Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Peter Sutcliffe

A Killer's Mask

Six months after his marriage to Sonia, Peter Sutcliffe took the opportunity of a 400 pound redundancy package. He used the money to acquire his licence to drive large trucks. On 4 June 1975, two days after his twenty-ninth birthday, he passed the HGV test Class 1 and then bought himself a white Ford Corsair with a black roof, while keeping his first car, a lime-green Ford Capri GT. During the following month, Peter was to tell friends and family of the sad news of Sonias many miscarriages. Soon after the latest miscarriage, Peter and Sonia were informed that Sonia would not be able to have the children that they had both wanted so much.

It was not long after this that Peter made his first reported attack. Anna Patricia Rogulskyj lived in Keighly. The slim attractive blonde in her early thirties had been divorced from her Ukrainian husband for two years. On the night of 4 July 1975, she and boyfriend Jeff Hughes, whom she expected to marry in the near future, had had a fight. Still angry, she had left him to go out drinking with friends at a club in Bradford. Her two Jamaican friends dropped her outside of her home at 1:00 am, where she expected to find her boyfriend. He wasnt there. Her earlier anger with him soon resurfaced and she decided to walk across town to his house, to finally sort things out. As she fruitlessly banged upon the door, Peter Sutcliffe stood in the shadows watching. Finally, in frustration, she removed one of her shoes and broke the glass of a downstairs window.

Anna Rogulskyj, Victim
Anna Rogulskyj,

As she knelt to put her shoe back on, Peter quickly emerged from the shadows and struck her a savage blow to her head. Anna had not seen or heard anything and was unconscious as he dealt her another two blows with his hammer. Peter paused momentarily to catch his breath as the blood from Annas wounds seeped across the cobblestones. He lifted her skirt and pulled down her underpants. As he returned the hammer to his pocket and took out a knife, his anger, under control until now, found expression with each slashing cut across her stomach.

The voice of a concerned neighbour, disturbed by the noise, quickly quelled the frenzied outpouring of Peters rage. As the neighbour stood peering out into the alley, trying to focus in the poor light, Peter Sutcliffe pulled himself together and spoke calmly as he reassured the man that all was well and to go back inside, which he did. Peter straightened Annas clothing and was gone as quickly as he had come.

Site where Rogulskyj was attacked
Site where Rogulskyj was attacked

After Peter returned home to his sleeping wife to continue his life as usual, Anna was found and rushed to the casualty department of Airedale hospital. From there she was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary for an emergency operation that lasted twelve hours. At one point, she was read the last rites. Miraculously, she survived but, unlike Peter, her life would never be the same after that night. She returned to her home where she would live alone with her five cats, barricaded behind a network of wires and alarms. She is terrified of strangers and rarely goes out. When she does, she walks in the middle of the street, as she is afraid of the shadows and terrified of people approaching her from behind. There is no boyfriend now, and no prospects of marriage. The 15,000 she received from the Criminal Compensation Board cannot buy back her life. She wishes that she had died that night.

The police were mystified by the attack, which appeared to have no motive. No money was stolen and it had not been a sexual attack. Her boyfriend and all of her friends had been cleared and there were no further leads apart from a vague description, given by the neighbour, of a man in his late twenties or early thirties, about five-foot-eight and wearing a check sports coat.

During the next month, while Peter looked for work as a driver, Sonia decided to complete her teacher training and enrolled at the Margaret McMillan College in Bradford. On Friday 15 August, Peter drove his friend Trevor Birdsall to Halifax where they drank in a number of pubs. It was in one of these pubs that Peter had first seen Mrs. Olive Smelt.

Forty-six-year-old Olive had followed her usual Friday night pattern of meeting her girlfriends for a drink in Halifax, while her husband Harry stayed at home with their 15-year-old-daughter Julie and 9-year-old-son Stephen. Two men known well by the women, gave them all a lift home. Olive was dropped in Boothtown Road, a short walk from her home.

At the same time, Peter left Trevor alone in his car. As Olive took a short cut through an alleyway at 11:45 pm, Peter walked up behind her and overtook her. The last thing Olive could remember was Peter saying, "Weathers letting us down isnt it?" before he dealt her a heavy blow to the back of her head. He hit her again as she fell to the ground then slashed at her back with his knife just above her buttocks. He was again prevented from completing his task. A car was quickly approaching, so Peter left Olive and returned to the car where Trevor was waiting. A mere ten minutes had passed.

Olive could not recall how she came to be found some yards down the road, moaning and calling for help. Neighbours took her to their home where they called an ambulance and sent someone to inform Harry. She was initially rushed to Halifax Infirmary and then to Leeds infirmary, where she spent ten days. Once again, Peter had left another womans life in pieces. Olive would continue to suffer from severe depression and memory loss. For months, she would wish that she were dead as the repercussions of the attack took hold of her life. She was continually depressed and took no interest in her life. She lived in fear, especially of men, and would sometimes look at her husband and wonder, hadnt he been a police suspect? Their relationship was permanently altered and she rarely felt like having sex. Her past enjoyment of home making and cooking was lost and she now completed these tasks in robotic fashion. Her oldest daughter suffered a nervous breakdown, which doctors were sure was a direct result of the attack, and for many years, her son would continue to lock the door whenever he left his mother alone in the house.

Despite the similarities between the two apparently motiveless attacks upon Anna Rogulskyj and Olive Smelt, police would not link them for some time. It would be three years before they would confirm that the attacker was in fact the Yorkshire Ripper.