Sutcliffe, a former lorry driver, was serving a whole life term for murdering 13 women across Yorkshire and the North West in a five-year reign of terror between 1975 and 1980.
Police, however, remain convinced that the Yorkshire Ripper’s death toll of female victims remains higher as copious missed opportunities allowed Sutcliffe the chance to continue his murderous rampage.
Lest we forget, 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.
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 a total of nine times in connection with the killings. It was later revealed that officers also repeatedly missing clues that could have led to an earlier conviction.
Eventually, in January 1981, Sutcliffe was stopped with a sex worker in his brown Rover car, which had false number plates. 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. Sutcliffe had dumped the weapons when officers allowed him to go to the toilet at the side of a building.
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.”
Following the news of his death, one of his surviving victims said she was still “living with” injuries sustained during his attack – while the son of his first murder victim, Wilma McCann, said Sutcliffe’s death had brought him “closure”.
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