“Wearside Jack” was motivated by hatred of the police after his ordeal in a notorious prison, his sister says.
She told the Mirror how John Humble – whose “I’m Jack” tape led detectives to hunt him while the real killer added three more victims – sought revenge for his suffering, with the most infamous deception in British criminal history.
Humble endured beatings, possibly even worse, at Medomsley detention centre, Co Durham, during a reign of terror in which 1,676 offenders aged from 17 to 21 were victims of physical or sexual assault, even torture.
Humble died in July, aged 63, leaving unsolved the 40-year-old mystery of why he deflected the hunt for the Ripper – eventually identified as Peter Sutcliffe.
Years later an inquiry found that the most prolific sex predator since Jimmy Savile had been working there at the time.
The centre’s cook Neville Husband abused at least 300 vulnerable young men during the wider scandal of assaults lasting from the 1960s to its closure in 1988. Jean, 56, said her brother told her that he had been targeted while inside.
In her first interview about his crimes she revealed: “His probation officer informed him he’d only get a fine but he was sentenced to three months.
“He got a few good hidings at Medomsley – and I dread to think what else happened to him there. That fuelled his hatred of the police and of authority.
“John wanted to get his own back for what he felt the police did to him but he went about it completely the wrong way.”
Humble’s hoax began in March 1978 with a letter to the police and one to the Mirror. He referred to Asst Chief Con George Oldfield, head of West Yorkshire Police’s Ripper inquiry, and the fact that several of the victims were prostitutes.
“I told [Oldfield] and I am telling you to warn them whores I’ll strike again and soon when heat cools off,” he wrote.
In June 1979 Humble made his sinis-
ter “I’m Jack” tape with an old cassette player Jean used to record chart hits.
He addressed it to Mr Oldfield, who became convinced that the man on the recording was the serial killer. At a press conference, stunned journalists listened as the twisted taunts were played.
They heard a Wearside voice say: “I’m Jack. I see you are still having no luck catching me.
"I have the greatest respect for you, George. But Lord, you are no nearer catching me now than four years ago when I started.
“I reckon your boys are letting you down, George. They can’t be much good, can they?
"At the rate I’m going I should be in the book of records. I’ll keep on going for quite a while yet. I can’t see meself being nicked just yet.
"Well, it’s been nice chatting to you, George. Yours, Jack the Ripper."
Mr Oldfield started a £1million publicity campaign to find him with his officers quizzing 40,000 men.
Humble watched as they went from door to door on his Sunderland housing estate – but they never came to his. Yorkshireman Sutcliffe, from Bingley, was questioned several times – then released, partly because he did not sound like “Wearside Jack”.
Humble began to realise the police were taking him seriously and in September 1979 he phoned to tell them it was a con but was ignored. That month Sutcliffe bludgeoned student Barbara Leach, 20, to death.
In 1980 he murdered civil servant Marguerite Walls, 47, and his 13th victim, student Jacqueline Hill, 20.
Jacqueline’s mother Doreen said her daughter would never have been killed if not for the Ripper hoaxer.
Sutcliffe was finally arrested in January 1981 and is still incarcerated under a whole-life tariff.
But Humble, obsessed as a youngster with the 19th century killer Jack the Ripper, somehow evaded justice for 27 years.
His DNA was actually taken in 1991 after his arrest for being drunk and disorderly – but it was not until 2005, after a cold case review by the police, that the sample was matched to another from one of his letters. He was jailed for eight years for perverting the course of justice.
Sutcliffe, now 73, wrote to Humble accusing him of having “blood on his hands” for the last three murders.
After being freed in 2009, Humble changed his name to John Samuel Anderson and shaved off his beard. He lived at a bail hostel in Newcastle then moved to nearby South Shields, where he kept his identity secret from neighbours until early this year, when his face appeared in a TV documentary on the Ripper case.
Ex-hospital cleaner Jean found him lying on the bedroom floor of his South Shields flat, wearing just a T-shirt and shorts, six weeks ago and ran for help.
A passer-by rushed to her aid but she knew her brother was dead.
“I believe it was a heart attack,” she said.
She believes her heavy-drinking brother was haunted by his crimes and the deaths of the Ripper’s last three victims.
In the months after sending the tape, he tried and failed three times to take his life. First he attempted to hang himself but the rope snapped. He also took an overdose then threw himself off a bridge.
Jean said: “He did not mean for those women to die. But he did feel responsible and you couldn’t blame anyone other than him. Still, he kept it quiet all those years.” Humble got married at 35 but hid his dark secret from his wife before they split and also from all of his family – who were targeted after his arrest.
His brother was twice beaten up in the street for being a relation and his house windows were smashed.
Jean said: “John should have handed himself in before those women were killed.
“Even when we went to see him in jail after his arrest he was saying it wasn’t him. But then he admitted it in court.”
After his release in 2009, Humble told how he had been plagued by inmates asking him why he had done what he did – and how he had got away with it for so long.
Humble’s family feels nothing but sorrow for the Ripper victims’ parents “who lost their daughters”.
Jean said: “If we had known about this then we would have handed John in to the police.”
The siblings’ father Samuel was a Second World War veteran held in the Nazis’ Stalag 17 camp. He later worked at the shipyards in Sunderland before his death in 1964 aged 45.
His four children were then cared for by their mother Violet, who died at the age of 72 in 1992. Jean said: “She had no idea of what John had done. It would have killed her.”
She still remembers her brother as a “happy-go-lucky” character before he committed the crimes that shocked the country.
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