Yorkshire Ripper ‘no longer mentally ill - should return to regular jail’

Peter Sutcliffe. The Yorkshire Ripper.
Peter Sutcliffe. The Yorkshire Ripper.

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe is no longer mentally ill and should be returned to ordinary prison, psychiatrists have said.

Doctors have recommended that Sutcliffe, 69, is taken out of Broadmoor Hospital, the high-security psychiatric centre in Berkshire, and moved into a specialist prison unit.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the final decision on whether Sutcliffe will be moved would be made by Justice Secretary Michael Gove.

An MoJ spokesman said: “Decisions over whether prisoners are to be sent back to prison from secure hospitals are based on clinical assessments made by independent medical staff.

“The High Court ordered in 2009 that Sutcliffe should never be released. This was then upheld by the Court of Appeal.

“Our thoughts are with Sutcliffe’s victims and their families.”

Richard McCann, the son of Wilma McCann, Sutcliffe’s first victim, said: “If that is what the MoJ decide I am fine with that.

“I can understand why some people want to see him in prison. None of this will bring my mum back and where he is locked up does not really change anything.”

Sutcliffe was given 20 life terms for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of others in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester after being convicted at the Old Bailey in 1981.

He was moved to Broadmoor from Parkhurst jail in 1984 after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

The former lorry driver, from Bradford, was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper because he mutilated the bodies of his victims using a hammer, a sharpened screwdriver and a knife.

He was to tell psychiatrists who examined him, and gave evidence at trial, that while working in a graveyard in 1967 he heard a voice, which he took to be a divine voice, which eventually told him it was his mission to kill or eradicate prostitutes.

Sutcliffe carried out his first attack on a woman on July 5 1975 - but not all of his victims were sex workers.

Court of Appeal judges dismissed an appeal in 2011 by the serial killer, ruling: “Even accepting that an element of mental disturbance was intrinsic to the commission of these crimes, the interests of justice require nothing less than a whole-life order.”

Meanwhile, Broadmoor has previously been rated inadequate by a watchdog, with concerns raised about patients being physically restrained too often.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission said they did not see convincing evidence that seclusion and restraint were only being used in cases when it was deemed absolutely necessary.

Peter Sutcliffe’s killing spree brought panic and fear to the north of England for five years and provoked the biggest manhunt the UK has ever seen.

The lorry driver murdered 13 women and tried to kill seven more between 1975 and 1980 and the desperate police operation to catch him was the most extensive and controversial investigation of the 20th century.

Sutcliffe was 39 years old when he attacked his first known victim, Anna Rogulskyj, 36, in Keighley, with a knife and a hammer in July 1975. She survived.

Three months later, Sutcliffe carried out his first murder when he attacked Wilma McCann, a 28-year-old prostitute and mother-of-four from the Chapeltown district of Leeds.

In January 1976 he murdered prostitute Emily Jackson, 42, battering her with a hammer and stabbing her with a screwdriver and, four months later, Marcella Claxton, 20, survived after Sutcliffe attacked her with a hammer in Roundhay Park, Leeds.

In 1977 - after Sutcliffe killed Irene Richardson and Patricia Atkinson - the case came to the attention of the national press with the murder of Jayne MacDonald, who was only 16.

The young shop assistant was his youngest victim and was not a prostitute. After she was killed in Chapeltown, on June 26, the attacker was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper and huge publicity followed the realisation a serial killer was on the loose in Yorkshire.

West Yorkshire Police increased their investigation to a massive operation, under the command of Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, which was soon swamped with huge amounts of information.

But Sutcliffe continued his killing with the murder of Jean Jordan in Manchester. After this, police traced a £5 note from the scene to his employers and Sutcliffe was one of many men interviewed - one of a number of times he was questioned during the investigation.

In 1978, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka and Vera Millward were murdered and then, after a break of nearly a year, Sutcliffe killed Halifax Building Society clerk Josephine Whitaker, 19, in April 1979.

Three months later, Sutcliffe was interviewed for a fifth time but, despite the suspicions of the interviewing detectives, no further action was taken because his voice and handwriting did not match letters and a tape sent to police by a Sunderland man - known as Wearside Jack - claiming to be responsible for the crimes.

The Wearside Jack messages derailed the investigation as detectives were told they could discount suspects who did not have a Sunderland accent.

Sutcliffe, who was from Bradford and had a Yorkshire accent, went on to murder Barbara Leach, 20, and Marguerite Walls, 47, and attack other women who survived.

The Ripper’s final murder victim was 20-year-old Leeds University student Jacqueline Hill in November 1980.

Sutcliffe was arrested on January 3, 1981 in Sheffield.

Police approached Sutcliffe, who was with a prostitute in a car, and took him in for questioning about stolen number plates. Officers later found a hammer and a knife near where he was detained.

At the Old Bailey later in 1981, at one of the century’s most high profile trials, Sutcliffe admitted the killings but denied murder, claiming that ‘’voices from God’’ told him to rid the streets of prostitutes.

But he was convicted of 13 murders and seven attempted murders and given 20 life sentences.

In 1984 he was transferred from prison to Broadmoor special hospital suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Since Sutcliffe’s conviction, various reports have indicated he may have killed many more women than those whose deaths featured in the 1981 trial.

The case remains one of the most notorious of the last 100 years and the assessment of what went wrong in the investigation is still having an impact on major police inquiries to this day.

The Wearside Jack messages were finally, conclusively proved to be hoax nearly 30 years after they were sent when Sunderland alcoholic John Humble admitted perverting the course of justice and was jailed for eight years in 2006.