Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Peter Sutcliffe

A Killer's Mask

In April 1979, Peter Sutcliffe had admitted to his workmates that he was having an affair with a young woman in a village near Glasgow, taking them all completely by surprise. He was the last person they would have ever expected to fool around, he had always talked of his marriage to Sonia in happy terms and never talked about women in a sexual way at all.

He had met Theresa Douglas at the Crown Bar in Holytown, 12 miles from Glasgow, when he made a delivery to the nearby General Motors plant. He returned regularly to the village and quickly won the hearts of Theresa and her family. Known to them as Peter Logan from Yorkshire, they considered him to be one of the nicest men they had ever met. He told the family that he lived alone in a large house in Yorkshire, had been married but was now divorced. He spent many hours talking with Theresa and had at one time admitted to her that he had a potency problem and could not have children. He wrote romantic letters to Theresa, and gave her his fathers address so Sonia would not find out. He had made such a good impression on Theresa and her family that they all laughed when he told them that he was the Yorkshire Ripper after Theresas brother William said his eyes looked evil.

In April 1980, a year since he had met Theresa, Peter Sutcliffe was faced with the prospect of losing his licence and his job. There would be no more visits to Glasgow to see his girlfriend, and no more nights cruising the streets of Yorkshire looking for prey.

He had been out drinking and had decided while on his way home to make a detour through Manningham, a careless move considering the amount he had had to drink. Police, who noticed him driving in an erratic manner, stopped him. He was breathalysed, and then arrested. Soon he would have to go to court and would probably lose his license. He was nervous for a far more important reason than this. What if the arresting police were to find that he had been interviewed many times in the Yorkshire Ripper investigations? Would he be revealed as the killer, wanted in what had become known as the crime investigation of the century, all because of a lousy drink driving charge? It wouldnt happen this time, there were no cross checks done and he was soon free to go home.

If the prospect of losing his licence bothered him, he didnt show it. He told workmates that he and Sonia planned to move to the country and open a pottery business. They would use the proceeds from the sale of their house to finance the project as Sonia was a talented potter and they could make a decent living. Sonia, although concerned about the drop in income, looked forward to having her husband home with her at nights, it had been a lonely life with Peter working late and spending regular nights at pubs with his friends.

As Peter waited for his impending court appearance, due in January 1981, he attacked four women, killing two of them. The first attack occurred in the respectable suburb of Farsley, Leeds. His 47-year-old victim, Marguerite Walls, was a civil servant who worked at the Department of Education and Science at Farsley. She worked late on the night of 20 August 1980, as she had wanted to clear her desk before she started her vacation the next day. She left her office building at 10:30 pm to begin the short walk home, taking the longest but safest route along well-lit streets. In New Street, as she walked past the entrance to a local magistrates house, Peter Sutcliffe jumped out from behind the fence where he had waited for her and hit her on the head with his hammer. Marguerite did not fall to the ground as Peter expected her to, instead she began to scream, and a second blow to the head still did not stop her screaming as she held her now bleeding head. To stop her screaming, he grabbed her by the neck and strangled her. As he did so, he dragged her into the driveway and through the overgrown bushes of the property called Claremont.

Marguerite Walls, Victims
Marguerite Walls,

By the time he reached the garage, deep in the garden, Marguerite was dead. He ripped at her clothes, tearing them from her and scattering them around the garden, his anger and frustration at his failure to bring his knife rose with him and could not be quelled as he rained blows on her body with his hammer. Before leaving her, he covered her body with leaves that had been left in a pile nearby. As he left the garden, he checked that the street was quiet before stepping out from the darkness, fifteen minutes later he was safely home.

When Marguerite was found the next morning, only four hundred yards from her home, it was soon determined that, although she had been bludgeoned with a hammer, her strangulation ruled her out as a victim of the notorious Yorkshire Ripper.

Headingley, home of one of the world's best cricket fields where World Series Test Cricket matches are played, was not the type of town anyone would have expected the Yorkshire Ripper to strike. There were no red-light districts. It was a suburb where students, teachers and media people chose to live for its cosmopolitan atmosphere. But it was here that Peter Sutcliffe attacked Dr Upadhya Bandara, visiting Leeds from her native Singapore as part of a World Health Organisation scholarship.

Dr. Upadhya Bandara, Victim
Dr. Upadhya
Bandara, Victim

It was 24 September when Dr Bandara made the long walk home after visiting friends in Headingley. As she walked past the "Kentucky Fried Chicken" shop, she noticed a man inside. He was staring at her. She walked on past North Lane, and then turned right into St Michael's Lane. As she turned into Chapel Lane, an alley that cut through to Cardigan Road, she was hurled to the ground. Peter Sutcliffe slammed his hammer into her head rending her unconscious. He held her around the neck with a ligature to prevent her escape. Upadhya Bandara lay bleeding on the ground as Peter picked up her shoes and handbag and took them several yards away. Before he could resume his attack, he heard footsteps and fled. The footsteps belonged to Mrs Valerie Nicholas whose house backed onto the laneway. She had heard noises at 10:30 pm and had gone out to investigate.

The police in Headingley did not believe that the Yorkshire Ripper had attacked Dr. Upadhya Bandara, despite the fact that she described her attacker as having black hair, a full beard and moustache. Dr. Bandara returned to Singapore to recover.

