How cops missed NINE chances to stop Peter Sutcliffe during biggest manhunt UK had ever seen

BUNGLING cops missed NINE fatal chances to stop the Ripper during the biggest manhunt the UK has ever seen.

Between 1975 and 1980, a bloody rampage left Brits terrified to leave their homes after 13 women were murdered across the North of England.

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Desperate to stop the slaughter, police spent a staggering 2.5million hours combing every possible clue in a bid to catch their killer.

Shockingly, cops actually caught their guy nine times and interviewed him – only to let him back out to continue his gruesome reign of terror.

Sutcliffe was only caught in 1981 when he was picked up by chance with a prostitute in his car.

The brazen killer was even stunned he hadn't been stopped earlier during to the catalogue of spectacular police blunders.

At his Old Bailey trial, Sutcliffe said: "It was just a miracle they did not apprehend me earlier – they had all the facts."

The blunder was down to a simple card index system, which was overwhelmed with information.

This meant vital evidence was lost in the system and information not properly cross referenced.

Crucial similarities between the Ripper and the suspect – such as the obvious gap in his teeth and his size seven feet – were missed.

Even in 1976 – a year after the rampage started – key evidence was overlooked when Marcella Claxton was hit over the head with a hammer.

The victim survived the attack near her home in Leeds and provided police with a photofit – but she was dismissed as a Ripper victim because she was not a prostitute.

On one of the nine occasions Sutcliffe was interviewed by officers who showed him a picture of the Ripper's bootprint near a body – they failed to notice that Sutcliffe was wearing the exact same pair of boots.

And when a £5 note was found in the pocket of 28-year-old Jean Jordan, in Manchester in 1977, police again failed to connect Sutcliffe.

The note was traced to one of six companies, including Clark Transport, which employed Sutcliffe as a lorry driver.

He was interviewed but was given an alibi by his wife and mother, which was accepted.

In another fatal mistake, cops overlooked Sutcliffe's arrest in 1969 for carrying a hammer in a red light district, and attempts by his friend Trevor Birdsall to point the finger at him in a anonymous letter.

But the worst blunder came in 1979 when Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield was tricked by a hoax tape and two letters sent from Sunderland, which claimed to be from the Ripper.

The tape said: "Lord, you are no nearer catching me now than four years ago when I started.

"I reckon your boys are letting you down George. You can't be much good can ya?"

Colleagues and experts warned the top cop, who was in charge of the manhunt, that the voice didn't belong to the serial killer.

But Oldfield pressed on regardless convinced he could catch his man and the terror would finally end.

This was despite voice on the tape having a North East accent, while Sutcliffe was from Bradford – pushing him out of the frame.

The under-pressure cop, who promised the daughter of one victim he would get the killer, developed an obsession with the Ripper.

His team carried out more than 130,000 interviews, visited more than 23,000 homes and checked 150,000 cars.

Despite his 18-hour days Oldfield had a heart attack at the age of 57, and was subsequently moved off the case.

Pals later described him as the "Ripper's sixth victim".

The deadly error meant police were focused on suspects from the North East – leaving Sutcliffe to continue his killing spree and claim his 13th victim.

A table of suspects created by the police saw officers tail an innocent taxi driver in their "Division one" league.

Sutcliffe meanwhile was one of 1,000 potentials forgotten about in Division Three.

But the breakthrough finally came in January 1981 when Sutcliffe was arrested by officers in Sheffield, who stopped him with a prostitute in his brown Rover car.

The car had false number plates and Sutcliffe's name was passed on to the Ripper squad, where it came up on their index cards.

He had always denied any involvement with prostitutes in his previous interviews, and they decided to talk to him again.

Timeline of terror

June 1946: Peter Sutcliffe is born in Bingley, West Yorks

August 1974: Sutcliffe marries Sonia Szurma

October 1975: Sutcliffe kills Wilma McCann in Leeds – his first murder.

January 1981: Sutcliffe is arrested by police in Sheffield. He confesses to being The Ripper.

May 1981: He is given 20 life sentences at The Old Bailey over 13 murders and seven attempted murders. He starts sentence at HMP Parkhurst, Isle of Wight.

March 1984: Sent to Broadmoor High-security Hospital after being declared paranoid schizophrenic

August 2016: Sutcliffe moved from Broadmoor to Category A Frankland Prison, County Durham

November 13, 2020 – Sutcliffe dies.

A search of the car turned out screwdrivers in the glove box and a hammer and knife were found nearby.

Police also visited Sutcliffe's wife Sonia, who admitted he had not got home until 10pm on Bonfire Night, when a 16-year-old girl was attacked.

As the night finally closed in after a long five-year hunt, Sutcliffe dramatically confessed.

He calmly told Detective Inspector John Boyle, who was interviewing him : "It's all right, I know what you're leading up to.

"The Yorkshire Ripper. It's me. I killed all those women."

The Ripper was finally put behind bars in 1981 – ending the biggest manhut in British history,

But the case remains one of the most notorious of the last 100 years with the wrongs in the original investigation still impacting police to this day.


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