The Yorkshire Ripper Files, a new three-part series shown on consecutive nights, takes a fresh look at the horrifying murders that rocked the nation
Even though they launched the biggest manhunt in British history, it took the authorities six years to catch lorry driver Peter Sutcliffe, who became known as the Yorkshire Ripper and murdered 13 women.
But could the notorious serial killer have been brought to justice sooner?
Liza Williams re-examines the case and discovers that crucial evidence was discounted because the police were looking for a man who only attacked sex workers, who many officers saw as second-class citizens.
So did the police’s attitude towards women – prostitutes, in particular – hinder their investigation?
As the tales of ignored evidence and missed opportunities get more staggering, we are left with a damning portrait of the West Yorkshire Police and 1970s society.
Tracy Browne Believed To Be One Of The Earliest Victims Of Peter SutcliffeTracy Browne was walking down a quiet country road in Yorkshire in August 1975, when a man attacked her from behind with a hammer.
Miraculously, the 14-year-old survived, yet she never forgot what he looked like and images of a man with a black beard and dark eyes haunted her…
So when she saw a Photofit of the Yorkshire Ripper in a newspaper two years later, her blood ran cold.
‘I recognised him immediately,’ says Tracy.
‘I went to the police station and told the constable but he laughed at me. It could have been wrapped up there and then.’
Yet Tracy isn’t the only woman who had her evidence ignored.
‘The Ripper’s fifth victim was a 16-year-old shop assistant,’ says Jeremy Thompson, a BBC reporter at the time. ‘The police called her “an innocent victim”, which isn’t how they’d described the others.’
In a heart-wrenching interview, Richard McCann, son of the Ripper’s first victim, Wilma McCann, who slept with men to feed her family, recalls a painful comment.
‘I was at a neighbour’s after another prostitute had been attacked,’ he says. ‘
She said, “They deserve all they get.” It really upset me.’
Continues tomorrow and Thursday.