“I were just cleaning up the streets, our kid, just cleaning up the streets”
For six years the north of England was terrorized by a vicious killer who stalked the back roads, killing women with a brutality unknown for many a year. In 1969 Peter Sutcliffe attacked a prostitute in revenge because he believed another whore had conned him out of £10. Working as a gravedigger in Bingley Cemetery in West Yorkshire, at the grave of Bronislaw Zapolski, he claimed to have first heard the “Voice of God” telling him to murder prostitutes.
After being sacked for poor time-keeping, he began work as a lorry driver. Between 5 July 1975 (the assault of Anna Rogulskyj) and 17 November 1980 (the murder of Jacqueline Hill), he brutally murdered 13 women and attempted to murder seven more. Despite his “orders” from God, several of Sutcliffe’s victims were not prostitutes. His first murder occurred at 1.30am on 30 October 1975. The victim was Wilma McCann, a 28-year-old prostitute.
Drunk and carrying a carton of curry and chips, she decided that she wanted a lift home to the Chapeltown area of Leeds rather than walking and began staggering in and out of traffic. Sutcliffe was also out drinking in Leeds that night and he saw Wilma McCann thumbing for a lift. When he stopped his lime-green Ford Capri GT, she got in and quickly asked him if he “wanted business”. When Sutcliffe asked what she meant, she said, “Bloody hell, do I have to spell it out?” Wilma McCann’s battered body was found at 7.41am the following morning by milkman Alan Routledge, and his ten-year-old brother, Paul.
She was found lying on her back, her trousers down by her knees and her brassiere lifted to expose her breasts. Her strawberry blonde hair was matted with blood, and she had been stabbed in the lower abdomen, chest and neck.
For the next five years women in Yorkshire were afraid to venture out alone, for fear of the man they dubbed “the Yorkshire Ripper”. On 26 June 1977, Sutcliffe murdered Jayne Macdonald, his first non-prostitute victim. On 2 January 1981 Sutcliffe picked up prostitute Olive Reivers but, thanks to the false number plate on his Rover, he was arrested. Telling police he needed to relieve himself he went behind an oil storage tank where he disposed of his ball pein hammer and knife. At the police station he dropped a second knife into a lavatory cistern. All the weapons were later recovered.
Bingley; Silsden; Keighley; Bradford;Halifax; Sheffield; Leeds; Huddersfield; Manchester, England
1969-Monday 17 November 1980
His trial opened at the Central Criminal Court of the Old Bailey on 29 April 1981. He claimed to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. On 11 May 1981 he was found guilty of murder by a majority verdict of 10-2. Later Sutcliffe was asked by his brother to explain his actions. “I were just cleaning up the streets, our kid,” he replied, “just cleaning up the streets.”