When did the Yorkshire Ripper die?

Explore the chilling past of the Yorkshire Ripper in Channel 5’s new documentary

Peter Sutcliffe terrorised the north of England in the 1970s

The Yorkshire Ripper is one of the most notorious serial killers in British history but what did he do and when did he die?

And, in a new documentary on Channel 5 – The Ripper Speaks: The Lost Tapes – viewers will get a chance to actually listen to the killer speak about his crimes.

He terrorised residents in the north of England in the 1970s, but what actually happened?

Here’s a timeline of events that leads up to the present day explaining how he was caught and how he died.

The Yorkshire Ripper timeline of his crimes and is he still alive?
Peter Sutcliffe aka The Yorkshire Ripper (Credit: YouTube)

The Yorkshire Ripper… Early years

Peter Sutcliffe was born in Bingley, West Riding, Yorkshire in 1946. His parents were John and Kathleen, and he had two siblings.

Read more: The Ripper on Netflix: When did Peter Sutcliffe meet wife Sonia and why did she stay with him?

By his teens, he had already earned the reputation as a loner and he left school at 15. From there he started working in menial jobs, including as a gravedigger in the 1960s.

The Yorkshire Ripper timeline of his crimes and is he still alive?
Sonia married Peter in 1974 (Credit: Netflix)

The Yorkshire Ripper… 1967: Marriage to Sonia

In 1967, Sutcliffe met Sonia Szurma and seven years later they married in 1974.

Trying for a family, Sonia suffered several miscarriages and was told she could not have children. Despite this heartbreaking news, the two moved into a new home in Bradford after she completed teacher training and started to earn money.

The address? 6 Garden Lane in the Heaton area of the city.

The Yorkshire Ripper’s early behaviour

Sutcliffe’s brother has gone on record saying that their father was an abusive alcoholic.

Carl told Yorkshire Live: “He used to belt [the] hell out of us when we were kids.

“I remember when I was about four or five, there was a bit of an argument and he smashed a beer glass into Peter’s head.”

It’s also claimed that Peter had experiences with sex workers from a young age, and developed an obsession with them to the point he would spy on some as they worked the streets.

And further claims suggest that he was once conned out of some money by one prostitute.

The Yorkshire Ripper timeline of his crimes and is he still alive?
Sutcliffe during his murderous heyday (Credit: BBC News)

1969: The first known assault

Sutcliffe’s first known assault was in Bradford, after meeting a prostitute while searching for another who had reportedly tricked him out of some money.

He used a stone wrapped in a sock to inflict sickening head injuries, but the woman survived.

However, she had remembered the number plate of the van Sutcliffe used that night and reported it to police.

The woman decided not to proceed with charges, and police described Sutcliffe as “very lucky”.

1975: More assaults and the first murder

Six years later, and one year after he married Sonia, Sutcliffe ramped up his violent activity.

He attacked Anna Rogulskyj in Keighley, Olive Smelt in Halifax and 14-year-old Tracy Browne in Silden.

During each attack he used a ball-peen hammer and slashed his victims.

All three incurred dreadful injuries but survived the attacks.

However, on October 30 he claimed his first victim.

Wilma McCann – a mother of four children – was struck and stabbed repeatedly in Leeds.

In 2007, Wilma’s eldest daughter Sonia took her own life after suffering years of torment over the death of her mother and the effect it had on her family.


Sutcliffe’s next victim was 42-year-old Emily Jackson – a sex worker who had been encouraged to engage in prostitution by her husband.

Emily was stabbed a sickening 52 times.

Later in 1976, Sutcliffe also attacked pregnant Marcella Claxton but she miraculously survived. However, tragically, she lost her baby and required numerous operations.

1977-1979: The frenzied years

Sutcliffe was now in full flow and killing indiscriminately.

He claimed the lives of Irene Richardson, Patricia ‘Tina’ Atkinson, Jayne MacDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka, Josephine Whitaker and Barbara Leach.

He also savagely assaulted Maureen Long and Marilyn Moore, but they survived.

While he was in police custody, Sutcliffe chillingly said about the height of his killing spree: “I had the urge to kill any woman. The urge inside me to kill girls was now practically uncontrollable.”

The Yorkshire Ripper timeline of his crimes and is he still alive?
The Ripper’s victims (Credit: BBC News)

1979: Why was he called The Yorkshire Ripper?

During this time, police were working feverishly on any lead they could find – a footprint, a tyre track, even a £5 note found on one of the victims.

In 1977, police interviewed 5,000 men – including Sutcliffe – without success.

Fear permeated the streets, and things were getting desperate.

And then a breakthrough – or so the police thought.

In April 1979, police received a tape from a man claiming to be the killer.

Addressed directly to ACC George Oldfield, the man on the tape said: “I’m Jack. I see you’re having no luck catching me.

“I have the greatest respect for you, George, but Lord, you’re no nearer catching me now than four years ago when I started.”

Initially the mystery man was dubbed ‘Wearside Jack’, but after he sent letters to the Daily Mirror and signed off with the moniker, ‘Jack The Ripper’ the nickname was born.

The tape and the letters were a hoax.

1981: How was the Yorkshire Ripper caught?

In April 1980, Peter Sutcliffe was arrested for drink driving.

While he was awaiting trial, he murdered two more women (Marguerite Walls and Jacqueline Hill) and attacked three more.

He was also identified as a suspect by a former associate and work colleague.

Then, in January 1981, Sutcliffe was stopped by police in the company of sex worker Olivia Reivers in Sheffield.

His car had false number plates and he was subsequently arrested.

At the scene of his arrest, police later discovered a knife, a hammer and a rope, and during a toilet break at the police station he also hid another knife in the toilet cistern.

After two days of questioning, he suddenly confessed, saying: “The women I killed were filth.

“[Bleep] prostitutes who were littering the streets. I was just cleaning up the place a bit.”

The Yorkshire Ripper timeline of his crimes and is he still alive?
Sutcliffe died in hospital (Credit: Channel 5)

1981: What sentence did he receive?

At trial he pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of murder, but guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

He claimed that he heard voices and was doing “God’s will”.

After a trial that lasted two weeks, Sutcliffe was found guilty of all charges and received 20 life sentences.

Initially, he was imprisoned at Parkhurst but transferred to Broadmoor Hospital after he was attacked. That wouldn’t be the first time he was attacked during his sentence.

In 2010, he lost an appeal to be released and instead received a whole life sentence.

The Yorkshire Ripper would never leave prison.

2020: The Yorkshire Ripper died

In 2015, it was concluded that Sutcliffe was no longer deemed to be mentally ill.

He was then transferred to HM Prison Frankland in Durham to continue serving his sentence.

Read more: The Yorkshire Ripper’s New Victims: How many surviving victims of Peter Sutcliffe are there?

However, in November 2020 he contracted Covid-19 and died in hospital, aged 74.

He had previously survived a heart attack and suffered from obesity and diabetes.

Yorkshire Ripper serial killer Peter Sutcliffe dies of coronavirus in hospital - BBC News

The Ripper Speaks: The Lost Tapes airs on Tuesday, February 8 at 10pm on Channel 5.

Leave us a comment on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix and let us know what you think of this story.

Nancy Brown
Associate Editor