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Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe dies in hospital after refusing COVID treatment

Ellen Manning
·4-min read

Watch: Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, died aged 74

Peter Sutcliffe, the serial killer known as the Yorkshire Ripper, has died in hospital.

Sutcliffe, 74, who was serving a whole life sentence for the murder of at least 13 women in the late 1970s, had tested positive for coronavirus and was suffering from underlying health conditions.

One of Britain’s most notorious serial killers, he had reportedly refused treatment at University Hospital of North Durham after being transferred there from maximum security HMP Frankland in County Durham, where he was being held.

The Prison Service confirmed that he died in hospital on Friday.

A spokesperson said: “HMP Frankland prisoner Peter Coonan (born Sutcliffe) died in hospital on 13 November. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has been informed.”

Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, has died in hospital. (Getty)
Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, has died in hospital. (Getty)
A general view showing the University Hospital of North Durham, County Durham.
Sutcliffe died in the University Hospital of North Durham, County Durham, on Friday. (PA)

Speaking on Friday Richard McCann, the son of Sutcliffe’s first recognised victim Wilma McCann, told BBC Breakfast: “It brings me some degree of closure, not that I wished him dead, far from it.

“Every time we hear a news story about him, and my mum’s photo is often shown, it’s just another reminder of what he did.

“One positive to come from this is that we’ll hear much less about him and no more reminders about what happened all those years ago.”

Read more: ITV announces drama series on Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe

John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation, urged people to remember Sutcliffe’s victims, tweeting: “Lets show the faces of those he killed, not him. The 13 women he murdered and the 7 who survived his brutal attacks are in my thoughts.”

One of Sutcliffe’s surviving victims said she was still suffering from the effects of his attack in Leeds in May 1976, 44 years on.

Marcella Claxton told Sky News: “I have to live with my injuries, 54 stitches in my head, back and front, plus I lost a baby, I was four months pregnant. I still get headaches, dizzy spells and black outs.”

Handout composite photo of twelve of the thirteen victims of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, who has died in hospital. Top row (left to right) Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson and Patricia Atkinson. Middle row (left to right) Jayne McDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson and Helen Rytka. Bottom row (left to right) Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach and Jacqueline Hill.
Twelve of the 13 victims of serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, who has died in hospital. (PA)
Sutcliffe's house in Bradford. A police panda car outside the house in Garden Lane, Bradford (centre), the home of Peter and Sonia Sutcliffe. Police have named Peter Sutcliffe as the man who is helping them with their enquiries into the Yorkshire Ripper killings. (AP-Photo)  1981
A police panda car outside Sutcliffe's home in Garden Lane, Bradford in 1981. (AP)

Sutcliffe had reportedly suffered from a range of conditions before his death including heart trouble, diabetes and obesity.

Most recently, he was being treated for a suspected heart attack in October, and he was reported to have turned down being treated for COVID-19.

The former lorry driver, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, was convicted in 1981 of murdering 13 women across Yorkshire and the North West between 1975 and 1980 and the attempted murder of seven more.

He was given 20 life terms and was originally recommended to serve a minimum of 30 years behind bars.

HMP Frankland, where Sutcliffe was being held. (Google Maps)
HMP Frankland, where Sutcliffe was being held. (Google Maps)

In 2005 it was reported Sutcliffe had written to the Home Office pleading to be set free and in 2008, it emerged he was making a legal bid for freedom by claiming his human rights had been breached, sparking outrage.

In 2010 a high court ruling saw Sutcliffe’s sentence changed to a whole-life sentence, bringing relief to the family of his victims.

Sutcliffe, who had initially tried to argue diminished responsibility, claiming he believed he was following instructions from God, spent 32 years in Broadmoor Hospital near Crowthorne, Berkshire, after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was transferred to maximum security HMP Frankland in 2016.

Police leading Sutcliffe into Dewsbury Court under a blanket.  (Getty)
Police leading Sutcliffe into Dewsbury Court under a blanket. (Getty)
Sutcliffe, pictured in 1983, in police custody. (Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
Sutcliffe, pictured in 1983, in police custody. (Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

Sutcliffe’s first victim was Wilma McCann, 28, in Leeds on October 1975, who he attacked with a hammer.

He killed Emily Jackson, 42, in early 1976 and his third victim, Irene Richardson, was murdered in the same city in February 1977.

That year, he also murdered Patricia Atkinson, 32, Jayne McDonald, 16, and Jean Jordan, 21, in Bradford, Leeds and Manchester, respectively.

Across Bradford, Huddersfield, Manchester and Halifax he murdered Yvonne Pearson, 22, Helen Rytka, 18, Ver Millward, 41, Josephine Whittaker, 19, and Barbara Leach, 20, in 1978 and 1979.

The final two murder victims were Marguerite Walls, 47, who was killed in Leeds in August 1980, and Jacqueline Hill, 20, in the same city in November 1980.

Watch: Brothers prevented from comforting their mother at father's funeral due to COVID rules