Peter Sutcliffe - Interviews during the Yorkshire Ripper Inquiry

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Peter Sutcliffe was interviewed several times during the Inquiry:

2nd November 1977 - interviewed as part of the Bank of England £5 note investigation

On the 2nd November 1977 Detective Constable Howard of the Greater Manchester Police together with a Detective Constable of the West Yorkshire Police interviewed Peter William Sutcliffe at his home. Sutcliffe’s employers had collected money from the Shipley branch of the Midland Bank to pay their employees. Sutcliffe, who was one of nearly 8,000 people listed for interview during the inquiry, denied ever having visited Manchester except during the course of his employment and said that his last visit had been some twelve months previously when he had delivered goods to an unknown address.

8th November 1977 - re-interviewed as part of the Bank of England £5 note investigation

T. & W.H. Clark was not one of the firms which could be eliminated in the £5 note inquiry and on 8th November 1977 Sutcliffe was re-interviewed by Detective Constable Leslie Smith of West Yorkshire and Detective Constable Rayne of the Greater Manchester Police. He again satisfied the inquiry officers, who obtained further alibi evidence from his mother in connection with the house-warming party mentioned previously.

13th August 1978 - Red Corsair having been seen in multiple "red light" areas

On 13th August 1978, Peter William Sutcliffe was interviewed as a result of his red Ford Corsair car having been seen in the Chapeltown area of Leeds and the Manningham area of Bradford. Detective Constable Peter Smith of the West Yorkshire Police, who knew that Sutcliffe had been seen during the £5 note inquiry, visited him at his home in Garden Lane, Heaton, Bradford. Detective Constable Smith knew that Sutcliffe worked as a lorry driver from a Bradford base and assumed that the sightings of his car in Bradford could be explained by journeys to and from work. Sutcliffe denied having visited Leeds or other West Yorkshire towns during evenings in the relevant period. He also emphatically denied using the services of prostitutes.

23rd November 1978 - re-interviewed as part of the Bank of England £5 note investigation

On the 23rd November 1978 Peter Sutcliffe was seen again by Detective Constable Smith who obtained details of his Building Society account in connection with the £5 inquiry. Smith also visited the new owners of the red Corsair and obtained a description of the tyres, which were new, having apparently been fitted after the vehicle had changed hands.

29th July 1979 - interview after more "red light" area sightings

On the 29th July 1979 Sutcliffe was again interviewed after his black Sunbeam Rapier had been printed out, first as a “Double Area Sighting” and later as a “Triple Area Sighting”, having been seen in the "red light" areas of Leeds, Bradford and Manchester.

Detective Constables Laptew and Greenwood visited him at his home. It is unfortunate that they were not aware that Sutcliffe had already been interviewed in connection with the £5 note inquiry and also because of the "Double Sighting" of his earlier vehicle.

Sutcliffe gave explanations for having been in Leeds and Bradford but denied that he had been to Manchester in his own vehicle. Because of the police decision to keep the "red light" area observations secret, investigating officers were advised not to challenge those whom they interviewed in respect of any individual sighting but were required to approach the subject obliquely.

Sutcliffe again denied making use of prostitutes’ services and was again loosely alibied by his wife. The detectives obtained samples of his handwriting and searched his car and garage, finding nothing to connect him with the murders. They were, however, not satisfied with Peter Sutcliffe and reported their disquiet to the Major Incident Room. Unfortunately the report was not linked with previous papers and Sutcliffe was eliminated because his handwriting did not match that of the Sunderland letter writer.

23rd October 1979 - during the Barbara Leach investigation

On the 23rd October 1979 Sutcliffe was interviewed again, on this occasion by Detective Constables Vickerman and Eland who were investigating the murder of Barbara Leach. This interview resulted from a resurrection of the inquiries made by Detective Constable Smith who had seen Sutcliffe in August and November 1978 in connection with the sighting of the red Corsair motor car in the prostitute areas of Leeds and Bradford.

The officers were told that Sutcliffe’s alibi for the Jean Jordan murder was inadequate and they were asked to check his movements in relation to the murder of Barbara Leach.

Unfortunately, they were unaware of the previous interview of Sutcliffe by Detective Constables Laptew and Greenwood and of their reservations about him. When the officers spoke to him, Sutcliffe quickly volunteered the information that he had been interviewed before but he also said that on the night of Barbara Leach’s murder he had been at home working on improvements to the house. This was confirmed by his wife as in previous interviews. A further handwriting sample was obtained and this was subsequently used to eliminate him from the inquiry again.

13th January 1980

On the 13th January 1980 Sutcliffe was seen by Detective Sergeant Boot of West Yorkshire Police and Detective Constable Bell of the Greater Manchester Police who were unaware of the previous “Double” and “Triple Area Sighting” interviews.

Sutcliffe told the officers that when he was not working as a lorry driver he spent all his spare time with his wife working in their house and that he did not go out in the evenings without her. This story was verified by his wife. Sutcliffe also told the officers that he had already been seen in connection with sightings of his motor cars.

On learning this the officers returned to their office to check this information. The papers relating to the red Corsair sighting were located but those in respect of the black Sunbeam Rapier (which referred to the Manchester sighting) were not because they were attached to documents which were waiting to be returned to Sutcliffe’s employers.

His footwear and the tools he kept in his house were also examined but nothing of interest was found. Unfortunately the search was not thorough enough to discover a pair of wellington boots in a wardrobe. These boots could have linked Sutcliffe with the murder of Emily Jackson some 4 years previously.

The two detectives knew that Sutcliffe had been eliminated on handwriting but, being suspicious about him, they recommended that another inquiry team should interview him to see whether they too might share similar reservations.

30th January 1980 - Interview at Kirkstall Forge Engineering works

On 30th January 1980 Detective Sergeant McAlister of Manchester and Detective Constable McCrone of West Yorkshire interviewed Sutcliffe at Kirkstall Forge Engineering works whilst he was loading his lorry. Sutcliffe again satisfied the inquiry officers who were going over past history in connection with sightings of his red Ford Corsair and the £5 note inquiry.

7th February 1980

Peter Sutcliffe was interviewed again on 7th February 1980 when Detective Constable Jackson of Manchester and Detective Constable Harrison of West Yorkshire visited the Shipley Depot of T. & W.H. Clark Ltd.

They too were unaware of the sightings of Sutcliffe’s black Sunbeam Rapier in Bradford, Leeds and Manchester and also of the report submitted by Detective Constables Laptew and Greenwood after their interview with him. Detective Constable Jackson decided he was unable to eliminate Sutcliffe but, following a discussion with his senior officers, it was concluded that as he had been alibied by his wife and mother for the night of the 9/10th October 1977, when Jean Jordan’s body had been moved and mutilated, he could be eliminated from the inquiry.