Families of Ripper's victims tell of 'having closure' after his death

‘We won’t shed a tear’: Families of Yorkshire Ripper’s victims tell of finally ‘having closure’ after his death at 74 – as Britain mourns the 13 women murdered at hands of one of nation’s worst serial killers

  • Serial killer died at University Hospital of North Durham after refusing treatment for coronavirus 
  • His lungs failed overnight and he was pronounced dead at 1.10am, with no visitors by his bedside 
  • Signed ‘do not resuscitate’ forms – while friends said he astonishingly vowed he’d go to heaven 

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe (pictured) has died at the age of 74 after contracting coronavirus

Families of the Yorkshire Ripper’s victims today say they ‘won’t shed a tear’ and finally have ‘closure’ after his death aged 74.

The serial killer, who murdered at least 13 women in the 1970s and 1980s, has died at the University Hospital of North Durham.

He began his killing spree in 1975, battering 28-year-old sex worker Wilma McCann to death on October 30, 1975, which followed three non-fatal attacks on women earlier in the year.

Three months later, he murdered 42-year-old Emily Jackson, from Leeds, battering her with a hammer and stabbing her with a screwdriver.

In the same city, he struck again the following year, killing prostitute Irene Richardson, 28, on February 5, 1977.

Later that year, he then killed Patricia Atkinson, 32, in his home town of Bradford, Jayne MacDonald, a 16-year-old shop assistant which brought the case to the attention of the national press, and then 20-year-old Jean Jordan in Manchester.

In 1978, he went on to murder three more prostitutes  – Yvonne Pearson, 21, from Bradford; Helen Rytka, 18, from Huddersfield, and 40-year-old Vera Millward from Manchester, before killing Halifax Building Society clerk Josephine Whitaker, 19, on April 4, 1979.

Five months later, he murdered Barbara Leach, 20, in Bradford before claiming two more victims in 1980, Marguerite Walls, 47, from Leeds, followed by Jacqueline Hill, 20, a Leeds University student, on November 17.

Today, Neil Jackson, whose mother Emily was murdered, told of his relief that the Yorkshire Ripper was dead, adding that he should have been hanged after conviction.

A composite of 12 of the 13 victims murdered by Sutcliffe. Victims are: (top row, left to right) Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia Atkinson; (middle row, left to right) Jayne McDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka; (bottom row, left to right) Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Jacqueline Hill

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe’s five-year reign of terror claimed the lives of 13 women. They were:

– Wilma McCann, 28, from Chapeltown, Leeds, who was killed in October 1975.

– Emily Jackson, 42, a prostitute and mother-of-three from Morley, Leeds. Killed on January 20, 1976.

– Irene Richardson, 28, a mother-of-two from Chapeltown, Leeds. Killed on February 6, 1977.

– Patricia Atkinson, 32, a mother-of-three from Manningham, Bradford. Killed on April 24, 1977.

– Jayne MacDonald, 16, a shop assistant from Leeds. Killed on June 26, 1977.

– Jean Jordan, 21, from Manchester, who died between September 30 and October 11, 1977.

– Yvonne Pearson, 22, from Bradford. Murdered between January 20 and March 26, 1978.

– Helen Rytka, 18, from Huddersfield. Murdered on January 31, 1978.

– Vera Millward, 40, a mother-of-seven from Manchester, who was killed on May 16, 1978.

– Josephine Whitaker, 19, a building society worker from Halifax. Killed on April 4, 1979.

– Barbara Leach, 20, a student who was murdered while walking in Bradford on September 1, 1979.

– Marguerite Walls, 47, a civil servant from Leeds who was murdered on August 20, 1980

– Jacqueline Hill, 20, a student, who was found at Headingley on November 16, 1980.

The 62-year-old building site labourer, from Leeds, told MailOnline: ‘Thank God for that. It a great relief. The sooner the better.

‘It would have been a lot better if he had been hanged after he was convicted.

‘It would have save the country a lot of money and saved the families of the victims and the surviving victims a lot of heart ache.

‘Whenever Sutcliffe is mentioned I think of my mum. In fact I think of her every day. I have photos of my mum up all over the house.

‘She was taken too soon.’

Marcella Claxton, who was attacked by Sutcliffe and left needing more than 50-stitches after being over the head with a hammer added that she was ‘happy’ the Yorkshire Ripper had died.

Ms Claxton, whose family had moved to Leeds from the West Indies when she was 10, was attacked by the killer after she had left a late-night house party.

