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  SUTCLIFFE Peter William ... ... UK ... ... ... 13+
Yorkshire Ripper
SUTCLIFFE Peter William
A "harlot killer" who proved rather indiscriminate in choosing victims was Great Britain's Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. While residing in apparent harmony with his beloved wife -- herself a schizophrenic who spent time in institutions -- Sutcliffe waged a five-year war against the female population of England's northern counties. With his ball peen hammer, chisel, and assorted other implements of slaughter, Yorkshire's ripper claimed a minimum of thirteen victims killed and seven wounded. In addition to the documented bodycount, he is believed by some to be responsible for other unsolved murders on the European continent. The roots of Sutcliffe's homicidal rage are difficult to trace. His family appears to have been torn by dark suspicions, on his father's part, of infidelity by Peter's mother, and the boy's opinion of all women may have suffered in an atmosphere of brooding doubt. As a young man, he found employment with a local mortuary, and was prone to "borrow" jewelry from the corpses; in his comments, easily dismissed as "jokes" by his co-workers at the time, there is a hint of budding necrophilia , more disturbing then the strain of larceny. A favorite outing for the would-be ripper was a local wax museum, where he lingered by the hour over torsos that depicted the results of gross venereal disease. Before his marriage, Sutcliffe frequently expressed his fears of having caught "a dose" from contact with the prostitutes of Leeds and Birmingham. Sutcliffe's first attacks on women, in July and August 1975, were unsuccessful in that both his victims managed to survive the crushing blows of hammers to their skulls, the slashes he inflicted on their torsos after they were down. October was a better month for Peter; on the 29th he slaughtered prostitute Wilma McCann, in Leeds, and thus officially began the Ripper's reign of terror. There seemed to be no schedule for the crimes. On January 20, 1976, housewife/hooker Emily Jackson was bludgeoned in Leeds, her prostrate body bearing fifty stab wounds. Sutcliffe did not strike again for thirteen months, attacking Irene Richardson, another prostitute, again in Leeds. He moved to Bradford for the April butchery of Tina Atkinson, another prostitute, found murdered in her own apartment, mutilated after death. On June 16, the Ripper struck again, but his selection of a victim made the slaying different, more appalling to the populace at large. At sixteen years of age, Jane MacDonald was an "innocent," the perfect girl next door, cut down while strolling to a relative's, almost within sight of home. Her murder put the Ripper on a different plane, immediately serving notice that no girl or woman in the northern counties was considered safe. Maureen Long was assaulted on the streets of Bradford, in July, but she survived the blows that Sutcliffe rained upon her skull. In October, he crossed the Pennines to murder Jean Jordan in Manchester, crushing her skull with eleven hammer strokes, stabbing her twenty-four times after death. When she had not been found within a week, he would return to move the body and slash it further, making its location more apparent to police. In January 1978, Sutcliffe killed a prostitute named Helen Rytka in the town of Huddersfield. In April 1979, another "innocent," nineteen-year-old Josephine Whittaker, was butchered in Halifax. A civil servant, Marguerite Walls, was murdered at Pudsey in August, and twelve days later Sutcliffe slaughtered co-ed Barbara Leach, in Bradford. In the middle of their manhunt, homicide investigators were bedeviled by a mocking tape and several letters from "the Ripper." Later, with their man in custody, they learned that all were hoaxes, perpetrated by another twisted mind that found vicarious release in toying with detectives. Countless hours were wasted by police and independent searchers, looking for a man whose penmanship and accent bore no smallest similarity to Sutcliffe's own. The charlatan responsible -- suspected in two unrelated homicides -- remains at large today. The Ripper had two more near-misses in October and November, wounding victims in the towns of Leeds and Huddersfield, respectively. Both would survive their wounds, and Sutcliffe took a year's vacation prior to killing co-ed Jacqueline Hill, at Leeds, in November 1980. The latest victim's mutilations were familiar to police, but Sutcliffe also stabbed her in the eye, unsettled by the corpse's "reproachful stare." On January 2, 1981, police arrested Sutcliffe, with a prostitute, in one of several areas that had been subject to surveillance through the manhunt. Even so, they almost let him slip the net by stepping out of sight behind some shrubbery to urinate, there dropping the incriminating weapons that he carried underneath his jacket. At the station, Sutcliffe finally broke down, confessing everything. Detectives noted that their suspect seemed relieved to have it all behind him. So he seemed, as well, to spectators in court when he received a term of life imprisonment for thirteen homicides and various assaults. (Author David Yallop, in Deliver Us from Evil, links the Ripper with four additional murders and seven non-fatal assaults, including crimes in France and Sweden.) From Sutcliffe's truck, detectives had retrieved a written statement that appeared to summarize the Ripper's twisted view of life: In this truck is a man whose latent genius, if unleashed, would rock the nation, whose dynamic energy would overpower those around him. Better let him sleep?
Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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