Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Peter Sutcliffe

A Killer's Mask

During the summer of 1976, George Oldfield promoted Denis Hoban to the position of Deputy Head of the Force C.I.D. While honoured at the confidence shown in him by the appointment, he was disappointed that he would have to leave Leeds to work from the West Yorkshire Police Headquarters at Wakefield, nor was he happy to be desk-bound in his new position. Detective Chief Superintendent Jim Hobson replaced Hoban.

James Hobson and Chief Constable Ronald Gregory
James Hobson and Chief Constable
Ronald Gregory

In October 1976, Peter Sutcliffe came home to his wife with the good news that he had finally found work as a lorry driver. He was now working with T & WH Clark (Holdings Ltd) on the Canal Road Industrial Estate, between Shipley and Bradford.

Sutcliffe driving Clark lorry
Sutcliffe driving Clark lorry

It would be five months before Peter would kill again. Jim Hobson would head the investigation into this attack, as his predecessor, Hoban had done nine months earlier when Marcella Claxton had survived Peters last attack.

On Saturday 5 February, twenty-eight-year-old Irene Richardson left her rooming house in Cowper Street, Chapeltown at 11:30 pm to go to Tiffanys Club. At the time of her attack, Irene would have thought that life couldnt get any worse. Both of her daughters, aged four and five, were with foster parents. She had nowhere decent to live, and due to lack of money, had to walk the streets of Chapeltown to look for customers. When Peter Sutcliffe had finished with Irene, he had left her lying face down in Soldiers Field, placing her coat over her inert and bloodied body. He had given her a massive fracture of the skull with the three blows he inflicted with his hammer. One of the blows had been so severe that a circular piece of her skull had actually penetrated her brain. He had stabbed her in the neck and throat, and three more times in the stomach, savage downward strokes so severe that they had caused her intestines to spill out.

Irene Richardson, Victim
Irene Richardson,

When Hobson and the pathologist, Professor Gee, removed her coat, they found that while her bra was still in place, her skirt had been lifted up and her tights pulled off the right leg and down. One of the two pairs of pants she had been wearing had been removed and stuffed down her tights, while the other pair were still in place. Her calf-length brown boots had been removed and placed neatly over her thighs. A vaginal swab showed the presence of semen but it was considered to have been from sexual activity prior to the attack.

Near Irenes body tyre tracks were discovered and recorded. They indicated that the killer had used a medium sized sedan or van. Checks with tyre manufacturers established that the vehicle had been fitted with two "India Autoway" tyres and a "Pnemant" brand on the rear offside, all of them cross-ply. With the assistance of tyre manufacturers a list of 26 possible car models was drawn up. It seemed that a genuine break had finally been made in the investigation, but Hobsons elation would be short lived. Police officers, without the benefits of computerisation, had moved into local vehicle taxation offices each night to hand check all the vehicles in West Yorkshire compatible with the list. The final tally was 100,000 cars.

Irene Richardson's body (POLICE)
Irene Richardson's body

Patricia Atkinson was living alone again after her divorce from Asian immigrant worker, Ray Mitra. After the birth of their three daughters, Judy, Jill and Lisa in quick succession, Ray would find his marriage to his wayward western wife to be more than he could handle. Patricia, who preferred to be known as Tina, was happy with the new arrangement as she was now free to drink and dance as often as she pleased. She operated as a prostitute from her small flat at number nine Oak Avenue in Bradford where she felt safe from the threat of the Ripper who killed his women outside. Being slim with dark-hair and always smartly dressed, she had no shortage of men friends.

Patricia Atkinson, Victim
Patricia Atkinson,

On Saturday 23 April, she was seen by the caretaker of the building in which she lived, leaving her flat on her way to the busy red-light pubs where she was well known for her heavy drinking. She was seen in a number of the pubs that night, and at eleven p.m., several women working on the street had seen her walking, heading toward Church Street. It was soon after this that Peter Sutcliffe had met the now well-intoxicated Tina. Together they walked to his car, and then drove back to her flat. As they entered through her front door, Peter struck the back of her head with the same ball-pein hammer he had used on all of his previous victims. Before her unconscious body hit the floor, Peter struck her three more times.

