Yorkshire Ripper Hoax Suspect Arrested After 25 Years

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Yorkshire Ripper Hoax Suspect Arrested After 25 Years

Wearside Man, 49, Taken to Leeds for Questioning: Letters and Sneering Tape Put Police off Sutcliffe Trail

Magazine article

By: Martin Wainwright

Date: October 19, 2005

Source: Guardian Unlimited. "Yorkshire Ripper Hoax Suspect Arrested After 25 Years." 〈http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1595544,00.html〉 (accessed March 4, 2006).

About the Author: Martin Wainwright writes for the British daily newspaper the Guardian.


Peter Sutcliffe, the notorious Yorkshire Ripper, convicted of the murders of thirteen women, several of them prostitutes, has been held in Broadmoor Special Hospital, a secure psychiatric facility, for many years. The case has uncanny echoes of Jack the Ripper, who stalked and killed prostitutes in London's East End in 1888.

Police hunting for the Yorkshire Ripper believed him to be the author of a tape and letters that taunted them for failing to catch him. The killer was eventually caught, but "Wearside Jack"—who actually sent the letters and tape—remained at large. In October 2005, however, a man was arrested after almost a quarter century of investigation.


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Hoaxes are fairly common after major crimes that generate a lot of publicity. The perpetrators are usually attention seekers, people with a grudge of some kind, who may be mentally ill or delusional and perhaps really believe they did commit the crime. Police often appeal to the public for help in solving serious crimes and are obliged to follow every lead. Consequently, a hoaxer can waste a great deal of police time—a significant matter when resources and manpower are limited and a serial killer is at large. The Yorkshire Ripper hoax, described above, is a good example of how a clever hoax may even cost lives.

Most hoaxers have no connection with the true perpetrator. However, "Wearside Jack" may have been known to Peter Sutcliffe through the Joan Harrison murder. The way he deliberately misled the police suggested he could perhaps have been an accomplice, covering up for the killer. Indeed, he may have murdered Harrison himself; some investigators suggest he could also have been responsible for the unsolved murder of Julie Perigo in 1986, when Sutcliffe was behind bars.

One witness to Wearside Jack's connection with Sutcliffe may be Olive Curry, a former waitress in a North Shields canteen, says that in the summer of 1978 Sutcliffe used to come in with a companion that may have been the hoaxer. One day Sutcliffe told her that both were lorry drivers—he from Bradford, his friend from Sunderland, Wearside Jack's home town. Curry has visited Sutcliffe in prison to discuss the matter, but he refuses to give any information.

Because the letters and tape had disappeared for a while, a theory evolved that the hoaxer was a disgruntled police officer who wished to embarrass colleagues involved in the case. This may also explain, at least partly, why the investigation stalled for so long.

In October 2005 police arrested 49-year-old John Humble of Sunderland, an unemployed alcoholic laborer and charged him with perverting the course of justice by sending the Wearside Jack letters and tape. A DNA profile obtained from the saliva on the envelopes led police to Humble, who had submitted a DNA sample after a motor vehicle arrest five years previously. Although he originally pleaded not guilty to the charges, on February 24, 2006, he confessed to perpetrating the hoax, although he claimed he had wanted only to help police, not distract them.



Lavelle, Patrick. Shadow of the Ripper: The Secret Story of the Man who Helped the Ripper to Kill and Kill Again. London: John Blake Publishing, 2003

Web sites

The Hunt for Wearside Jack〈http://www.execulink.com/∼kbrannen/wearside.htm〉 (accessed January 24, 2006).

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