Josephine Whitaker - Yorkshire Ripper Victim

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On the 5th April 1979 Josephine Whitaker, a Building Society clerk, was murdered by Peter Sutcliffe in Savile Park, Halifax.

The murder was in the established Ripper pattern in that the victim was struck down by two hammer blows to the head and was then stabbed 25 times in the abdomen, breasts, thighs and vagina. Exposure of the body followed the usual Ripper modus operandi. The new element in this case was that whereas most of the earlier victims had been prostitutes and the attacks had occurred in or near to prostitute areas, Josephine Whitaker was a perfectly respectable young woman who was walking home in a residential area of Halifax not frequented by prostitutes.

Assistant Chief Constable Oldfield set up an incident room in Halifax to deal with this crime whilst the integrated incident room at Millgarth Police Station continued to operate over the full series of crimes.

Police inquiries in Halifax had an exceptional public response following the murder of a respectable local girl and produced masses of indirect evidence of which the most significant appeared to be the description of a man seen near the scene of the crime in a dark coloured Ford Escort motor car.

Peter Sutcliffe was known to have had access to such a vehicle, the property of his mother-in-law.

A Sunbeam Rapier motor car was also seen in the vicinity but was not traced.

The suspect was described as having dirty blonde collar length hair, an unshaven appearance and a "Jason King" moustache. Other evidence recorded from the scene showed that the assailant had been wearing size 7 industrial boots with a moulded rubber sole. Based on the modus operandi, the killing of Josephine Whitaker was linked with the previous series of murders and circulated to other forces by West Yorkshire. On the 1st May an entry in the murder log approved the practice of eliminating suspects on the basis of the handwriting from the three "Sunderland " letters.