Warning: the following contains details of violence some readers may find distressing
Peter Sutcliffe, the man more commonly referred to as the Yorkshire Ripper, has died while serving a life sentence prison for the murder of thirteen innocent women. It's reported that Sutcliffe refused treatment for COVID-19 and had underlying health conditions. His spate of tragic killings in the North of England stretched from 1975 to 1980. He was finally convicted in 1981.
At least seven other women managed to escape his clutches, including Anna Rogulskyj, who needed extreme medical intervention after the Ripper attacked her before being scared off by a neighbour. Sutcliffe later told officers he felt strongly that he'd be assigned a "mission from God" to kill sex workers, although not all of his victims were sex workers. Some were students, mothers, shop workers, clerks... and all of them left loved ones behind.
Here, we remember the women whose lives were tragically ended too soon.
Who were the Yorkshire Ripper's victims?
The known victims are listed as follows:
Wilma McCann, 28, Leeds, October 1975
Emily Jackson, 42, Leeds, January 1976
Irene Richardson, 28, Leeds, February 1977
Patricia Atkinson, 32, Bradford, April 1977
Jayne McDonald, 16, Leeds, June 1977
Jean Jordan, 21, Manchester, October 1977
Yvonne Pearson, 22, Bradford, January 1978
Helen Rytka, 18, Huddersfield, January 1978
Vera Millward, 41, Manchester, May 1978
Josephine Whitaker, 19, Halifax, May 1979
Barbara Leach, 20, Bradford, September 1979
Marguerite Walls, 47, Leeds, August 1980
Jacqueline Hill, 20, Leeds, November 1980
A mother of four, McCann was killed by Sutcliffe in October 1975, when she was 28-years-old. He attacked her with a hammer and stabbed her fifteen times, on her return home from a night out (she was attempting to hitchhike). Her son, Richard, who was just five when his mother was killed, said the Ripper's death would bring "some kind of closure". McCann's eldest child, Sonia Newlands, who later sadly passed away from suicide, said in a BBC documentary before her death, "I think most people remember the number 13 - for the number of women he killed. But what about the children? There's 25 of them and no one remembers them."
Jackson worked part-time as a sex worker (with the blessing of her husband, Sydney), when the couple ran into financial troubles. She also assisted her husband, a local roofing contractor, with paperwork and driving his van. The pair shared three children.
Born into a large Glaswegian family, Richardson had three brothers and three sisters. She later moved to Blackpool and married George Richardson – their relationship was tumultuous and at the time of her death, the 28-year-old was living in a B&B and working as a prostitute. Her two children had previously been placed in care. Son, Geoff Beattie, who was adopted as an infant, told the BBC of his shock at discovering his birth mother in 2012: "Not only had she been murdered, but to suddenly be associated with everything else that had gone on, I can't describe it. I was devastated."
Known to her friends as Tina, Atkinson was a sex worker with three children. She died on her way home from a night of drinking in local spots in Bradford.
Sutcliffe's first non-sex worker victim, McDonald's killing saw an increase in public interest in the case. Her father, Wilf, a former railwayman, died two years after her murder, seemingly never having recovered from the ordeal. On the night of her death, McDonald had been out dancing with friends and after stopping to buy chips, missed her last bus home.
Sutcliffe gave Jordan £5 before attacking her and the note was later traced by police to branches of the Midland Bank in Shipley and Bingley, helping them to narrow their search. Her partner and the father of Jordan's two children, Alan Royle, said of her work, "It didn't matter to me at all. I was hooked and I loved her, but, after she told me, she stopped it there and then, and said she wanted to move in with me. She said the only time she would ever do it again would be if her family was absolutely starving... She walked out of the house one day for a packet of cigarettes and didn't come back." He added that Jordan was buried on her 21st birthday.
Pearson, who was 21 at the time of her death, had two young children, Colette aged two and Lorraine, just five months. They were with a neighbour on the night she was attacked by Sutcliffe.
Eighteen-year-old Rytka and her twin sister, Rita, were working as prostitutes at the time of her death. She was killed less than a fortnight after Sutcliffe claimed the life of Yvonne Pearson.
Plagued by ill-health, 41-year-old Millward had undergone several major operations in the years leading up to her death. The night she died, Millward (who worked as prostitute) told her boyfriend she was going out for cigarettes. She left behind seven children.
Whitaker, a nineteen-year-old bank clerk, died shortly after leaving her grandparents' home shortly before midnight, according to a Halifax Courier report. She decided not to stay overnight as she had work early in the morning.
Leach was a social psychology student, about to enter into her third year of studying, when she died in the early hours of the morning after leaving a pub in Bradford. Her mother, Beryl Leach, told The Times following her death, "As a family our punishment goes on and on but I don’t see that [Sutcliffe's] life in prison has been much of a punishment."
The 47-year-old civil servant from Leeds was due to go on holiday the day after her death – she had been working late in preparation of her time off and was struck down on the half a mile walk back to her home.
Hill, a English degree student who worked as a Sunday school teacher, with aspirations to become a probation officer died on her walk home in Leeds. Her gravestone reads that she was a "gentle and caring person".
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