Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Yorkshire Ripper's ex-wife Sonia Sutcliffe stood by him

The woman who stood by a monster: How Yorkshire Ripper’s ex-wife Sonia Sutcliffe remained married to him for nearly 15 years and visited him in Broadmoor as recently as 2015 after he was jailed for murdering 13 women

  • Sonia Sutcliffe stayed by her husband’s side when he was convicted of murders 
  • Visited him at Parkhurst prison and Broadmoor where he was transferred in 1984
  • Continued to see him after they divorced and she remarried a hairdresser in 1997

Sonia Sutcliffe stood by her husband even after he was unmasked as one of the most notorious serial killers in British history.   

Sonia still lives in the home she shared with her ex-husband Peter Sutcliffe in Bradford, West Yorkshire, while he murdered his victims.

The pair divorced in 1994 after 20 years of marriage and in 1997 she married her second husband Michael.

But she has never broken her silence to speak out about the man who butchered 13 women.  

Sutcliffe died this morning at the age of 74 after refusing treatment for coronavirus.  

Sonia continued to visit her husband at Parkhurst prison and later at Broadmoor where he was transferred in 1984 due to his paranoid schizophrenia.  

Sutcliffe, who gained infamy as the Yorskhire Ripper after his reign of terror in the 1970s and 1980s, began his reign of terror after an argument with his wife in 1969. 

Sonia Sutcliffe, pictured here in Leeds in 2018, has never broken her silence to speak out about the man who butchered 13 women

On August 10 1974, Sutcliffe married Sonia (they are pictured at their wedding day). Less than a year later, the lorry driver picked up a hammer and began attacking women, two in Keighley and one in Halifax 

Sutcliffe pictured at his father’s home with his wife Sonia in late 1980 in the midst of his killing spree 

Sutcliffe met Sonia after he got a job as a gravedigger at Bingley Cemetery in 1964. 

He and work friends went drinking at the Royal Standard in Bradford’s red light district – where they took up an area in the pub they termed ‘Gravediggers’ corner’. 

It was at the pub that he met Sonia, the daughter of Ukrainian and Polish–born refugees, in 1966. 

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe (pictured) has died at the age of 74 after contracting coronavirus

The year after Sonia and Peter got engaged, Sutcliffe’s brother spotted her being driven by an Italian businessman in a white Triumph Spitfire.

After a furious argument, Sutcliffe picked up a prostitute that evening in Bradford in a bid to cheat on his then-wife. 

Despite changing his mind at the last minute, he went on the claim the woman swindled him out of £5 – triggering a bitter hatred for the sex workers he then went on to murder. 

The pair patched things up and on August 10 1974, Sutcliffe married Sonia. 

Less than a year later, the lorry driver picked up a hammer and began attacking women, two in Keighley and one in Halifax.

All three survived and police did not notice the similarities between the attacks.

The first fatality was Wilma McCann. The 28-year-old sex worker and mother-of-four was battered to death in the early hours of October 30 1975.

Sonia, who wed hairdresser Michael Woodward in 1997, stayed by his side when was convicted of murders but has has not been seen at the prison since her visit to Broadmoor in December, 2015. 

She was photographed seen out and about in 2018.  

In 2015, Sonia told the Sun on Sunday: ‘People have claimed to have interviewed me when the truth is they have not. There have been a lot of bad things written about me and they are not accurate.

‘I would like the truth to come out one day but I am afraid to be extremely busy for the next two or three years. I have commitments I cannot get out of. I do not want to say what they are.

‘One day I might do something but I don’t want to get your hopes up that is going to happen now.’

Peter Sutcliffe (in 1946) was dubbed the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ by the press

In 2015, Sutcliffe complained that he missed ‘his Sonia’ and claimed her new husband was ‘jealous’ of their friendship and preventing her from visiting him behind bars.

Earlier this year, Sutcliffe ‘sent a Valentine’s card to Sonia and asked if she would visit him in prison’ because he was ‘in bits’ that he may never see her again.

In February Sutcliffe asked prison bosses to set up a video call to remarried Sonia at HMP Frankland in County Durham. 

He had told his friends about the ‘Sonia problem’, a source told the Sun on Sunday, as he ‘desperately tried to find a way through’ missing Sonia.

Sources said he ‘tends to mope around and complain’ about the potential of never seeing his ex-wife before he dies.

‘But it is a wonder than she is in touch with him at all, or in fact that anyone is’, the source added.

The Ripper has reportedly asked a Frankland governor to persuade Sonia to visit as prisoners are banned from making video calls to potential visitors. 

