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   Inside Out - North East: Monday 27th January, 2003


Peter Sutcliffe
THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER | Did Peter Sutcliffe have an accomplice?

The Yorkshire Ripper was Britain's most notorious serial killer. But who was the Sunderland hoaxer who claimed to be the Ripper? And could he have been the Peter Sutcliffe's accomplice?

It's one of Britain's great unsolved criminal mysteries... Who was Wearside Jack, the man with the Sunderland accent who pretended to be the Yorkshire Ripper and foiled the Police?

The Yorkshire Ripper was the most notorious serial killer of recent decades, and launched the biggest manhunt in British history in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Peter Sutcliffe was finally caught in 1981 and charged with murdering eight women. But did he have an accomplice?

Twenty five years after the Yorkshire Ripper was caught, we're still no nearer to finding out who was behind the hoax tapes and letters sent to the Police.

The Sunderland Ripper?

The first victim of the Ripper was Wilma McCann, a 28 year old prostitute from Leeds. It was the start of a reign of terror resulting in the murders of thirteen women.

The killings resulted in a huge murder investigation with over 300 police officers hunting the serial killer.

Wearside Jack's letters
"I am The Ripper" claimed Wearside Jack in his letters to George Oldfield. The envelopes were postmarked 'Sunderland'

After the first eight murders, West Yorkshire Police were no nearer to finding the Ripper, despite following thousands of leads and examining hundreds of pieces of evidence.

Then came an unexpected 'breakthrough'... On 8 March 1978 George Oldfield, who was heading the inquiry, received a letter from a man claiming to be The Ripper.

A second letter was sent to the Daily Mirror a month later. Both letters were postmarked 'Sunderland', and signed 'Jack the Ripper'.

'Wearside Jack'

Then came an even more dramatic development... the Sunderland 'Ripper' started sending tapes to the Yorkshire police. He seemed to have inside knowledge of the murders.

'Wearside Jack', as he became known, taunted the Police with details of the murders and talked of another unsolved murder case in Preston.

George Oldfield with the Ripper tape
"I am Jack. I see you are still having no luck catching me...," was Wearside Jack's chilling message on his tape to West Yorkshire Police

Voice experts analysed the tape and pinned down the accent to one area of Sunderland - Castletown.

The hunt for the Ripper switched from Yorkshire to the North East. Thousands of local men were interviewed, and anyone without a Wearside accent was eliminated from the inquiries.

The murders continued, and still the Police could not find the Ripper. It was only by sheer luck that Police finally arrested the Ripper in January 1981 following a routine traffic inquiry.

But there was one problem... the Ripper did not have a Wearside accent. The Police had been following the wrong lead all along, and had been duped by a hoaxer.

To this day 'Wearside Jack' has never been identified, and theories abound to who he was.

Who was the Sunderland Ripper?

Wearside Jack theorires

There are six theories about who 'Wearside Jack' really was:

1. He was the Yorkshire Ripper's accomplice, and he may have even committed some of the murders.

2. He acted alone and committed the Preston murder which the real Ripper has always denied.

3. He was a clever hoaxer acting alone, using newspaper articles to authenticate his messages to the Police.

4. He was a hoaxer and serving Police Officer who sought to confuse the Police with misleading information, and acted out of malice.

5. He was a relative of a policeman with access to privileged information.
Once again this person was a hoaxer acting maliciously.

6. He was the real Preston murderer. He tried to shift the blame for this murder by linking himself to the Yorkshire Ripper murders, confusing the Police in the process.

So could 'Wearside Jack' have been an accomplice of the Yorkshire Ripper?

Olive Curry, a former waitress in a canteen in North Shields, is convinced that two the man who often visited her cafe with the real Ripper was 'Wearside Jack'.

"They came here regularly in the Summer of '78. Just the two of them. Just chatted", she says.

It was only when she recognised Sutcliffe on his arrest that she guessed that the second man was 'Wearside Jack'.

Olive describes Sutcliffe's friend as "filthy", a 'little tramp' who spoke little and tried to hide his mouth when speaking.

One day Sutcliffe told Olive that they were lorry drivers, "I'm from Bradford and he's from Sunderland" were his exact words.

Curry has since visited Sutcliffe in prison but the Ripper refuses to throw any more light on the accomplice theory.

In any case, Sutcliffe is renowned as an accomplished manipulator.

Blood on his hands

The mission canteen
Some witnesses claim that Peter Sutcliffe regularly met a Wearside man in a canteen at this North Shields Mission

Relatives of the Ripper victims argue that three of the later murders might have been avoided if the Sunderland Ripper had been identified as a fraud.

They claim that if he's still alive and living in Sunderland, there's unfinished business. He has blood on his hands.

'Wearside Jack' deliberately misled the police inquiry.

He took the pressure off the real Ripper by sending the Police down a line of inquiry which confused the identities of two people.

Some experts believe that 'Wearside Jack' could still be alive and living in Sunderland. It's a chilling thought ...

Further reading

"Wearside Jack - The Hunt of The Hoaxer of the Century" by Patrick Lavelle is published by North East Press.

"The Outsider" - the autobiography by Keith Hellawell, published by Harper Collins.


See also ...

Yorkshire Ripper

On the rest of the web
Sunderland Ripper update
Murder UK

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