his confession of the murders. During previous arrests for unrelated crimes, investigators did not believe Peter was the Yorkshire Ripper despite the fact that at on at least one occasion, he had a hammer in his possession and was in the "red light" district of the city. Perhaps police were confused by some of the bogus tips that they had received, such as telephone calls from a man claiming to be the Ripper. Since Peter's accent did not match the recording of the telephone call, they didn't investigate him further.

One of the most interesting facts about the police investigation into the Yorkshire Ripper murders is that Peter was actually interviewed at least nine times by officers before he was charged with the crimes. This, along with the fact that he was even in police custody several times prior to his final arrest, caused public outcry about the efficiency of the police force.

No one can explain exactly why Peter began his violent killing spree. Some experts speculate that he had a bad experience with a prostitute which may have "pushed him over the edge". Peter claimed that he was being guided by "the voice of God." Can a person with such a violent history be cured of his mental illness, and trusted not to repeat the same behaviors? This is what Peter would like everyone to believe. In fact, as recently as the Autumn of 2012, Peter was overheard discussing how he believes that he is cured, would like to be transferred from Broadmoor, and could even be trusted to take day trips into town. In 2010, his lawyers actually filed an attempt to have his sentence reduced. It was unsuccessful.


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