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Yorkshire Ripper: The Secret Murders Paperback – 29 Jun 2015
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About the Author
CHRIS CLARK was a policeman for twenty-eight years. He joined Norfolk Constabulary as a constable in 1966, proudly wearing its uniform until 1994. As well as serving as a beat officer, he also worked in Major Incident rooms and as a Royal Protection Officer. His chief responsibility, however, was in intelligence gathering and dissemination, helping to steer police towards an understanding of the travelling criminal who crosses boundaries at will. As an Intelligence Officer Chris built alliances with his counterparts in surrounding counties, Regional Crime Intelligence Offices and the Intelligence Office at New Scotland Yard. Now retired, he has spent three years using his unique expertise to re-investigate cold cases. This book is the result of his dogged pursuit of the longsuppressed truth about Britain's most notorious serial killer. TIM TATE is a multi-award winning documentary film-maker, investigative journalist and bestselling author. His films have been honoured by Amnesty International, the Royal Television Society, UNESCO, the International Documentary Association, the Association for International Broadcasting, the (US) National Academy of Cable Broadcasting and the New York Festivals. Tim has written eleven non-fiction books, and is the co-author of the bestselling Slave Girl (John Blake Publishing, 2009), which has spent more than three years in Amazon's Top 100.
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Reading this book, written by a retired policeman makes you realise how many things went wrong with the investigation and why it was necessary to have enquiries into what went wrong. The main problems were the huge amount of information the investigation amassed and the way some senior officers stuck to their theories, discarding evidence which didn't fit and thus allowing Sutcliffe to continue his killing spree.
One of the main things which went wrong with the investigation was that senior officers were convinced he only killed prostitutes when it was plain to see that unless there were two dark and bearded men going around attacking women with a hammer that he simply attacked women on their own. So many women provided identical descriptions of their attacker including his accent and yet the investigation was convinced that the now infamous letters and tapes were the Ripper himself and the man they were looking for therefore had a Geordie accent.
I think the thing which annoyed me most while reading this book was the report filed by two police officers who interviewed Sutcliffe some time before he was arrested and who were convinced he was the man they were looking for were ignored completely. The report which they filed has since disappeared from the records. Why did no one listen to them or even consider conducting a more thorough interview with Sutcliffe under caution? Even if it was only done to eliminate him from the investigation? It seemed to me, reading this book, that the police were reluctant to formally interview anyone.
I hadn't realised until I read this book that there were a few cases where other people were convicted and served long prison sentences for murders which were almost certainly committed by Sutcliffe.
Why wasn't major evidence used at the trial? Why have the reports into what went wrong been hidden from the public? Why don't police forces around the country want their unsolved and potential Ripper murders investigated? So many unanswered questions remain about this case including why Sutcliffe was transferred from an ordinary prison to Broadmoor even though the jury at his trial ruled he is bad not mad?
This is a fascinating book which made me angry reading it. Any knowledgeable crime fiction fan would have done a better job than the original investigation did. Fortunately some lessons have been learned by the police and now information is shared between forces which helps to ensure that criminals who cover large areas are more likely to be caught. Crime doesn't stick to force boundaries and really the police have taken a long time to learn this lesson. Fortunately serial killers are rare in this country but can we rely on any future cases being investigated in an open minded and thorough way? Let's hope so.
Over the years, I've followed the case with interest and following his arrest and trial was dismayed by the apparent failings of the enquiry teams. Not once, but numerous times over many years. The authors of thus book have undertaken a mammoth task, against all odds, to identify unsolved murder and attempted murder cases which could have been carried out by Sutcliffe. They have done so in a detail; but each case us presented factually, without embellishment so popular when authors cash in following a notorious series of crimes. There's no sensationalism, just cold, hard, documented fact which is then analysed in terms of whether Sutcliffe had the means, motive and opportunity to carry out the crimes. In every case, the facts speak for themselves. He was often in or near the locus, the cause of death was consistent with his MO, which he changed, knowingly. And without a shadow of doubt, the man is bad, not mad and his crimes are those of a sexual deviant.
Chris Clarke and Tim Tate should be commended for presenting their findings, despite many of their requests for information and access to official data being denied on the grounds of confidentiality or not in the public interest. Given that two formal enquiries into the conduct of the police investigations have been suppressed, despite having cost multiple hundreds of thousands of pounds paid for by the taxpayer, this is as near as the lay person will get to a comprehensive and authoritative overview of what really happened.
It's a story of duplicity and deceit. And that's from senior police officers ( including Chief Constables) and the Home Secretary. It's a dismal and heartbreaking story of lost opportunity, arrogance and abysmal leadership and policing. There is little positive spin to put on this. Even the then Attorney General, responsible for prosecution evidence, ended up working with the defence to get the best deal for a serial killer. This is one of those very rare true crime books which is exceptionally well written. It made me increasingly angry as the true extent of the police failings became clear. At times I was incensed and it's so sad that many of the victims and their families will never see justice and Sutcliffe brought to account for his further crimes. Unaccountable and untouchable and it's a sad fact that I not convinced that much has changed.
Whilst this book answers many questions, it opens up a lot more to be asked. It's not even the same government, many of those who were in power are dead. I guess the number one question in all this is WHY?
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