TO those of us who were children, he was the bogeyman turning to shadow.

In my head, he was almost a pantomime villain; a menacing figure in a long black coat emerging from a foggy back street. He was faceless though; I could never imagine what he might look like.

I was 13 when Peter Sutcliffe was finally caught. Growing up in Bradford, I became familiar with the haunting front pages of the broadsheet Telegraph & Argus landing on our doormat at teatime. ‘’Ripper fears over missing woman’. ‘Has the Ripper claimed his latest victim?’ Then: ‘Sadistic killer’, ‘Maniac’, a gruesome roll call of ‘brutally murdered’ women, ‘battered and slashed’.

The headlines were a chilling reminder that he was still out there, hiding in daylight. ‘The person next to you could be the Ripper’ it said on posters on the bus I got to and from school. We knew he could be among us, although we didn’t really say it.

When it later emerged that Sutcliffe had lived up the road from my secondary school, he was no longer a faceless bogeyman. He was a man I might have passed heading to and from the bus stop, or calling at the corner shop after school for a packet of crisps.

Like many children living in Bradford in the Ripper years, what I remember most, apart from the chilling news reports, is being afraid whenever my mum went out. She would set off in her car to am dram rehearsals or the WI and I couldn’t sleep until I’d heard her return later in the evening; parking up outside and closing the front door behind her. If it was getting late I’d peer out of my bedroom window, looking up the road, willing her car to appear. “Let her be safe, let her come home.”

She worked close to where one of the bodies was found. She had an old car that sometimes broke down. I feared for her safety, perhaps more than she did.

He was out there, this faceless villain in a long black coat. Eventually he had a voice - “I am Jack” he said on that tape they played on the telly. It seemed like he would always manage to keep one step ahead of the police. It wasn’t until much later on that I knew that hadn’t always been the case.

I was a child when Sutcliffe started killing women. I wasn’t out reclaiming the streets, I just wanted my mum to come home. I knew he was a man who “battered and slashed” women, because that’s what the newspaper headlines said.

I asked my friend about a word I kept hearing on the news: “What’s a prostitute?” She didn’t know either. As time went on though, we knew what it meant. And often we heard it said out loud that some women were less innocent than others. I was 10 when his youngest murder victim, Jayne MacDonald, was found and I remember the public outrage because she was just 16 and “not even a prostitute”. There was a kind of fury that he’d dared to kill someone who somehow deserved it less than the others - those women already “battered and slashed” whose faces appeared occasionally in the evening paper.

When Peter Sutcliffe died last Friday I looked at an old headline, one from the rolled-up papers that used to land on our doormat. ‘Good-time girls defy attacks’ it said. Even for the 1970s, it seemed shockingly inappropriate.

The bus I took to school, the one with the poster that said the Ripper might be sitting next to any of us, used to pass through Bradford’s ‘red light’ district. I used to see women standing on the streets in all weathers; working women with children to feed. None of them looked like they were having a ‘good time’.