Peter Sutcliffe, the British serial killer known as the Yorkshire Ripper for a five-year murder attempt in which he stabbed and beat at least 20 women and girls, 13 of whom were killed, has died after catching COVID-19.
Sutcliffe’s murders, in which women were mutilated in northern England between 1975 and 1980, sparked widespread fear in northern cities, and police have been criticized for taking so long to track him down.
Sutcliffe was arrested in 1981 and pleaded guilty to 13 murder charges and 7 attempted murders. He spent the rest of his days in prison. He died early on Friday after refusing coronavirus treatment. He was 74 years old.
Among those he killed was a 16 year old salesman. His youngest victim, only 14 years old when Sutcliffe struck her in the head five times with a hammer in 1975, survived the attack.
Sutcliffe, who worked as a truck driver, pleaded guilty not to 13 murders but to manslaughter of reduced responsibility.
He said he was commissioned by God to kill prostitutes even though his victims came from all walks of life. The judge dismissed his plea for decreased responsibility, and Sutcliffe was found guilty of all respects of murder.
He was sentenced to 20 life sentences and was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
West Yorkshire Police have been criticized for not having a chance to catch Sutcliffe, despite interviewing him nine times during the hunt.
The investigation, which was conducted prior to the use of computer recordings, was overwhelmed with paperwork, hampering detectives’ ability to link clues and allowing Sutcliffe to slip through the web, a later investigation said.
The police also mistakenly believed a joke audio tape from a man who claimed to be the killer and sent them on a futile search for someone with an accent from Sunderland, in the northeast.
Sutcliffe was eventually caught dating a 24-year-old sex worker and a police officer discovered that the license plates on his vehicle were incorrect.