World's Most Evil Killers: The Yorkshire Ripper claimed he killed dozens of prostitutes 'following God's will'

Peter Sutcliffe was eventually found guilty of 13 murders and was sentenced to 20 concurrent sentences of life imprisonment


                            World's Most Evil Killers: The Yorkshire Ripper claimed he killed dozens of prostitutes 'following God's will'
Portrait of British serial killer Peter Sutcliffe (Getty Images)

Peter Sutcliffe, infamously known as The Yorkshire Ripper, had a Catholic upbringing in a working-class home in West Riding of Yorkshire. Sutcliffe was a loner growing up and left school at the age of 15 to do a series of menial jobs for sustenance; one of these jobs included a stint as a gravedigger in the 1960s. He eventually became a salesman, and no one ever thought there was anything unusual about Sutcliffe which could reveal anything about his secretive life - of being one of the most infamous killers in the world.

Sutcliffe's first incident of assault is reported to be in June of 1969. He reportedly visited a prostitute "to get even" after he suspected his girlfriend Sonai Szurma of being unfaithful. The prostitute, however, conned him of his money, which left him enraged. Nearly a month later, Sutcliffe attacked a prostitute walking along St Paul's Road in Bradford's red-light district; he reportedly hit her over the head from behind with a brick in a sock. The woman, however, noted the number of his vehicle as he drove away and alerted the authorities. The number was traced back to Sutcliffe, who came clean, but said that he had attacked her with his hand. He was let go with a warning and was told he was "lucky" because the woman did not want to press the issue. Six weeks later another prostitute was attacked in a similar manner. However, no connection was made with the previous case.

A photofit issued by the police of Peter Sutcliffe, aka 'The Yorkshire Ripper', 1979. In 1981, Sutcliffe was convicted of the murders of thirteen women and assaults on seven more. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Sutcliffe, on 10 August 1974, married Szurma. They attempted to have children but Szurma suffered multiple miscarriages and was told she could not have children. She started a teacher training course and later began teaching - the duo used her salary to buy a house in Heaton, Bradford and they moved in on 26 September 1977. Sutcliffe's killing began a year after his marriage. 

On the night of 5 July 1975 in Keighley, he attacked Anna Rogulskyj who was walking alone; he struck her unconscious with a ball-peen hammer and slashed her stomach with a knife. He was, however, interrupted mid-assault by a neighbor and ran without killing her. A month later, he attacked Olive Smelt in Halifax using the same hammer and knife, - this time he slashed her above the buttocks but was interrupted again. Both the victims were badly injured but survived. Later in August, he attacked 14-year-old Tracy Browne in Silsden; he hit her on the head five times but ran after seeing the lights of a passing car. He finally succeeded in making his first kill with Wilma McCann, a mother of four, in October. He struck her twice with a hammer from behind before stabbing her 15 times in the neck, chest, and abdomen.

Six of the young women murdered by Peter Sutcliffe, known as the Yorkshire Ripper. Top left to right; Vera Millward, Jayne MacDonald, Josephine Whittaker and bottom left to right; Jean Royle, Helga Rytka and Barbara Leach. (Getty Images)

The next murder was committed in January 1976 in Leeds, when he stabbed 42-year-old Emily Jackson at least 52 times. She exchanged money for sexual favors. He killed another sex worker, Irene Richardson, in January 1977 in Chapeltown by bludgeoning her to death with a hammer. In one of the killings, after he reached home to a house party, he realized he had left a £5 note with the body of a sex worker he had killed which could be traced back to him. He excused himself from the party and went to the site where he had dumped the body to look for the note but did not find it. Authorities later found the note in the woman's purse. Officers interviewed a few hundred people after tracing the note back to two banks; the people they interviewed also included Sutcliffe but he had an alibi - he was at the party that night. 

His head covered with a blanket, Peter Sutcliffe, aka 'The Yorkshire Ripper', is escorted into Dewsbury Magistrates Court to be charged with murder, 6th January 1981. (Photo by Jack Hickes/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

His killing spree continued for years — mostly sex workers — until he was stopped on 2 January 1981 with a 24-year-old prostitute, Olivia Reivers, in the driveway of Light Trades House in Sheffield. Officers found he had a false number plate and arrested him. At the police stations, he was asked about the Yorkshire Ripper because his physical description matched the serial killer. Nearly two days after questioning, Sutcliffe admitted to the murders as officials found a knife, hammer, and rope discarded at the scene of his arrest. He then described to them all his attacks in detail and claimed that God had told him to murder the prostitutes. 

Sutcliffe said that during the time he was working as a gravedigger, he had heard voices that had ordered him to kill prostitutes. He claimed that the voices came from the headstone of a Polish man and he believed it to be the voice of God. He was charged on January 5; he pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of murder, but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. His defense was his claim that he was a tool of God's will. He was eventually found guilty of 13 murders on all counts and was sentenced to 20 concurrent sentences of life imprisonment. At least four psychiatrists in the case found that Sutcliffe had paranoid schizophrenia. During his entire killing spree, Sutcliffe was questioned nine times for the murders but the authorities never arrested or charged him.

The High Court, on 16 July 2010, issued a whole life tariff to him, which means that he will not ever be released from prison, even on probation. He is currently imprisoned in HM Prison Frankland. 

Reelz' docu-series 'World's Most Evil Killers' released Friday, June 12.

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