Peter Sutcliffe: A Survey of The Yorkshire Ripperby Jake Tully - Published: 7/12/2017
The dark side of the trucking industry does not only exist in the United States. As unfortunate as it is, wherever there are trucks, there can be mysterious and spine-chilling stories that accompany the industry.
Europe, for example is no stranger to tales of oddities inside and out of the cab. While we frequently think of rural areas like Illinois as the stomping grounds of the truck stop murderer or rural areas of eastern Texas as the hallowed grounds of those up to no good, no one area capitalizes on the creepy tales of commercial driving.
Many would argue that Europe has some of the most well-known cases of strange stories in driving, with many lorry drivers committing foul deeds just as the twisted truckers in the United States have done.
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Perhaps the most infamous story stems directly to a driver with a dark history in England. Known as the “Yorkshire Ripper,” this English-based serial killer was known across the roads of the country for acting incredibly similar to another famous “Ripper.” Though brought to justice over 35 years ago, many who drive in the country still fear the tales of the murderous trucker.
Peter Sutcliffe- A Seemingly Ordinary Life
It is safe to say that Sutcliffe grew up in a home and environment that was thoroughly working-class. Like many drivers in the world who later took on a trucking job, Sutcliffe worked a series of manual labor positions ranging from menial positions to a few gravedigger positions. Some analysts argue that these positions gave Sutcliffe a fascination with death and macabre elements of life, others say it may have made him feel more isolated.
Isolation seemed to be a common theme of Sutcliffe’s upbringing as well. As a young man Sutcliffe primarily kept to himself, reportedly not working well with others. While he did not necessarily display violent tendencies within his various lines of work, he did not seem particularly comfortable with others and was known as sometimes coming off strange. Overall, however, Sutcliffe appeared to be relatively normal, a good-looking and well-adjusted person doing their best to get by.
Sutcliffe’s career on the road began after he received a position at Baird Television factory. After demonstrating some prowess and good nature on the packaging line, Sutcliffe was offered a job as a traveling salesman. Though he did not yet operate a truck at this position, Sutcliffe began becoming accustomed to the road.
As he traveled for his occupation, Sutcliffe was reported to become fascinated with the people he met on his journeys, becoming particularly obsessed with the women he came in contact with.
In fact, the first case of Sutcliff’s violence was found as he went across the country. In 1969, it was reported that Sutcliffe assaulted an alleged prostitute while with a friend on the road. Sutcliffe’s friend did not see the attack happen, as Sutcliffe jumped out of the car they were traveling in.
Sutcliffe disappeared into the mist and came back out of breath, demanding that the driver take off as quickly as possible. As they sped away, Sutcliffe admitted to chasing the woman he attacked into a garage and hitting her in the head with a stone.
Authorities came to Sutcliffe the next day and was not charged at all, having scared the woman he attacked very badly. There would be a span of four years until the next reported incident occurred, giving time for Sutcliffe to become more twisted and jaded.
Sutcliffe’s Terror Grows
Sutcliffe soon came to work for a proper fleet, taking a truck driver job in an oversized load division at a company in the mid 1970’s. A tire company, Sutcliffe took on a great deal of clients and loads around his area, specifically working in local routes around Yorkshire.
Sutcliffe began to become incredibly familiar with the area he drove in, even establishing some decent relationships with those he served and clients he delivered to. This façade would only be skin-deep, as Sutcliffe was mentally plotting his next round of attacks.
1975 saw Sutcliffe attack two women in very similar manners, both of whom were walking alone at night as he finished up shifts in the truck. After strategically parking his truck and sneaking up on his victims, he used weapons ranging from ball-peen hammers to knives to assault the women without killing them. Both assaults were interrupted by people hearing the screams of the women, causing Sutcliffe to flee. Sutcliffe used his surroundings to his advantage, the evening fog providing a shroud that those nefarious beings in California do not know the likes of.
