Between July 1975 and January 1981, 13 women where horrifically murdered in Yorkshire, Northern England. It lead to the greatest criminal manhunt in British criminal history. The killer became known as the Yorkshire Ripper.
Almost 90 years before in 1888, an unknown killer, regarded by many as the father of the modern day serial killer began a reign of terror in London’s East end district of Whitechapel. Although the actual number of his victims has been debated over the years the “official” acceptance is five. The killer became known as Jack the Ripper. To this day his identity remains unknown.
Crime Historian and Jack the Ripper tour guide, Richard C Cobb investigated the United Kingdom’s most infamous serial killers and found some startling comparisons in both Ripper cases.
Background to Murder:
The areas in which both killers began their reign of terror were regarded as slum quarters of the city, deprived and poverty stricken. Prostitution was rife and drunken disorder an everyday occurrence. Unemployment was high and an area where few decent people would dare to venture.
Jack the Ripper would stalk the poverty slum streets of Whitechapel in London’s east end while Peter Sutcliffe – The Yorkshire ripper, chose the poverty stricken Chapel-town in the city of Leeds.
Both Killers would strike only on weekends, targeting prostitutes from the red light districts. The attacks were sudden and savage, with horrific mutilations to the lower abdomen.
In both Ripper cases, all but one of the victims would be murdered out doors and left to be discovered later, either by passers-by or police searches.
Only one victim would be murdered indoors (Jack the Ripper – Mary Jane Kelly / Yorkshire Ripper – Patricia Atkinson) in both of those cases the victims brought the killer back to their home and were subsequently murdered in their bedroom with their bodies left lying on the bed waiting to be discovered the very next day.
Both killers left clues behind for the police to follow, Jack the Ripper left behind a piece of bloody apron, cut from one of his victims. This was discovered in a doorway several streets from the murder, prompting police to conduct door to door interviews with suspects in that area. The Yorkshire Ripper left a brand new £5 note in the handbag of his victim, later traced to several trucking companies payroll. This prompted police to conduct interviews with all company employees who may have received the note in their pay packet.
Letters and hoaxes
In both Ripper investigations the police received letters from people claiming to be the killer. This caused a sensation and drove the media frenzy in a way never seen before in a murder case. Both ironically were signed “Jack the Ripper”. Each letter promised to continue the attacks and taunted the efforts of the investigators. In both cases, these letters were published in the newspapers in the hope that someone would recognise the handwriting. In the Yorkshire Ripper Investigation it was later discovered that the letters were in fact a hoax. Serious researchers into the Jack the Ripper murders conclude the 1888 letters were probably the work of hoaxers as well.
The Ripper investigations of 1888 and the 1970’s were the largest criminal manhunts of their time. However, both were hampered by three problems: the mounting public pressure on them to find the killer; their instant belief in descriptions and letters sent in by hoaxers; and the sheer volume of information they had to process.
Profile of the Ripper
In 1988 leading FBI criminal profilers John Douglas and Roy Hazelwood conducted -The Ripper Project – for the first time ever they drew up a psychological profile of Jack the Ripper. When we compare their findings with what we now know about Peter Sutcliffe-the Yorkshire Ripper then the similarities really do become clear.
Finding Jack the Ripper
We have seen the comparisons with both Ripper investigations and only time will tell if the comparisons stretch to the murderers themselves. In the strange case of Jack the Ripper, It might be useful to investigate earlier attacks on women in the area that were not linked to later Whitechapel murders. Serial killers evolve they start small and work their way up to much more violent crimes cultivating in murder. Many are arrested and charged with assaults/ robbery. By the time they commit a murder they already have a criminal record. One wonders if jack the Ripper was arrested during this early evolvement. If so his name may very well be still there for all to see, in an old police file that’s been left discarded in the vaults for over 125 years.
Richard C Cobb conducts a Jack the Ripper tour every night of the week. Come along and decide for yourself just who was Jack the Ripper.