Peter Sutcliffe's next attack, on 5 November 1980 in Huddersfield, was also credited to an unknown attacker. Theresa Sykes, a sixteen-year-old who lived with her boyfriend and their three-month-old son, had been walking home across grassland not far from her home when Peter rained three hammer-blows to her head.

Theresa Sykes, Victim
Theresa Sykes,

He had followed her from The Minstrel pub where she had dropped in to see her father, the owner, before he struck her from behind, with one of the blows so severe that it went through her skull. Theresa screamed as Peter struck her. Her boyfriend, Jimmy Furey, watched in horror from their lounge room window. Within seconds he was running toward Theresa, and Peter. When Peter saw Jimmy he ran back into the darkness of the night.

Theresa miraculously survived the brutal attack, but she was never the same again. After spending several weeks in the neurosurgical unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, Theresa returned home but early in 1981, she left Jimmy and returned to live with her parents. Theresa was now afraid of men and, despite their plans to marry, she was even afraid of Jimmy. Her father, who always believed that the Yorkshire Ripper had been responsible for his daughter's attack, said that since the attack her whole personality had changed. Where she was once a happy girl she was now quick to flare up in anger over the smallest thing. Peter Sutcliffe had left his mark on yet another family.

On the night of 17 November 1980, Sonia resigned herself to yet another night alone watching television. Peter had called to tell her that he was still in Gloucester, making a delivery, and would not be home until late. What she would not find out until much later was that Peter was not working at all. He had clocked off from Clark's at 7:03 pm and headed for Headingley where he had spent another evening only a couple of weeks earlier.

He again ate at the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop. As he sat looking out of the window at 9:23 pm, Jacqueline Hill alighted from the number 1 bus at the stop opposite the Arndale shopping arcade. She was returning home after attending a seminar on the probation service in Cookridge Street, Leeds. Jacqueline was a student at the University who had hoped to join the probation service when she graduated the following summer.

Peter Sutcliffe began to follow Jacqueline after she passed the Kentucky Fried Chicken shop. He was behind her as she entered the dimly lit Alma Road toward the Lupton Flats where she had recently moved. Her mother had been concerned about her living alone on the outskirts of town because of the Yorkshire Ripper attacks, so Jacqueline had decided to move to the all-girl flats in Lupton Court, which was part of a complex of university residences behind the Arndale Shopping Centre. Jacqueline was only 100 yards from her home when Peter Sutcliffe struck her on the back of the head.

He dragged the lifeless body of Jacqueline Hill fourteen yards onto some vacant land just behind the Arndale shops car park. Protected from view by trees and bushes, Peter stabbed her repeatedly. He stabbed her in the eye that had stared up at him accusingly as her tore at her clothes and slashed her naked body. When he had finished, he left her and headed for home. He forgot that Jacqueline's handbag and glasses still lay on the pavement in Alma Road where she had dropped them.

Only a short time after the attack, Amir Hussain, an Iranian student, found the bag as he walked home to Lupton Court. He took it home with him and showed it to his five flat mates, one of whom was an ex-chief inspector with the Hong Kong police, Tony Gosden. Tony became alarmed when he saw that nothing had been stolen from the bag and noticed fresh blood spots on the outside of it. At 11:30 pm, one of the students called the police but it was some time before the two investigating officers arrived at the flat. It was only at the insistence of Mr. Hussain that the police finally agreed to search the area where he found the bag. The brief search by torchlight did not uncover Jacqueline's body and the police left.

A worker at the Arndale shops discovered Jacqueline the next morning at 10:10 am. She was lying less than thirty yards from where police had searched the previous night. Initially, police denied that the Yorkshire Ripper had struck again until Professor David Gee announced his findings. The Ripper had struck again for what the police wrongly believed to be the first time in fourteen months.

The attack was widely publicised with police requesting the assistance of anyone who had been in the area that night. They were especially interested in talking to the owner of a dark, square-shaped car, which had been seen reversing hurriedly down one-way Alma Road. The driver, understandably, did not come forward.

With Jacqueline's murder, the real threat of the Yorkshire Ripper was finally brought home to Britain's middle-class. No longer was he just killing prostitutes in the seedy parts of town. "Innocent" women were now acutely aware of the danger to themselves, a danger that prostitutes had been living with for nearly five years. The feminists of Britain, who had previously complained about the police and media referring to non-prostitute victims as "innocent", were suddenly angry at the death of one of their own. They took to the streets in a violent protest against their loss of the right to walk their own streets safely.

The police were inundated with information from the public. Police in Leeds received 8000 letters, 7000 of which were anonymous. Most named suspects. One of those unsigned letters was from Trevor Birdsall. In it he named Peter Sutcliffe, a lorry-driver from Bradford. When police did still not question Peter two weeks later, Trevor entered the Bradford police headquarters, where he repeated his allegations to the constable on the reception desk. The report was fed into the system and Peter Sutcliffe continued to walk free.

Trevor had been suspicious of Peter for some time before he went to the police, even as far back as Olive Smelt's attack. But Peter was his friend whom he didn't think was capable of killing. The police insistence that the Yorkshire Ripper was from Sunderland and spoke with a Geordie accent had allayed Trevor's suspicions for a long time. When Trevor heard nothing more from police, he assumed that they had followed up with Peter and he had been wrong.