true crime

The Yorkshire Ripper confessed to murdering 13 women. His wife, Sonia, stood by him.

Peter Sutcliffe, better known as the Yorkshire Ripper, has died in hospital aged 74 after contracting coronavirus. He was serving a lifelong sentence for murdering 13 women across Yorkshire and the North West of England between 1975 and 1980.

He died at the University Hospital of North Durham after being transferred there from maximum security HMP Frankland, where he was an inmate.

The killer had tested positive for COVID-19, and according to reports he had turned down medical treatment for the virus. He was also suffering from underlying health conditions including diabetes, heart trouble and obesity.

Known as Britain's most notorious killer of the 20th century, the Yorkshire Ripper also attempted to kill seven other women, and used a hammer, a screwdriver and a knife to mutilate his victims.

Throughout his reign of terror, there was another woman by Sutcliffe’s side – his wife, Sonia.

Throughout his reign of terror, there was another woman by Sutcliffe’s side – his wife, Sonia. Image: Getty. 

Sonia, the daughter of Czech parents, was just 16 years old when she met Sutcliffe, after defying her father’s orders and attending a disco at a local pub.

Sutcliffe was four years older. He had dropped out of school and worked in a string of menial jobs, including as a gravedigger.

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The pair began dating and married in 1974, a year before his first killing. He began his killing spree in 1975 and avoided detection for years due to a series of missed opportunities by police to snare him.

His horrific crimes only came to light in 1981 after a routine traffic stop. Sutcliffe was found to have a prostitute in his car. While police investigated his fake licence plate, they found a pile of weapons he'd discarded at the scene.

He was arrested and eventually confessed to being the serial killer the press had dubbed the 'Yorkshire Ripper'.

In an exclusive audio, obtained by the Sunday Mirror, Sutcliffe revealed the moment he told Sonia about his crimes.

Yorkshire Ripper wife
Portrait of British serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, a.k.a. 'The Yorkshire Ripper,' on his wedding day, August 10, 1974. Image: Getty.

He begged police not to tell her, so he could reveal the truth himself.

When she arrived at the police station, Sutcliffe said: "It's me, love. I'm the Yorkshire Ripper."

In the audio, he says: "I personally told Sonia what had happened after my ­arrest. I asked the police not to tell her, just to ring her and let me explain.

"She had no idea, not a clue. I never had any blood on me or anything. There was nothing to link me, I was taking my clothes home and taking my clothes off and doing my own washing.

"I was working all day long and she was working as a teacher so I could only do it at night. She was deeply shocked when I told her. She couldn’t believe it. She was absolutely gobsmacked. It was hard to tell her but I'd rather it come from me than a total stranger."

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Despite the confession, Sonia stood by her husband and continued to visit him after he received 20 life sentences.

Yorkshire Ripper wife
Sonia Sutcliffe leaving the Old Bailey during the Peter Sutcliffe, Yorkshire Ripper, trial in 1981. Image: Getty.

She did not divorce Sutcliffe until 1994, and even then she continued her visits to Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire, where he was admitted after being diagnosed with schizophrenia .

She met her second husband, Michael Woodward, a hairdresser, a year later in the salon where he worked.

The couple married in 1997 but live separately, with Sonia choosing to remain in the home she shared with Sutcliffe.

More than two decades after Sutcliffe was put in jail, a secret report disclosed that he probably committed more crimes than the 13 murders and seven attempted murders for which he was convicted.

Feature Image: AAP.

This post was originally published on June 3, 2019, and updated on November 14, 2020.


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