How Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe was finally caught after fooling police 9 times

ITV’s new gripping documentary Yorkshire Ripper: The Secret Murders re-examines the case of notorious serial killer Peter Sutcliffe.

The former lorry driver was found guilty of murdering at least 13 women in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The two-part series explores the horrific crimes and how Sutcliffe was able to continue his killing spree and go undetected for so long.

Sutcliffe was interviewed and let out nine times during the investigation, but all the police had about the case was in paper form, making it hard to cross-reference.

At his Old Bailey trial, Sutcliffe said: “It was just a miracle they did not apprehend me earlier – they had all the facts.”

So how was the Yorkshire Ripper finally caught? Here we take a closer look.

How was Peter Sutcliffe caught?

Peter Sutcliffe was questioned by police nine times

Sutcliffe was finally arrested on January 2 1981, but it was several days before they revealed him to be the serial killer.

He was caught in a car in Melbourne Avenue, an area known for being the Sheffield’s red light district, with a 24-year-old prostitute called Olivia Reivers.

The pair were parked in the drive way of Light Trades House when two officers decided to investigate because the car they were in had false number plates.

While at Dewsbury Police Station he was also questioned in relation to the Ripper case, due to his physical likeness.

The next day police officers returned to the scene of arrest and found a knife, hammer and rope which had been discarded when Sutcliffe had told them he was “bursting to pee”.

12 of the 13 victims of Peter Sutcliffe
12 of the 13 victims of Peter Sutcliffe

The officers also searched his car and found screwdrivers in the glove compartment. The Yorkshire Post also reports that a second knife was found hidden in a police station toilet before he was searched.

Police also obtained a search warrant for his home in Bradford, and brought his wife in for questioning.

At the police station Sutcliffe was eventually strip searched, and was found to be wearing an inverted V-neck jumper under his trousers. The sleeves were pulled over his legs and the opening exposed his genital area. His elbows were also padded.

After two days of questioning, on January 4, Sutcliffe finally admitted the killings.

The twisted killer would over the next few days calmly describe his attacks, later claiming he was on a “mission from God” to kill prostitutes.

Peter Sutcliffe leaving court on January 5 1981
Peter Sutcliffe leaving court on January 5 1981

However, at his trial Sutcliffe pleaded not guilty of murder, but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He claimed to have heard voices that ordered him to kill prostitutes.

The trial lasted two weeks, and Sutcliffe was found guilty of murdering 13 women across Manchester and West Yorkshire, as well as the attempted murder of seven more.

He was sentenced to 20 concurrent life sentenced, which was converted to a whole life tariff in 2010, meaning he would spend the rest of his days in prison.

However, Sutcliffe died in hospital, three miles away from HMP Frankland, where he was serving his sentence, at the age of 74 on November 13 2020.

Sutcliffe, a diabetic, had been admitted to hospital on November 2 to be fitted a heart pacemaker, and it is believed he caught Covid.

A post-mortem report later found that he had “heavy, solid and airless lungs, characteristic of patients who have died from Covid”.


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