Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe dies after contracting Covid

Serial Killer, Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper, has died in hospital, a Prison Service. He was 74.

Sutcliffe was serving 20 life terms at Frankland prison in County Durham for murdering 13 women and attempting to kill seven more in the late 1970s.

The former lorry driver, from Bradford, died in hospital where he is said to have refused treatment for Covid-19. He also had other health problems.

He was in ill-health, was obese and had diabetes.His admission to the hospital came two weeks after he had been treated there for a suspected heart attack.

Sutcliffe, who was also found guilty of the attempted murder of seven women, was convicted in 1981. He spent three decades at Broadmoor Hospital before being moved to HMP Frankland in County Durham in 2016.

Sutcliffe used hammers and screwdrivers to murder his victims over a five-year period, between 1975 and 1980. He targeted women from all walks of life – the youngest was 16, the oldest 42 – sparking a reign of terror that meant no woman in the region felt safe.

Despite the 2.5m police hours expended on catching Sutcliffe, a mishandled investigation meant he remained at large for six years. He was interviewed – and released – nine times in connection with the killings, with officers repeatedly missing clues that could have led to an earlier conviction.

An inquiry held after his conviction said a backlog of case paperwork meant officers were unable to connect vital pieces of information.

Former detective Bob Bridgestock said senior detectives “wore blinkers” during the inquiry. “It’s the victims that served the life sentence and then the victims’ families that really serve the true life sentences,” he said.

His first victim's son, who was five when his mother was killed in 1975, said Sutcliffe's death would bring "some kind of closure".

Ms McCann's son Richard said: "The attention he's had over the years, the continuous news stories that we've suffered over the years, there is some form of conclusion to that.

"I am sure a lot of the families, surviving children of the victims may well be glad he has gone and they have a right to feel like that."

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said it was “right” that Sutcliffe had died behind bars. He said: “The prime minister’s thoughts today are with those who lost their lives, the survivors and with the families and the friends of Sutcliffe’s victims.”

The murders

The first two victims, Ms McCann and Emily Jackson, were killed in Chapeltown, which was known at the time for containing Leeds' main red light district.

Following the second murder, West Yorkshire Police announced they were looking for a "prostitute killer", leading to accusations key eyewitness evidence was being ignored as it did not fit detectives' narrative.

Sutcliffe had violently attacked at least three women before he killed Ms McCann.

In 1969, he hit a woman over the head with a stone in a sock. Sutcliffe admitted the offence, but his victim decided not to press charges.

In 1976, Marcella Claxton, 20, was hit over the head with a hammer near her home in Leeds; she survived and produced an accurate photofit but was discounted as a Ripper victim, because police said she must have been attacked by a black man, according to the English Collective Prostitutes . Police overlooked that Sutcliffe had been arrested in 1969 for carrying a hammer in a red light district, and an anonymous letter sent by his friend Trevor Birdsall to try to expose him.

For a significant period, George Oldfield, West Yorkshire police’s assistant chief constable, was put off the track by a tape purporting to be from the killer that later turned out to be a hoax.

Eventually, in January 1981, Sutcliffe was stopped with a sex worker. When officers found screwdrivers in the glove compartment of the vehicle, others went back to the scene of the arrest and found a hammer and knife 15 metres (50ft) from where the vehicle had been.

As the net closed, Sutcliffe unexpectedly confessed, and calmly told Det Insp John Boyle: “It’s all right, I know what you’re leading up to. The Yorkshire Ripper. It’s me. I killed all those women.”

Richard McCann, the son of Sutcliffe’s first-known victim, Wilma McCann, said he had ruined many lives. “He will go down as one of those figures from the 20th century in the same league I suppose as someone like Hitler,” he told Sky News.

McCann has appealed to West Yorkshire Police to make a formal apology for the language used in the 1970s to describe his mother and other victims.

"They described some of the women as 'innocent', inferring that some were not innocent - including my mum," he said.

"She was a family woman who, through no fault of her own, was going through adversity and made some bad decisions, some risky decisions.

"She paid for those decisions with her life."

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "We have received correspondence from Mr McCann and commit to continue to engage with him directly."

AP Wire

The 13 women Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering were:

Wilma McCann, 28, from Chapeltown, Leeds, who was killed in October 1975.

Emily Jackson, 42, from Morley, Leeds. Killed on 20 January 1976.

Irene Richardson, 28, from Chapeltown, Leeds. Killed on 6 February 1977.

Patricia Atkinson, 32, from Manningham, Bradford. Killed on 24 April 1977.

Jayne MacDonald, 16, from Leeds. Killed on 26 June 1977.

Jean Jordan, 21, from Manchester, who died between 30 September and 11 October 1977.

Yvonne Pearson, 22, from Bradford. Killed between 20 January and 26 March 1978.

Helen Rytka, 18, from Huddersfield. Killed on 31 January 1978.

Vera Millward, 40, from Manchester. Killed on 16 May 1978.

Josephine Whitaker, 19, from Halifax. Killed on 4 April 1979.

Barbara Leach, 20. Killed while walking in Bradford on 1 September 1979.

Marguerite Walls, 47, from Leeds. Killed on 20 August 1980.

Jacqueline Hill, 20. Killed at Headingley on 16 November 1980.