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True Crime January 1991
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To start the new year True Crime recalls one of the most tragic chapters in British criminal history. The Yorkshire Ripper brought horror never before known to the people of those cities where he stalked his prey, before mercilessly hammering them to death. For more than five years, Yorkshire and Lancashire folk of all ages lived in the terrifying knowledge that at any time, anywhere, one of their female loved ones could be picked at random, then horribly murdered.
It is perhaps, only too fashionable to gloss over any of a killer’s direct victims and concentrate on the killer himself, yet the women Sutcliffe did not finish off still bear the physical and mental scars, and the families of the women he killed; children growing up without mothers, their own parents and business associates – all have had to endure the anguish (and still do) of having had a person stolen from their lives. These are the real victims. So too are Sutcliffe’s own family. Can you imagine the shock of discovering that your son or brother is the one whose gruesome nickname has been on your own as well as everyone else’s lips?
A number of senior police officers on the Ripper inquiry were broken in health by the case. Many criticisms, some unjustified, were leveled at them over their handling of the investigation. Who sent the infamous Geordie hoax tape? Was it Sutcliffe himself? Friends and family have agreed that Peter Sutcliffe was a clever mimic…or is there an evil person out there, whose successful red herring ensured that many more women would die?
In trying to analyse the killer’s motives, many have suggested that Peter Sutcliffe had an unhappy childhood. Perhaps he did. But there have been many people who have had far unhappier childhoods who have not become killers. That is something worth thinking about. Sutcliffe is a thief of lives and a thief of happiness. For himself, he gained absolutely nothing but the knowledge that he had spread misery among literally hundreds of innocent folk.