Sutcliffe did succeed in one murder in late 1975. Following his horrific routine of preying upon a woman walking down the street and hiding in the darkness, Sutcliffe ambled out of his truck with the intent to kill. With no witnesses or nearby disturbances, Sutcliffe murdered Wilma McCann on October, 30, leaving her murder a mystery for years to come.
Tragic Years of 1976 – 1977
About two months after his first murder, Sutcliffe got away with another. Emily Jackson became Sutcliffe’s next victim in Leeds. It was reported that after a long day of trucking, Sutcliffe sought refuge in Jackson, who was offering sexual favors for money in a van down the road from Sutcliffe’s work.
Sutcliffe took advantage of this unfortunate opportunity and killed the woman in the car using unconventional weapons such as screwdrivers and other everyday tools. Sutcliffe’s penchant for such rudimentary killing weapons proved his further sadism and that he had begun to mentally unravel. Leaving Jackson in the car, Sutcliffe left an impression of his boot on her body and therefore began to incriminate himself with his string of violent attacks.
It wasn’t long before Sutcliffe’s darkening demeanor began to jeopardize his trucker job. In addition to murder, Sutcliffe saw frequent monetary problems due to utilizing the frequent service of prostitutes. Sutcliffe also was known for being a thief, eventually stealing tires from the trucking company he worked for. He was fired, and began to take on a reputation in the industry that was less than favorable.
Despite Sutcliffe’s dismissal and growing negativity in the world of driving, he was nonetheless hired back at a company in late 1976, once again working with heavy-haul loads.
From April to December 1977, Sutcliffe killed at least three prostitutes and violently attacked two more. However, he began leaving boot prints at the scene of the crime, as if to incriminate himself when forensic detectives investigated the scene. Furthermore, despite Sutcliffe’s theory, his new vehicle had become even more distinguishable than his last, leaving any survivors or witnesses to easily note a large truck near the scene of the crime.
The Final Peirod of Sutcliffe’s Deadly Spree
1978 saw a shift in Sutcliffe’s “under the radar” persona and led to eventual downfall and capture by British authorities. Sutcliffe began to earn the moniker of the “Yorkshire Ripper” by the authorities despite them not knowing exactly who the Ripper was.
Sutcliffe killed yet another lady of the night in January 1978, hiding the body underneath a sofa after deciding that his truck would not be a suitable location in which to discard the body. May saw another killing in a truck stop near the Manchester Royal Infirmary, where Sutcliffe got the idea to prey upon people who were potentially alone in large, sometimes poorly lit lots.
It was nearly a year until Sutcliffe attacked again, fearing the authorities may be on his trail. In 1979 Sutcliffe claimed two more victims, leaving notes with them that “Jack The Ripper” had committed the crime, as both a means to shake police and in part of the man’s sadistic sense of humor.
1980 saw the last of Sutcliffe’s overall 13 murders before he was convicted, the same year he was arrested for drinking while operating his truck. Becoming a familiar with figure with national and local authorities, Sutcliffe was about to see an end put to his wicked games.
Stopping The Yorkshire Ripper
In January 1981 police found the Ripper in the driveway of a trucking client with a prostitute in his car. A simple run of his plates showed that he was falsely using anonymous plates to evade authorities. Additionally, police at the scene noted that Sutcliffe’s physical description met the attributes of the attacker of many women and he was brought in for official questioning.
Two days after being arrested Sutcliffe suddenly exclaimed that he was the Ripper and was found guilty of the 13 murders he committed.
Sutcliffe is still in custody to this day, with many parties ensuring that he will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Though perhaps not as gruesome a case as other trucking related murderers, Sutcliffe is nonetheless a dangerous man who preyed on people that he perceived to be easy targets. Hitchhikers, prostitutes and other people were among those who Sutcliffe claimed the lives of – even in large metropolitan areas.
Sutcliffe’s murders didn’t just occur in rural areas, they happened in locations arguably as large as a major hub in a state such as Florida. Sutcliffe is one of several figures that proves that deranged people can attack at any time, and may unfortunately use a truck as a literal vehicle of bad deeds.