Was the Yorkshire Ripper responsible for more deaths? Retired Norfolk police officer thinks so
13:09 27 January 2014
A retired Norfolk police officer is at the forefront of a bid to try to get justice for the families of a number of women who he claims were murdered by notorious serial killer Peter Sutcliffe.
Chris Clark, a former intelligence officer and royalty protection officer at Sandringham, says he has unearthed new evidence linking the Yorkshire Ripper to a series of killings between 1968 and 1980 - including the death of Wendy Sewell in 1973.
Mrs Sewell was found battered in a cemetery in Bakewell, Derbyshire, and died in hospital two days later.
Bakewell man Stephen Downing was convicted in 1974 for killing Wendy Sewell but that was overturned in 2002.
Derbyshire police said the case was closed after a reinvestigation in 2002 but Mr Clark, who retired from Norfolk police in August 1994 after more than 28 years with the force, said he has uncovered a pathology report showing she was strangled, which was never told to the jury.
The 68-year-old, who has sent his findings to the Home Office after obtaining the original report last month, said it showed bruising on her neck consistent with a “knotted ligature” used to garrotte her and a rash in her lungs and airways, possibly caused by strangulation – a method often adopted by Sutcliffe in his killings.
Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others in 1981 but at the time, detectives believed the lorry driver must have committed more attacks.
Mr Clark, who has spent a number of years researching high profile unsolved cases after his wife confided in him that she was almost abducted as a child, said as many as 17 unsolved killings bore hallmarks of the Ripper.
He said: “I started looking at murders in the 1970s that seemed to have a common thread to them – very frenzied attacks.
Serial killer Peter Sutcliffe
The serial killer, now 67 and known as Peter Coonan, is detained at Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire.
The former Bradford lorry driver received 20 life sentences in 1981 for murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others in West Yorkshire between 1975 and 1981.
When he was jailed, a judge recommended he served a minimum of 30 years behind bars.
He used a hammer to attack his first victim on July 5, 1975.
Sutcliffe is said to have believed he was on a “mission from God” to kill prostitutes – although not all of his victims were sex workers.
The case only came to the attention of the national press in June 1977 when Sutcliffe claimed the life of Jayne MacDonald, a 16-year-old shop assistant who was not a prostitute.
He was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper because he mutilated his victims’ bodies using a hammer, a sharpened screwdriver and a knife.
Sutcliffe was sent to Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight, but was later transferred to Broadmoor secure hospital in Berkshire in 1984 after a fellow inmate at Parkhurst jail slashed him with a broken coffee jar.
During his time in prison, Sutcliffe has been attacked a number of times.
In 1997, he was attacked by a fellow patient at Broadmoor, Ian Kay, who stabbed him in both eyes with a pen. Sutcliffe lost the sight in his left eye.
He has spent nearly all his years in custody at Broadmoor after being diagnosed as mentally ill, but refused treatment until 1993 when the Mental Health Commission ruled it should be given forcibly.
As well as the fact that many of the frenzied attacks bore the hallmarks of the Ripper, Mr Clark believes Sutcliffe’s work as a lorry driver gave him the opportunity to kill around the country and has pieced together evidence that show Sutcliffe either knew, or had been to the areas where the attacks occurred, including in Bakewell in 1973.
Mr Clark is putting together a dossier which he will present to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which assesses police forces in the hope the cases might be reopened.
He said: “At the moment I’ve built up a very comprehensive list of dates and timings of attacks and feel quite confident in the knowledge that if not all most of them are Sutcliffe. There are probably others but these are the ones I’ve been able to find in the public domain.”
One of the cases Mr Clark has linked to Sutcliffe includes the unidentified headless body discovered at Cockley Cley, near Swaffham in 1974.
But Det Insp Andy Guy, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Major Investigation Team, has ruled that out. Speaking to the EDP in October he said: “Nothing in the three-year reinvestigation into the headless body identified any links to Peter Sutcliffe or Yorkshire.”
Mr Clark, who was born in Stanhoe, near Burnham Market but grew up in Dersingham and now lives in County Durham, said his campaign was “consuming his life at the moment” but was motivated by a desire to bring closure to the families of victims.
He said: “Although I’ve been retired 20 years I still feel a very strong sense of public duty and feel for the families left behind that these victims should not be forgotten.”
Have you got a crime story? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email email@example.com