DURING the 1970s, women in West Yorkshire lived in fear of Peter Sutcliffe, who terrorised the county attacking and brutally murdering women between 1975 and 1980.

Sutcliffe, who was labelled the Yorkshire Ripper, has died from Covid-19 aged 74 after spending almost 40 years behind bars serving 20 life sentences for his crimes.

During his campaign of terror, Sutcliffe committed 13 murders and attacked several other women.

Sutcliffe, from Bingley, evaded capture for years until he was caught in Sheffield driving with false plates, after which he confessed to the murders.

Sutcliffe’s murderous streak began when he killed Wilma McCann on October 30, 1975, on fields in the Chapeltown area of Leeds.

He struck again on January 20, 1976, when he murdered Emily Jackson, 42, in Leeds city centre.

The Ripper did not strike again until February 1977, when he murdered 28-year-old Irene Richardson in Leeds.

The next murder happened on April 23 when he killed Patricia Atkinson, 32 - it was the first killing in Bradford.

Nine weeks later, on June 26, he struck again, killing 16-year-old Jayne McDonald in Leeds.

On October 1, 1977, Sutcliffe’s sixth murder victim was Jean Jordan, 20, and the first outside West Yorkshire, in Manchester.

The next murder was of 21-year-old Yvonne Pearson in Bradford, on January 21, 1978.

Sutcliffe struck again just ten days later, murdering Helen Rytka, 18, in Huddersfield on January 31.

He killed again on May 16, back in Manchester where the victim was Vera Millward, 40.

The Ripper killed again almost a year later in Halifax on April 4, 1978, with the victim 19-year-old Josephine Whitaker.

On September 2, Sutcliffe struck again in Bradford, murdering Barbara Leach, 20.

Almost a year passed until the next killing, when Sutcliffe murdered Marguerite Walls, 47, in Farsley on August 20, 1980.

His final victim was Jacqueline Hill, 20, who he attacked on November 17, 1980 in Leeds.

All of his murders involved him hitting the women from behind with a hammer and all bar Marguerite Walls were also stabbed with either knives or a screwdriver.

Marguerite was the only victim he strangled using a ligature, and Patricia Atkinson was the only woman he killed indoors.

Several women also survived attacks by the Ripper between 1969 and 1980; Anna Rogulskj, Olive Smelt, Tracy Browne, Marcella Claxton, Maureen Long, Marilyn Moore, Ann Rooney, Upadhya Bandara and Theresa Sykes.

On January 2, 1981, Sutcliffe was found by police with a sex worker in his car in Sheffield. The vehicle was found to be on false plates. Telling police he needed to urinate, Sutcliffe hid his hammer and knife by a nearby storage tank.

At the police station, he hid another knife in the toilet cistern. He was taken back to West Yorkshire on theft charges, but as he was found with a sex worker it was brought to the attention of the Ripper Squad.

After hours of questioning, officers in Sheffield discovered the hammer and knife. After more extensive questioning, Sutcliffe confessed to being the Yorkshire Ripper.

The Ripper investigation was one of the largest ever undertaken by a British police force, and with it pre-dating computers there was an avalanche of paperwork and filing systems officers had to sort through.

Thousands of men were interviewed in connection to the killings, including Sutcliffe several times but with no luck for police.

Police struggled to cope with the sheer volume of information being submitted by the public as the manhunt for Sutcliffe progressed.

With seemingly every woman in West Yorkshire in danger, police embarked on a major campaign for information and to try and keep people safe.

Billboards were put up and roadshows held in the hope of information, and newspapers were published urging people to take care and report any suspicions.

The backlog of information being processed and the difficulty in cross-referencing information among all the hand-filed documents severely hampered the investigation in the major incident room.

Vital tip-offs from an associate of Sutcliffe’s, Trevor Birdsall, were filed but not followed up, which was one of a number of criticisms of the investigation in subsequent reports.

The investigation was derailed by letters and tapes received by police purporting to be from the Yorkshire Ripper - who became known as Wearside Jack - in 1979.

The tapes mocked Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield who was leading the investigation.

Despite no evidence the killer had a Wearside accent, for several months the tapes took over the investigation, with a phone line set up for people to ring and hear the voice. It was also broadcast over television and played in public areas such as bingo halls.

Police, in particular George Oldfield, were criticised for being too focused on the hoax tapes, ignoring advice from victims and specialists and allowing Sutcliffe to evade capture and carry on killing.

In 2005 the Wearside Jack case was reopened and John Humble, from Sunderland, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice by sending the tapes and jailed for eight years.

Police were also heavily criticised for their attitudes towards women involved in the sex industry at the time, particularly among senior officers.

A number of Sutcliffe’s victims were sex workers, and as a result were treated disapprovingly by some officers. Also, when some women were not involved in sex work were attacked early in the Ripper’s campaign of terror, their accounts were not considered as part of the investigation, missing out crucial evidence and witness accounts.

One in particular was 14-year-old Tracy Browne who was attacked in 1975 - before any murders - near Silsden.

After her assault she gave an accurate description of Sutcliffe her Photofit bore a very close resemblance to the Ripper.

Police did not link the crime to the Ripper, and when she went to the police to suggest it was laughed at by officers. Sutcliffe admitted to attacking Tracy, and Ann Rooney, in 1992.

Current West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable John Robins QPM has issued an apology to the families of victims for the attitudes of officers at the time.

He said: “Peter Sutcliffe’s crimes created a climate of fear across the country.

“I’m sure the news of his death will bring back a range of mixed emotions and trauma for surviving victims and relatives of those whose lives he cruelly took away. They are at the forefront of our thoughts and our condolences.

“The investigation was, at the time, the largest ever conducted by a UK police force and was subject to two exhaustive reviews in the immediate aftermath.

“The 1981 report by Sir Lawrence Byford and a subsequent review conducted by former Chief Constable Colin Sampson identified the extensive efforts made by the enquiry team, as well as what clearly went wrong.

“Failings and mistakes that were made are fully acknowledged and documented. We can say without doubt the lessons learned from the Peter Sutcliffe enquiry have proved formative in shaping the investigation of serious and complex crime within modern day policing.

“West Yorkshire Police is committed to ensuring that those harmed by crime are at the heart of what we do.

“On behalf of West Yorkshire Police, I apologise for the additional distress and anxiety caused to all relatives by the language, tone and terminology used by senior officers at the time in relation to Peter Sutcliffe’s victims.

“Such language and attitudes may have reflected wider societal attitudes of the day, but it was as wrong then as it is now.

“A huge number of officers worked to identify and bring Peter Sutcliffe to justice and it is a shame that their hard work was overshadowed by the language of senior officers used at the time, the effect of which is still felt today by surviving relatives.

“Thankfully those attitudes are consigned to history and our approach today is wholly victim focused, putting them at the centre of everything we do.

“The well-documented Byford and Sampson reviews fully explored many issues. However, the reports did not fully address the issue of how victims were portrayed and described, which impacted on families, friends and wider public perception.

“I offer this heartfelt apology today as the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police.”