Dark Days as Ripper Strikes

The Week That Was: May 17 to 23, 1978

Wakefield, 19th October 1979

Yorkshire Ripper Exhibition
Wakefield Precinct
Wakefield, 19th October 1979 Yorkshire Ripper Exhibition Wakefield Precinct

DETECTIVES hunting the killer of a Manchester prostitute whose body was found this week in 1978 said they were certain she was the Yorkshire Ripper’s latest victim.

Examination of the body showed wounds which matched those suffered by his other victims. The discovery of the fully-clothed body of 40-year-old Vera Millward, on waste ground near Manchester Royal Infirmary, triggered the ninth investigation since the Ripper first struck in October, 1975.

Police feared that he had killed at least six women – five of them sex workers – and wounded another. It was also believed that he may have killed Yvonne Pearson from Bradford, whose body was found in March.

Mrs Millward had been killed by blows to the head with a blunt instrument and wounds to the abdomen from a sharp instrument.

Yorkshire’s striking mines rescue men, who had brought half the coalfield to a standstill, returned to work, giving union and coal board negotiations a fortnight to reach a settlement.

The decision was reached after delegates from the county’s 65 pits had voted overwhelmingly to support the 14-day cooling-off period. The strike had broken out because of the rescue men’s anger at receiving only 40 per cent of the bonus paid to face workers.

Yorkshire miners’ leader Arthur Scargill said: “I hope common sense will prevail in these talks. Otherwise this dispute will rage like wildfire throughout Britain with the official backing of the Yorkshire NUM.”

Britain’s Armed Services chiefs were severely reprimanded by Defence Secretary Fred Mulley. He had discovered that the Defence Chiefs of Staff had authorised a Ministry of Defence leak about the number of servicemen quitting because of dissatisfaction over pay.

A Whitehall inquiry into the source of the leak was ordered by Prime Minister James Callaghan, who referred in a Commons exchange to “mischief-makers” at the MoD. The four men who authorised the leak were Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Neil Cameron, Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Roland Gibbs, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshall Michael Beetham and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sir Terence Lewin.

The Government did a U-turn over its threat to force traders and manufacturers to convert to metric measurements, when consumer affairs Minister Roy Hattersley announced that it would not fine those who held on to imperial measures.

He said he hoped retailers would still convert voluntarily, and the government would help the consumer by providing price comparison information to ease the changeover.

In Switzerland, the coffin of Charlie Chaplin – missing since his grave was robbed 11 weeks previously – was found a mile away from his home near Lausanne.

The legendary comedian died on Christmas Day 1977, and was buried two days later in the village of Corsier above Lake Geneva. The family had kept ransom demands secret. Now it was revealed that police had arrested two men, aged 24 and 38, both motor mechanics. They confessed to stealing the coffin and reburying it.

They were found after police put 200 phone kiosks under surveillance and also tapped the Chaplins’ home, following demands for £400,000 for the return of the body. In some calls the robbers also made threats against Sir Charles and Lady Oona Chaplin’s youngest two children.

A spokesman for the Chaplins said: “The family is very happy and relieved that this ordeal is over”.

Sir Charles was reburied in a theft-proof concrete grave.