The so-called Yorkshire Ripper is finally caught by British police, ending one of the largest manhunts in history. For five years, investigators had pursued every lead in an effort to stop the serial killer who terrorized Northern England, but the end came out of pure happenstance. Peter Sutcliffe was spotted in a stolen car with a prostitute and arrested by Sergeant Robert Ring. Sutcliffe asked to urinate behind a bush before being taken into custody. When Ring later returned to the scene, he found a hammer and knife, the Yorkshire Ripper’s weapons of choice, behind the shrubbery. Sutcliffe confessed when confronted with this evidence.
Peter Sutcliffe’s first victim was Wilma McCann, who was beaten about the head with a hammer and stabbed multiple times on October 30, 1975. Initially, he focused his attacks almost exclusively on prostitutes, killing seven young women in Northern England between February 1977 and May 1978. Many of the victims were mutilated after they were killed.
As part of the manhunt, authorities interviewed more than 250,000 people and searched thousands of homes. Sutcliffe himself was interviewed nine times during the investigation but always convinced detectives that he wasn’t involved. In 1979, a tape recording purportedly from the Yorkshire Ripper was sent to the police, who were sidetracked by what later turned out to be a hoax.
The public really began to panic when the Yorkshire Ripper stopped going after prostitutes and started targeting college students. When Peter Sutcliffe was finally convicted, after an unsuccessful insanity defense, he had killed 13 women, far more than his namesake, Jack the Ripper. Sutcliffe received a sentence of life in prison.