Peter Sutcliffe, the serial killer known as the “Yorkshire Ripper”, has died in hospital, according to the British Prison Service.
The serial killer was serving a life sentence for killing 13 women in Yorkshire and North West England between 1975 and 1980 and attempting to kill seven more.
He was convicted in 1981 and spent three decades in Broadmoor Hospital before his sentence was extended and he was transferred to HMP Frankland in County Durham in 2010.
Sutcliffe is believed to have died at North Durham University Hospital, three miles away from the prison where he was held. Sky News reports that he was sent there after developing COVID-19, for which he is said to have refused treatment.
The serial killer, who returned to prison after being treated for a suspected heart attack two weeks ago, returned to hospital after a positive test. He was sick, obese and had diabetes.
A prison service spokesman said: “HMP Frankland prisoner Peter Coonan (born at Sutcliffe) died in hospital on November 13. The ombudsman for prisons and probation services has been informed”.
Sutcliffe began attacking women in the late 1960s, but his first known murder occurred in 1975 when he killed Wilma McCann, 28, a mother of four from Leeds in northern England. She was beaten with a hammer and stabbed 15 times. Her son, Richard McCann, who was only five years old when she died, hoped that Sutcliffe’s death would put an end to his victims’ families.
“He ruined so many lives. He will go down as one of those twentieth century figures in the same league that I suspect someone like Hitler will go down as,” he told Sky News. “It was never just a fight in a frenzy, he went out with tools and equipment and he murdered people again and again and again and again.
Sutcliffe became known as the Yorkshire Ripper when he mutilated the bodies of his victims with hammer, screwdriver and knife. In the 1970s a huge police operation was launched, with 150 officers conducting more than 11,000 interviews. Sutcliffe was interviewed nine times by the police, but continued to evade arrest and continue his murders. While he was still at large, the police urged the women not to go out alone at night.
The 13 women Sutcliffe was convicted of killing were Wilma McCann, 28, Emily Jackson, 42, Irene Richardson, 28, Patricia Atkinson, 32, Jayne MacDonald, 16, Jean Jordan (also known as Jean Royle), 21, Yvonne Pearson, 22, Helen Rytka, 18, Vera Millward, 40, Josephine Whitaker, 19, Barbara Leach, 20, Marguerite Walls, 47, and Jacqueline Hill, 20, who was born on the 16th day of the festival. November 16, 1980.
The former West Yorkshire truck driver is said to have believed he was “on God’s mission” to kill prostitutes, although not all of his victims were sex workers. An investigation carried out after his conviction revealed a backlog of case papers, which meant that the officers were unable to connect any important information that would have led to his arrest and conviction.
Tens of thousands of witness statements, names and car license plates were manually recorded in handwritten notes at the West Yorkshire Police Station in Leeds city center, which led the investigation.
Sir Lawrence Byford wrote in 1982 in his report on the policing of the investigation: “The ineffectiveness of the Operations Centre was a serious handicap to the Ripper investigation. While it should have been the effective nerve center of the entire police operation, the backlog of unprocessed information meant that it was not possible to link together important related information.
he said: “This serious flaw in the central index system allowed Peter Sutcliffe to slip through the net constantly”.
The investigation led to major changes in policing throughout the UK, most notably the development of computer systems that allowed cross-referencing and access by police forces across the country.