Andrew Laptew, detective

Andrew Laptew (centre) with Dick Holland (left) and former Det. Chief Supt Trevor Lapish in the ITV documentary, Manhunt, The Search for the Yorkshire Ripper.
Andrew Laptew (centre) with Dick Holland (left) and former Det. Chief Supt Trevor Lapish in the ITV documentary, Manhunt, The Search for the Yorkshire Ripper.
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Andrew Laptew, who has died, was a former police detective in West Yorkshire who was credited as being the first to identify Peter Sutcliffe as the Yorkshire Ripper.

Originally from Bradford, Mr Laptew served with Bradford City Police and then the West Yorkshire force from 1971 to 2001, working in CID for 23 years and on some 60 homicides.

It was while his superiors were engaged on a fruitless search for a man with a Geordie accent who had sent them teasing letters and tapes, that Mr Laptew – one of many junior detectives on the team – identified a pattern of similarities between Sutcliffe and the known facts, which he considered too many to be coincidental.

He felt “alarm bells ringing”, he said, but Sutcliffe was one suspect among many, and three more women were do die before he was finally arrested.

He had, he said, voiced his concerns to his boss, Det Superintendent Dick Holland, but had been made to feel so small that he “could have crawled under the crack in the door”.

Despite this, Mr Laptew gained promotion from detective constable to uniformed sergeant before, in January 1981, it emerged he had been right all along.

“The bottom had fallen out of my world,” he said, upon hearing that Sutcliffe had been arrested and charged.

Matters did not improve when news leaked to the press, and banner headlines appeared. “I told my chiefs nine times he was the Ripper,” they screamed.

The impression, he recalled years later, was that he had been “the lone voice crying out in the wilderness against West Yorkshire Police and I was a pariah when all I had ever done was display loyalty.

“People I thought were friends ignored me, senior officers made life a little difficulty for me and instead of speaking to me they would grunt at me.

“I got really, really upset by all this. It’s made me anti-authority.”

Some 20 years later, however, Mr Laptew and Mr Holland were reunited, with other veterans of the case, in an ITV documentary on the investigation.

Following his retirement from the force in 2001, Mr Laptew volunteered as a guide at Keighley Police Museum and Bradford City Hall.

Among the tributes to him came from a retired police sergeant, Dave Hunter. Among former colleagues, he was, he said, “one of the most eloquently spoken I know. He used to come out with words I didn’t even know existed.”