Behind The Yorkshire Ripper — Netflix’s Newest True Crime Documentary

Peter Sutcliffe

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains details of real life murders.

We all know the story of Jack the Ripper, a serial killer who was active in London in 1888; a vicious murderer who mutilated his victims with a hammer and a screwdriver.

However, have you ever heard of the “Yorkshire Ripper”, the Englishman who was convicted of killing 13 women and attempting to murder seven others, between 1975 and 1980?

Peter Sutcliffe, a killer who went on a murderous spree in the 1970s in Northern England, is the subject of a new series The Ripper on Netflix.

The four-part series will delve into “one of the most cunning killers they’ve ever had to trace” and will feature interviews with “investigators, journalists, survivors and the victims’ families”.

The Ripper will also cover “how the prejudices and misogyny of the time played a part in these women being so tragically let down” and, in an official Tweet from Netflix UK and Ireland, Sutcliffe’s 13 victims were named alongside the trailer.

They are Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia Atkinson, Jayne MacDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka, Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Marguerite Walls and Jacqueline Hill.

So, who was Peter Sutcliffe, known as The Ripper?

Who was Peter Sutcliffe?

Peter William Sutcliffe (also known as Peter William Coonan) was born in Shipley, West Yorkshire on June 2, 1946. After leaving school at the age of 15, Sutcliffe did a variety of unskilled jobs and by the time his killing spree began, he was employed as a tire fitter and lorry driver.

In 1974, Sutcliffe married Sonia Szurma. The following year, his murderous rampage began.

His crimes

In July 1975, Sutcliffe attempted to murder Anna Rogulskyj, who, like Jack the Ripper’s modus operandi, was attacked by a hammer, suffered severe head injuries, and had slash wounds across her body.

Then, over a month later, Olive Smelt was also attacked in a similar fashion, however, she survived.

It wasn’t until the brutal murder of Wilma McCann, a prostitute in Leeds, that his attacks became fatal. Striking her in the back of the head, he also stabbed her 15 times in the neck, chest and abdomen.

“In what was to become a standard Ripper trademark, McCann’s clothing had been disturbed so that before the stab wounds were inflicted the whole of her torso was displayed,” a report by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Lawrence Byford noted.

Following McCann’s death, Sutcliffe then murdered 11 more victims before the final murder in November 1970. Jacqueline Hill from Leeds was struck a number of times, again with a hammer, and dragged onto waste ground.

His arrest

On January 2, 1981, Sutcliffe was arrested at a red-light district in Sheffield. He was then convicted in May 1981 at at the Central Criminal Court.

At his trial, he was sentenced to 20 concurrent terms of life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he should serve a minimum of 30 years.

In 1984, Sutcliffe was transferred to a high-security psychiatric hospital after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

His death

On November 13, 2020, Sutcliffe died at University Hospital of North Durham, aged 74.

Watch The Ripper on Netflix from December 16.

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