Chilling echoes of Yorkshire Ripper's five-year terror spree

THERE are chilling echoes of the Yorkshire Ripper's five-year reign of terror in the investigation into the possible serial murders of three women from the Bradford area.

Peter Sutcliffe killed 13 women between 1975 and 1980 and attacked at least seven more who survived despite being left for dead – a spree of murderous violence that shocked the nation and left the female population of West Yorkshire afraid to go out at night.

Now the grisly discovery in Shipley and the questioning of a man over the suspected murders of three prostitutes has revived memories – not least because several of Sutcliffe's victims sold themselves for sex, and because body parts were found not far from where he lived and killed.

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Sutcliffe was born in Bingley in 1946, and was living in Bradford, working as a lorry driver, when his first documented assault on a woman took place in July 1975.

He attacked Anna Rogulskj in Keighley, and then a month later attacked Olive Smelt in Halifax, followed by Tracy Browne in Silsden.

All three were hit with a hammer from behind and then slashed with a knife.

He was to kill for the first time on October 30 that year. Wilma McCann, 28, was a prostitute in Chapeltown, Leeds. Her body was found on playing fields near her home. The next murder came in January 1976, when he killed part-time prostitute Emily Jackson, again in Leeds, as well as attacking a woman in the city's Roundhay Park.

Three women were to die in 1977 – Irene Richardson in Leeds, Patricia Atkinson in Bradford and Jean Jordan in Manchester, all of whom were working in the sex trade. Two other women were also attacked and left for dead.

The next killing was in January 1978– Yvonne Pearson, in Bradford – and then just weeks later, Helen Rytka in Huddersfield, followed in May by Vera Millward, in Manchester.

Almost a year passed until Sutcliffe's next murder. On April 4 1979, he killed 19-year-old bank clerk Josephine Whitaker in Halifax.

She was the first victim who was not involved in prostitution and her death deepened the alarm among women, which was further intensified in September that year when Bradford University student Barbara Leach was killed.

During 1979 the massive Ripper investigation was distracted by the "Wearside Jack" hoax tapes and letters, in which a man with a Geordie accent taunted police about their inability to catch him. It was a diversion officers could not afford, and two more women were to die during 1980, Marguerite Walls and Jacqueline Hill, both in Leeds.

Sutcliffe's reign on terror was about to end, however. In January 1981, two policemen stopped him with a prostitute in Sheffield and arrested him because his car had false number plates. He was taken to Dewsbury police station, and questioned about the Ripper murders because he bore a striking resemblance to the descriptions.

A search of the area where he was picked up found a knife, hammer and length of rope.

In May 1981, he was convicted of 13 murders and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 30 years. He had been questioned a total of nine times, and named as the Ripper by a man who knew him well but failings in the investigation were blamed for his not being identified as a prime suspect.

Sutcliffe has campaigned in recent years for a date to be set for when he can apply for parole, despite being on a list of prisoners successive Governments believe should never be released. A hearing of an application for a minimum term of imprisonment is due at the High Court in July.

Ripper Hoaxer John Humble, of Sunderland, was caught after a DNA match in 2005 and jailed for eight years in 2006 for perverting the course of justice.