As the blood poured from her wounds, Peter began to remove her overcoat. He then lifted her and carried her to the bedroom and threw her down on the bed. There he ripped open her black leather jacket and blue shirt. Pulling up her bra to reveal her breasts, he then pulled her jeans down to her ankles. With a chisel he had removed from his pocket, he began to stab at Tinas exposed stomach. He turned her over and stabbed her in the back but had not penetrated the skin. Then he quickly turned her over again to stab her stomach again leaving a total of six stab wounds. Before he left her, Peter had pulled her jeans back up and, without realising it, he left a size 7 Dunlop Warwick wellington boot print on the bottom bed sheet.

As Peters activities as the notorious Yorkshire Ripper continued to escalate, his wife Sonia was approaching the end of her teacher training, she was confidant that she would pass before the coming summer. With the prospect of an increase in their income, Peter and Sonia began to see hope for the fulfilment of their dream to buy their own home. It would not be long before Sonia found the house of her dreams number 6 Garden Lane, Bradford. Peter was not so sure it was his dream home when Sonia told him that the asking price was over 15,000. It was a lot of money and there was no guarantee that Sonia would get work straight away after the summer break, but he agreed to at least have a look at it. They went on a Saturday 25 June 1977.

On the same night, Peter went to Chapeltown, supposedly for a drink.

Jayne MacDonald also went out that Saturday night. Jayne was sixteen years old and had recently started her first job in the shoe department of a local supermarket. She was going out dancing and she was happy. She kissed her father good-bye before she left their home in Reginald Terrace, Chapeltown for the last time. After the dance, Jayne had gone with friends to buy chips in the city centre. As she gossiped with her friends the last bus home departed without her.

Jayne MacDonald, Victim
Jayne MacDonald,

At 11:50 pm, she began walking home with Mark Jones, a young boy she had met earlier that night. He was to organise a lift home for her with his sister, but the sister wasnt home when they got there. Jayne and Mark continued walking together, stopping for a brief kiss and cuddle, as far as the Florence Nightingale Public House. It was one thirty when they went their separate ways. At a kiosk near Dock Green Pub near the corner of Beckett Street, Jayne stopped at 1:45 am to call a taxi, but there was no answer. As she approached the playground, she did not see Peter Sutcliffe lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on her as she passed by.

Two children found her body at 9:45 am on Sunday 26 June near a wall inside the playground where Peter had dragged her. She was lying face down, her skirt was disarranged and her white halter-neck top was pulled up to expose her breasts. Peter had struck her three times on the back of the head with his hammer and then stabbed her repeatedly in the chest and once in the back.

From the moment Wilfred MacDonald, Jaynes father, was told of his daughters murder by the two uniformed police officers who had come to his door that Sunday morning, he lost the will to live. He soon developed nervous asthma and could not work. Instead, he would sit for hours at a time thinking only of his daughter. It would take two years, but he finally died of a broken heart.

Assistant Chief Constable, George Oldfield was called soon after Janes body was found. He would now be overseeing all of the investigations into the Yorkshire Ripper murders and would work in the field with the officers already involved in the case.

Newspaper reports the following day, stating that an "innocent young woman has been slaughtered," sadly reflected the underlying attitude of police and the public that prositutes who are murdered are not innocent, and somehow deserve whatever "punishment" that is meted out to them. Police were now inundated with information from the public. People who once were interested only in hearing the gory details of the attacks, now felt personally affronted and threatened by the man they called the Yorkshire Ripper. Where previously, witnesses were reluctant to admit any connection with the murdered prostitutes, people from the surrounding area were readily volunteering information to help the police in their attempts to catch Jaynes killer.

Under the direction of Oldfield, police policy regarding the media was to become more open, working co-operatively to ensure that the public were kept informed of the facts that it needed while suppressing the release of information which would hinder police investigations. Oldfield personally visited members of every level of the community in an attempt to break down barriers to public/police co-operation. Officers involved in the investigation into the brutal murder of Jayne MacDonald interviewed residents in 679 homes in the immediate vicinity of the attack, over thirteen thousand interviews in total, with nearly 4000 statements taken. Despite all of these efforts, Peter Sutcliffe was able to continue to hide behind his mask of respectability and the Yorkshire Ripper continued his rampage.