True Crime

Shockingly Police Questioned this Vicious Killer and Let Him Go

Peter Sutcliffe — The Yorkshire Ripper

Sam H Arnold
Apr 9 · 5 min read
Photo in public domain

Peter Sutcliffe was convicted in 1981 of thirteen counts of murder. Also, he was convicted of an additional seven counts of attempted murder. He served twenty concurrent life sentences. This was extended to a whole life order in 2010. The media connecting him to Jack the Ripper secured his infamy in popular culture. This was a bold move as his method of killing, differed dramatically from that of the original Ripper.

Born in Yorkshire to a working-class family. It was reported he was a loner. He left school when he was fifteen, where he went on to work menial jobs. When he was made redundant in 1975, he used the redundancy money to train as an HGV driver. He eventually found a job working for T&WHClark.

It was reported that during the early years Sutcliffe used the service of prostitutes. Some believe he had a bad experience and was conned out of money by one. In 1967 he met his wife Sonia Szurma, moving to Bradford in 1977, where he still resided on arrest.

In 1967, Sutcliffe assaulted a prostitute he said conned him out of money. He assaulted her by hitting her over the head with a rock, which he later denied. When interviewed he was informed how lucky he was, that she did not want to press charges.

In 1975, Sutcliffe attacked Anna Rogulskyj, with a hammer over the head. He then slashed her stomach with a knife. He was disturbed before he had a chance to kill her. This happened again in August when he similarly attacked Olive Smelt.

The first woman Sutcliffe is known to have killed was 28-year-old Wilma McCann in October 1975. McCann was a sex worker, and Sutcliffe later confessed to the police, “After that first time, I developed and played up a hatred for prostitutes in order to justify within myself a reason why I had attacked and killed Wilma McCann.” He killed another sex worker, Emily Jackson, 42, in January 1976.

He stabbed Emily Jackson 52 times, she was a known prostitute. From this point until 1980, Sutcliffe killed numerous women. He would lure them to him, hit them over the head and then mutilate their bodies.

The fact that he murdered prostitutes was the reason that the British media labelled him the ripper.

The fact Sutcliffe evaded police so long, had little to do with him and everything to do with the inadequacies of the police. Sutcliffe himself was not a clever killer. A backlog of case paperwork meant officers were unable to connect vital pieces of information. All detectives were also male so many women felt they were not given a voice in the murders. At the time prostitutes were treated as second class citizens. The fact the victims ranked lower, meant the cases may not have been investigated in the full manner they should have.

Sutcliffe himself tells a story of being stopped during the police investigation. As he was driving a truck he opened the passenger door for the officer, hanging his foot over into the footwell. The officer had a photo of a boot print from one of the crime scenes. Sutcliffe said that the print was from the boots he was wearing at the time. He now had a choice, withdraw his foot and risk suspicion arising or keep the tread in full view and pray. The officer had a quick chat with him and waved him through, such was their incompetency.

On the 2nd January 1981, Sutcliffe was stopped by police with a 24-year-old prostitute called Olivia Reivers. When police ran a check on his car they discovered he was using false number plates and he was arrested. During his arrest, Sutcliffe pleaded with the officers to let him have a quick pee. Officers let him walk down the side of a building, unsupported to relieve himself.

During questioning about the plates, he was questioned about The Yorkshire Ripper case. Sutcliffe fitted the police profile. He denied everything.

The next day the police returned to the scene of the arrest and remembered that Sutcliffe had left them. When they check the area he had used, they discovered a knife, hammer and rope, that he had discarded during his toilet break.

Police then obtained a search warrant for his house and brought in his wife for questioning. After two days of questioning, on 4th January, he admitted he was The Ripper. He claimed God had told him to murder the women.

At trial, he pleaded not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. Four psychiatrists claimed he had paranoid schizophrenia, the judge asked for further evidence. The schizophrenia then turned into homicidal religious mania, with him claiming all his kills were a mission from God.

After deliberating on this evidence, the judge rejected the plea. After two weeks Sutcliffe was found guilty of murder on all accounts.

In 1984 Sutcliffe was sent to Broadmoor hospital under section 47 of the Mental Health Act.

During his time in prison, he was attacked many times. One attack rendered him partially sighted. He spoke with humour about the murders he committed and never saw that he had done any wrong. He explained his actions as a mission he had been given by God. He stated that God spoke to him one day whilst he was working in a graveyard.

In December 2015, he was assessed as no longer mentally ill and transferred back to prison, where he remained until death.

There are however a couple of factors that have only recently come to the public’s attention. These are not only strange but clearly show the depravity of the man. Had this evidence been released on his conviction, women may have thought twice about idolising this sadistic killer.

One of the most disturbing factors of these murders is the outfit Sutcliffe was wearing on his arrest. He was found to have a V neck jumper on upside down. The arms of the jumper, along with their padded elbows went down his legs to protect his knees. The V was left to expose himself easily.

The was also evidence of the women being sexually assaulted with a screwdriver. This combined with the fact he made his victims give him oral sex make him an inherent sadistic killer. The use of a screwdriver could also provide evidence that he was sexually inadequate.

Sutcliffe was a disorganised, psychotic killer with an average IQ. The fact his murders appeared to be spontaneous acts of violence could indicate psychosis. Although, the fact he had a successful marriage and maintained a loving relationship, points to moments of psychosis. It is likely if diagnosed and treated early on he could have led a normal law-abiding life.

Sutcliffe died on 13th November 2020 at the age of 74 after being admitted to hospital from prison, suffering from Coronavirus.


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Sam H Arnold

Written by

Author of True Crime & History with Writing Tips thrown in occasionally. See all my writing and support my work —



The most informative, researched, and entertaining true crime stories on the internet.

Sam H Arnold

Written by

Author of True Crime & History with Writing Tips thrown in occasionally. See all my writing and support my work —



The most informative, researched, and entertaining true crime stories on the internet.

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