The Long Shadow true story: Yorkshire Ripper manhunt timeline, how was he caught, who was ‘Wearside Jack’?

The Long Shadow is a dramatic retelling of the manhunt the Yorkshire Ripper
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ITVX drama series The Long Shadow, about the five year operation to unmask the Yorkshire Ripper and bring him to justice for his gruesome crimes.

The investigation was hampered by a series of hoax letters and a tape which led police to initially discount the actual killer before he was arrested almost by mistake. 

The Long Shadow will explore Sutcliffe’s horrific crimes, how the police reacted, and how one man was able to send them on a wild goose chase for more than a year.

The series stars David Morrissey as George Oldfield, the lead inspector on the case, and Mark Stobbart as killer Peter Sutcliffe.

David Morrissey stars as George Oldfield in The Long ShadowDavid Morrissey stars as George Oldfield in The Long Shadow
David Morrissey stars as George Oldfield in The Long Shadow

What happened during the Yorkshire Ripper manhunt?

  • 30 October 1975 - Sutcliffe kills his first victim, Wilma McCann, a 28 year old prostitute  from Leeds
  • 20 January 1976 - Sutcliffe kills Emily Jackson, 42, from Leeds
  • 5 February 1977 - Sutcliffe kills Irene Richardson, 28, from Leeds
  • 23 April 1977 - Sutcliffe kills Patricia Atkinson, 32, from Bradford
  • 26 June 1977 - Sutcliffe kills Jayne MacDonald, 16, from Leeds - the story of a serial killer on the loose in Leeds takes hold in the national press
  • 1 October 1977 - Sutcliffe kills Jean Jordan, 20, in Manchester - he is interviewed by police but provides an alibi
  • 21 January 1978 -  Sutcliffe kills Yvonne Pearson, 21, from Bradford
  • 31 January 1978 -  Sutcliffe kills Helen Rytka, 18, from Huddersfield
  • 16 May 1978 - Sutcliffe kills Vera Millward, 40 from Manchester
  • 4 April 1979 - Sutcliffe kills Josephine Whitaker, 19, from Halifax
  • 17 June 1979 - A man identifying himself as Jack sends a cassette tape to the police, after sending several letters, claiming responsibility for the Ripper killings - voice experts determine he is from Wearside, Sunderland, and Chief Constable George Oldfield begins discounting suspects who do not have a Wearside accent
  • July 1979 - Sutcliffe is interviewed for the fifth time but is discounted because his voice does match that on the tape, and his handwriting does not match the ‘Wearside Jack’ letters 
  • 2 September 1979 - Sutcliffe kills Barbara Leach, 20, from Bradford
  • 20 August 1980 -  Sutcliffe kills Marguerite Walls, 47, from Leeds
  • 17 November 1980 - Sutcliffe kills Jacqueline Hill, 20, a student at Leeds University
  • Nov 1980 - Police begin to suspect the Wearside Jack tape and letters are a hoax and begin to explore other suspect profiles
  • 3 January 1981 - Sutcliffe is arrested with a prostitute in his car and weapons at the scene - he is questioned and admits to being the Yorkshire Ripper
  • 22 May 1981 - Sutcliffe is jailed for 30 years for 13 counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder, in 2010 his sentence is upgraded to a whole life order
  • 13 November 2020 - Sutcliffe dies under prison custody in hospital, aged 74

How was the Yorkshire Ripper caught?

Sutcliffe was stopped by police on 2 January 1981 for driving with false number plates. Police found that he was with a 24 year old prostitute in his car - he was arrested and taken to Dewsbury police station.

He was questioned in relation to the Ripper case because he matched aspects of the profile of the killer. Police found rope, a knife, and hammer at the scene, and another knife in the cistern of a toilet at the police station.

His home was later searched and his wife was brought in for questioning - Sutcliffe then admitted that he was the Yorkshire Ripper. He told psychiatrists that he had heard voices telling him to rid the world of prostitutes.

Who was Wearside Jack?

Wearside Jack was the name given to the man who had sent investigators on the Ripper case a series of letters and a cassette tape claiming responsibility for Sutcliffe’s murders.

His red herrings diverted police resources to false lines of inquiry and led them to previously discount Sutcliffe as the killer in 1979, before he went on to commit three more murders.

Following a cold case review in 2005, DNA evidence taken from the seal of an envelope sent to police by the hoaxer was matched with DNA taken from John Humble, a man from Sunderland.

Humble was arrested and admitted to sending the hoax letters and tape, claiming that he did it out of boredom. He was charged with four counts of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to eight years in prison and was released in 2009 after serving half his sentence. He died at his home in South Shields in 2019.  

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