Who couldn’t get excited about going to university?
Leaving home for a whole new life. (Well, not quite, but more on that later.)
Meeting really clever people, wondering if I would make the intellectual mark? (That was another delusion. Everyone else was as ordinary as me. Phew. Still, a slight let-down.)
I crossed the Pennines in the late 70s.
From Yorkshire to Lancashire. Don’t ask me why someone from Yorkshire went to university in Lancashire but I did.
And every weekend I went home to work on my parents’ market stall. Because, they couldn’t manage without me. So they said. I’m sure it wasn’t about parental control. (So, not quite the whole new life, only a weekday new life.)
But my trip across the Pennines coincided with the advent of the Yorkshire Ripper.
He’d started killing in Leeds when I was in sixth form. Leeds was nine miles away and somewhere I went occasionally to nightclubs. He killed first in 1975, then in 1976, and four times in 1977. He usually bludgeoned the women to death with a hammer and either stabbed them with a knife or sharpened hammer.
His initial murders were of prostitutes, often from Chapeltown in Leeds. But his third murder in 1977, ie his fifth one in total, was of a 16-year-old who was not a prostitute.
This put a new complexion on these killings. No woman was safe. Because prostitutes were different, yes? Or as one of my dad’s friends said regarding the other women who were killed, ‘Well, they were only whores* anyway.’ [*prostitutes, hookers, slags, sluts, I no longer remember his word of choice.]
So now, bright, pretty, young teenagers had become targets too.
And in the month I fled the murder stamping ground in the West Riding of Yorkshire for the safe haven of my university across the Pennines, the Ripper killed again. But not in Yorkshire, in Manchester. Across the Pennines.
Speculation grew that this killer was a lorry driver as his murders continued in the same areas: Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Manchester. Did he regularly travel from one area to the other, maybe across the Pennines, ie from Yorkshire to Lancashire, killing en route?
I was in touch with a schoolfriend and went to stay a few times with her in Leeds. In the heart of Ripper area. We went to pubs in Chapeltown and I wondered how she could live there with the threat of death hanging over the place. But, we all have to live, and accommodation was cheap in Chapeltown. So was life, sadly.
He was still killing when I graduated.
One Sunday night in the early new year, I’d gone to the local with my mum and dad. It was the semi-posh local, very old, wooden beams and all that.
Suddenly, John, the landlord, shouted to the whole bar: ‘They’ve got him. They’ve got the Ripper.’
The bar stilled. And then, the feeling of relief spread through us all.
No more worrying about which town or city would be next. Or who would be next. Or worrying about your wife, daughter, sister, mother, whenever they went out at night.
It’s more than 30 years ago but I remember that night.
John was listening to the news and the details that came through were limited. All I remember was a comment about basic policing and stolen number plates from a local scrapyard.
So although Sutcliffe was apprehended in Sheffield, with his potential next victim, he was brought to our local police station to be charged with stolen number plates because the scrapyard was within our area. Love the way the law works!
What other personal memories about this sad and vicious case? Well, the detective heading it up was the father of a girl in my year at school. She was actually our head girl at the time this was going on. The past plays tricks with our memories, but I remember this was mentioned at one point. Search wiki though and there’s no record of her. Search films made and yes, there she is, the daughter being portrayed, same name, studying for A levels, complete with glasses and long blonde hair.
Perhaps slightly more chilling is that the Ripper’s defence solicitor was one of my parents’ former employees. Spooky.
But I’d like to talk about Kerry for a moment. He came from a catholic family who lived on the local council estate. Well, there were lots of local council estates where I came from.
On Saturdays my mum and dad hired someone to help out on the market stall to cut cheese. At one point, Kerry was the cheese boy. Nice lad, quiet, studious and wanting to get away from the council estate. Hoping to study law, which was pretty difficult given his background. His Saturday job gave him and the family of seven or nine or eleven kids some cash.
And he did get away. Last thing I read of him while researching this post was that he retired, aged 62, as a circuit judge. He’d made it as a high court judge which isn’t bad for a lad from one of the most deprived areas in the UK.
The Ripper years dominated my late teens, early twenties. It was no joke to say that women in Yorkshire were frightened to go out.
Let me finish with some facts:
- Peter Sutcliffe killed 13 women and attempted to kill seven others within a six-year period. Plus an earlier attack on a prostitute in 1969.
- He was interviewed nine times during the course of the investigation. He was a lorry driver.
- Sutcliffe claimed he heard god’s voice, telling him to kill prostitutes. Right. That would explain killing women who weren’t prostitutes wouldn’t it? Well?
- He is serving twenty concurrent services of life imprisonment. But naturally he appealed against all that, because, you really want this nice chap on the streets yes?
- Sutcliffe is in Broadmoor. This is a high-security psychiatric hospital. He has been assaulted twice while incarcerated.
Let’s look at a little religion here though. God told Sutcliffe to kill prostitutes. Somehow. Telephone? Holy Email? Oh, not then. Well maybe spiritual virtual something.
An eye for an eye.
Sutcliffe duly carried out his god-given duties (failed on 30% of them actually) and gets into Broadmoor only to be stabbed in the left eye. Ten years later, another Broadmoor inmate tries to blind him in the other eye:
You fucking raping, murdering bastard, I’ll blind your fucking other one.
It seems, our fucking raping murdering bastard is not too happy:
Sutcliffe was reportedly “terrified” as he was already blind in his left eye following the 1997 stabbing incident.
Hmm. I wonder how his twenty victims felt as he bludgeoned 13 of them to death and attempted to kill the others? Terrified? Possibly?
This man terrified women in a huge geographical region for six years.
So when Clarkson makes jokes about lorry drivers killing prostitutes, it isn’t funny at all.
- Killing prostitutes isn’t funny.
- Killing women isn’t funny.
- Judging women because they are prostitutes isn’t funny.
- Reminding women of the fear they face every day isn’t funny.
And telling them there is no patriarchy and everyone is equal is beyond derisive.
Should you want to read more about the Ripper:
And the obv wiki:
From which I idly took my material that wasn’t personal.
Please people. Don’t joke about using, abusing, raping, threatening or killing women. It really isn’t remotely funny for us to live a life of fear.
Especially a god-given one.
ETA Don’t you just want to know this convicted murderer became a Jehovah’s Witness this year. Guess all his sins are absolved. I love me this religion. Repeat rhetoric. Forget crimes. That is right, yes? Because, repentenance forgives killing.