The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story

Ep 1/3

Tuesday 26 March



Beginning in 1975, it would become the UK's biggest ever criminal manhunt: one man murdered 13 women and attacked at least eight others, before he was finally arrested in 1981.

The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story poses a timely question: did 1970s attitudes to women influence the investigation with tragic consequences, derailing the police investigation and leaving the murderer free to kill again and again?

Episode one, Chapletown, explores the early years of the investigation from 1975, when the first Ripper murder occurred.

The location of the first two murders in Chapeltown, then well-known as Leeds’s main red light district, led the police to decide that prostitution was the connection between the attacks. After the second murder in January 1976, the police announced they were hunting a ‘prostitute killer’ and the investigation became driven by this theory.

Speaking to children of some of the very first murder victims, police officers who worked on the investigation and journalists who covered the murders, the difference between the way the women were characterised by the investigation and the way they are remembered by those who knew and loved them is explored.

After meeting a survivor of one of Sutcliffe’s earlier attacks, along with the daughter of another, this episode reveals how their vital eye-witness evidence was ignored because neither of the women were prostitutes and so didn’t fit the victim profile in the police narrative.

And while the police ploughed on, driven their theory, the killer remained at large. Between February 1977 and May 1978 Peter Sutcliffe murdered seven more women.