YORKSHIRE Ripper hoaxer John Humble, better known as Wearside Jack, has died, according to reports.

The notorious hoaxer drank himself to death aged 63. His death certificate is believed to name a cause of death as heart disease and ‘chronic alcohol misuse’.

Unemployed Humble tricked police into believing he was the Yorkshire Ripper by sending three letters and an audio tape to detectives, leaving the real Ripper - lorry driver Peter Sutcliffe, from Heaton, Bradford - free to kill three more women.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Humble sent the taunting "I'm Jack" tape and two letters, in which he claimed to be the Ripper, to Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, and a third letter to a national newspaper.

All the letters were stamped with a Sunderland postmark, and officers pinpointed the accent on the tape down to the Castletown area of the city.

The hoax was so convincing that the focus of the Ripper investigation shifted to the North-East, and Sutcliffe himself was cleared as a suspect because his handwriting did not match the letters and he did not have a Sunderland accent.

He later told detectives: "Whilever that was going on, I felt safe. I am not a Geordie, I was born in Shipley."

The tape made national headlines in July 1979 and later that year Humble attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge - ironically, he was rescued by police officers.

Sutcliffe was eventually caught by chance in January 1981 when he was arrested on suspicion of theft.

Humble evaded justice for decades, but his identity was established 25 years later when his DNA, taken after a minor offence, was matched against saliva on an envelope sent to detectives.

Whilever that was going on, I felt safe. I am not a Geordie, I was born in Shipley"

- Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper

After his arrest Humble refused to speak to officers so that they could not hear his voice. After that he admitted he was the hoaxer.

He told officers he wanted to "boost up the hunt" because he was bored and on the dole. He said he was probably drunk at the time.

"I shouldn't have done it because it was evil. I was on the dole. I had nowt to do. I regretted it after," he said.

He admitted four charges of perverting the course of justice.

Sentencing him to eight years imprisonment in March 2006, the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Norman Jones QC, told the grey-haired Humble he was satisfied one of the features which may have contributed to Sutcliffe remaining at large for so long was Humble's hoaxes.

"You took over his persona, pretending in a series of letters and tapes to be the killer.

"At no time did you have the courage to come forward and confess."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Judge Jones said that three more women were to die at the hands of Sutcliffe and two others were attacked but survived.

He added: "It appears to me you were a man with a disdain and dislike for the police. I believe it gave you pleasure to make fools of them.

"As unforgivable is your failure to put the record straight when you realised the terrible wrong you were doing."

He added: "Had that tape not been sent the deployment to Sunderland, whether wise or not, would simply not have occurred," said Judge Jones.

The father of a Bradford student murdered by the Yorkshire Ripper said at the time of Humble's sentencing that she probably would still be alive if police had not been fooled by the Wearside Jack hoaxer.

Barbara Leach, 20, was battered to death by Peter Sutcliffe only five weeks after detectives ruled him out as a suspect because his handwriting did not match that of the hoax letter writer.

Her father David Leach said: "The letters and tape were crucial to the whole inquiry and it's true that they changed the focus of the investigation.

"It meant that if a suspect didn't have a North-Eastern accent they would not be seen as a suspect by the police. Barbara would probably still be alive if the hoax letters and tape had not been sent."

It is reported that after Humble was released in 2009, he was moved to South Shields, South Tyneside, and given a new identity, John Samuel Anderson. It is understood he died in July.