Sutcliffe in prison van on way to the Old Bailey in London, May 1981 (left). He was serving a whole life term for his horrific crimes, has suffered from angina, diabetes and near-blindness following an attack from a fellow inmate, in recent years


A composite of 12 of the 13 victims murdered by Sutcliffe. Victims are: (top row, left to right) Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia Atkinson; (middle row, left to right) Jayne McDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka; (bottom row, left to right) Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Jacqueline Hill

 Sutcliffe, who lived in Bradford, West Yorkshire, believed he was on a ‘mission from God’ to kill prostitutes, although not all his victims were.

His other victims, aged between 16 and 47, included two university students, a civil servant, a bank clerk and a supermarket worker.

Sutcliffe was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper because he mutilated his victims using a screw driver, hammer and knife.

He was also convicted of seven counts of attempted murder in and around Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.


Summer 1975: Peter Sutcliffe begins attacking women, two in Keighley and one in Halifax. All three survive and police do not link the attacks.

30 October 1975: Sutcliffe carries out his first fatal attack on Wilma McCann, a 28-year-old prostitute from the Chapeltown district of Leeds.

20 January 1976: He murders Emily Jackson, 42, from Leeds, battering her with a hammer and stabbing her with a screwdriver.

5 February 1977: He kills Irene Richardson, 28, another prostitute from Leeds.

23 April 1977: Sutcliffe strikes for the first time in his home town of Bradford, murdering 32-year-old Patricia Atkinson.

26 June 1977: The case comes to the attention of the national press after Sutcliffe murders Jayne MacDonald, a 16-year-old shop assistant. The murder, and the realisation that a serial killer is on the loose in Yorkshire, shocks the country.

The attacker is dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper by the press, and West Yorkshire Chief Constable Ronald Gregory appoints his most senior detective, Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, to investigate the murders.

1 October 1977: Sutcliffe chooses Manchester for his next attack – on Jean Jordan, 20. He dumps her body on an allotment and throws her bag, containing a brand new £5 note he gave her, into nearby shrubs.

Police find the bag and trace the serial number on the note back to the payroll of Yorkshire hauliers T and W H Clark, who employ Peter Sutcliffe.

Sutcliffe is interviewed by police but provides an alibi placing him at a party.

21 January to 16 May 1978: Sutcliffe murders three prostitutes – Yvonne Pearson, 21, from Bradford; Helen Rytka, 18, from Huddersfield, and 40-year-old Vera Millward from Manchester.

4 April 1979: Sutcliffe kills Halifax Building Society clerk Josephine Whitaker, 19.

June 1979: A tape is sent to police by a man calling himself Jack the Ripper, who has already sent a series of hand-written letters from Sunderland. Assistant Chief Constable Oldfield mistakenly decides that these are the work of the Ripper. Wearside Jack, as he becomes known, is pinpointed to the Castletown district of Sunderland by voice experts. Detectives are told they can discount suspects who do not have a Wearside accent.

July 1979: Police interview Sutcliffe for the fifth time. Detective Constables Andrew Laptew and Graham Greenwood are suspicious but their report is filed because his voice and handwriting do not fit the letters and tape.

2 September 1979: Sutcliffe murders Barbara Leach, 20, in Bradford.

2 October 1979: A £1million campaign is launched to catch the Yorkshire Ripper.

20 August 1980: The Ripper claims another victim, Marguerite Walls, 47, from Leeds, followed by Jacqueline Hill, 20, a Leeds University student, on November 17.

November 1980: Detective Chief Superintendent James Hobson replaces Oldfield. Hobson downgrades the importance of the Wearside Jack tape and letters.

3 January 1981: Sutcliffe admits he is the Yorkshire Ripper after police arrest him with a prostitute. Police admit the killer does not have a Wearside accent. 

22 May 1981: Sutcliffe is jailed for life at the Old Bailey. The judge recommends a minimum sentence of 30 years. He is transferred to Broadmoor secure hospital in Berkshire in 1984.

24 May 1989: Wife of Sutcliffe wins damages.

21 March 2006: John Humble, a former builder, is sentenced to eight years in prison after he admits to being the Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer known as Wearside Jack.

1 June 2006: A report which has been kept secret for nearly 25 years reveals that Sutcliffe probably committed more crimes than the 13 murders and seven attempted murders for which he was convicted. 

April 2017: Sutcliffe is questioned by police officers over 17 unsolved cases that bear similarities to his past crimes. He is not being investigated over any murders and it is unknown which of the incidents police think are linked to the serial killer. 

May 2017: Sutcliffe is investigated over the murders of two women in Sweden. Detectives are said to have enquired about the murders of a 31-year-old woman found dead in Gothenburg in August 1980, and a 26-year-old woman found dead in Malmo a month later. Both bodies were found on building sites. 

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