'The Ripper': How was Peter Sutcliffe caught? Here's how Yorkshire killer was nabbed after fooling cops 9 times

Peter Sutcliffe was interviewed by the police nine times, but eventually slipped up enough to get caught, soon after which he confessed to his crimes


                            'The Ripper': How was Peter Sutcliffe caught? Here's how Yorkshire killer was nabbed after fooling cops 9 times
Peter Sutcliffe covered with a blanket (Getty Images)

Peter Sutcliffe, during his time as a serial killer, managed to kill at least 13 women and attempted to kill seven more, making a name for himself as the Yorkshire Ripper. He was the subject of one of the most expensive manhunts in British history, making fools of the West Yorkshire Police. While he wasn't above suspicion, he somehow managed to hide his crimes well enough to evade capture despite having been interviewed by the police nine times in their five-year investigation. Later, reports concluded that the case itself was badly handled, but what was it that finally led to Sutcliffe's capture?

The search for the Yorkshire Ripper was still in full swing, with an increasing amount of pressure on the police to find the killer. In January 2, 1981, Sutcliffe was stopped by the police in Broomhill, Sheffield, by probationary constable Robert Hydes. Sutcliffe had a sex worker with him in the truck he was driving and a check on his truck's license plates revealed that they were false. That was enough to warrant an arrest. The next day, at the scene of the arrest, a police search turned up a knife, hammer and a rope that had been abandoned by Sutcliffe when he had convinced Hydes to allow him a bathroom break. Police also found a second knife in the cistern of a toilet near the place Sutcliffe was arrested. The police then obtained a search warrant for his home and brought his wife, Sonia Szurma, in for questioning.

It took two days of intense questioning by the police before Sutcliffe suddenly confessed to the murders on January 4, declaring himself the Ripper and describing his attacks, which matched what the police knew of the murders. In the weeks of questioning that followed, he also claimed that God was the one who told him to murder the women he did. "The women I killed were filth," he said, according to public records. "Bastard prostitutes who were littering the streets. I was just cleaning up the place a bit." 

Sutcliffe was officially charged for his murders a day after his confession on January 5, 1981. At his trial, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, not murder, on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The judge rejected this plea and after a two-week trial starting May 5, 1981, Sutcliffe was declared guilty of 13 counts of murder and was sentenced to 20 concurrent sentences of life imprisonment.

'The Ripper' will be available to stream on Netflix on December 16.

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