Although she survived, she lost the baby she was four months pregnant with.

Today she told MailOnline: ‘I’m happy he’s gone.

‘I’ve thought about what he did to me every day since and although the news that’s he’s died brings those horrible memories back at least now I may be able to get some closure.

‘I’m hoping it will bring me a little peace knowing he’s no longer with us.’

The family of another Ripper victim Olive Smelt were also relieved that Sutcliffe had died and hit out at him being allowed to live in ‘luxury’ for so many years.

Mrs Smelt was attacked by Peter Sutcliffe in August 1975 – the Ripper’s second victim.

Then aged 46, she was struck twice on the head with a hammer and slashed with a pickaxe near her home in Halifax, West Yorkshire.

She survived the attack but passed away in 2011.

Daughter Julie Lowry said: ‘I think it’s about time, Sutcliffe should have died a long time ago.

‘He’s taken a lot of people’s lives away from them. I’m not sad, not at all

‘It’s a bit of closure. We’ve had to live with what he did all our lives. Not just us but all victims and their families, people whose lives he affected and destroyed.

‘I think he’s been kept in luxury for how many odd years, so I won’t shed a tear or share any grief at this news.’

A newspaper clipping from October 1975 describes a ‘savage and sadistic sex attack on Leeds mother in fear’ Wilma McCann

Crowds gathered outside Dewsbury court in England after the Yorkshire Ripper was caught and appeared there to be charged with the murder of Jacqueline Hill

Detective rejects claims officers ‘did not care less about prostitute victims’ 

Retired detective Roger Parnell, who worked on the Ripper inquiry, rejected accusations the officers ‘did not care less’ about prostitute victims.

He told BBC Radio 5Live: ‘We certainly did, I can assure you we did.

‘These ladies were wives, they were mothers, they were sisters. And the inquiry did not change at the murder of Jayne MacDonald.

‘We were all determined from the beginning to catch the perpetrator of all these murders.

‘When I heard this morning that Peter Sutcliffe had died, I just could not care less, to be honest.’

Mr Parnell said: ‘The senior officers at the time …. they just swallowed hook, line and sinker the Wearside Jack tape.

‘Many of us, the officers on the ground, the DCs and the sergeants, we didn’t swallow this, to be quite honest.

‘We let our thoughts be known but we were ignored.’

Former Senior Officer from West Yorkshire Police, Bob Bridgestock, one of the first officers on the scene when Josephine Whittaker was attacked in 1979.

He said: ‘Peter Sutcliffe wasn’t an intelligent killer he was just brutal. He is in my mind, along with [Ian] Brady, a serial killer who will be detested until he is gone.

‘I have walked with my dog this morning and seen people say ‘good news, good riddance’. He destroyed lives as a brutal attacker of sex workers.

‘Then with Josephine Whittaker that opened it up and people in West Yorkshire were afraid to go out. 

‘I was 30 years as a detective, and what I found is it is the victims and the victims’ families that truly serve the life sentence.

‘For them today, they will have some kind of closure that he’s died. But it won’t bring any of the family members back.

‘The news in the media today will bring back sad memories for maybe of them. We should remember the victims not the killer.’

He added: ‘Today is about the families and they won’t shed a tear for him, but it will bring back terrible memories and the peace will come from knowing they won’t have to her about him anymore.’

Michael Bilton, former Sunday Times investigative journalist who wrote: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper told BBC Today: ‘My feelings today go out for the children of people he made motherless. 

‘The thing about this man’s crimes is the victims’ families and some of those who survived, he actually attacked an awful lot of women who survived, they can ever escape the memory of Peter Sutcliffe and what he had done.

‘He somehow managed to keep his notoriety going from inside Broadmoor and later inside prison.’

Meanwhile, retired detective Roger Parnell, who worked on the Ripper inquiry, rejected accusations the officers ‘did not care less’ about prostitute victims.

He told BBC Radio 5Live: ‘We certainly did, I can assure you we did.

‘These ladies were wives, they were mothers, they were sisters. And the inquiry did not change at the murder of Jayne MacDonald.

‘We were all determined from the beginning to catch the perpetrator of all these murders.

‘When I heard this morning that Peter Sutcliffe had died, I just could not care less, to be honest.’

Mr Parnell said: ‘The senior officers at the time …. they just swallowed hook, line and sinker the Wearside Jack tape.

‘Many of us, the officers on the ground, the DCs and the sergeants, we didn’t swallow this, to be quite honest.

‘We let our thoughts be known but we were ignored.’

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