A 35-year-old truck driver from the West Yorkshire city of Bradford was charged in court tonight with the most recent of the 13 so-called "Yorkshire Ripper" mutilation murders of young women in industrial northern England over the past five years.
The suspect, Peter W. Sutcliffe, is being questioned by police in connection with all 13 killings and four other attacks that the victims survived -- a wave of murder and violence that terrorized women in the region and prompted a nationwide manhunt of unprecedented scope.
Sutcliffe tonight was charged with the murder of 20-year-old university student Jacqueline Hill in Leeds Nov. 17. Like the other victims, she had been repeatedly beaten and stabbed.
Sutcliffe was arrested Friday night with a woman in his car in an area frequented by prostitutes in Sheffield, south of Bradford, by policemen making a routine check of his car's license tags, which turned out to be stolen. Police then discovered they had questioned Sutcliffe more than three years ago during the hunt for the Ripper.
Most of the Ripper's victims have been prostitutes in industrial cities including Bradford, Leeds and Manchester. Two others were university students, another a clerk and another a shop assistant, all of whom had apparently been walking in or near red-light districts.
Psychologists consulted during the investigation, noting that few of the attacks involved robbery or rape while nearly all included unspecified, bloody mutilation of the victims, concluded that the killer had a pathological hatred of women.
Both police hunting him and the killer himself, in teasing notes and tape recordings sent to the police, compared him to the Victorian "Jack the Ripper," who terrorized London's notorious Whitechapel red-light district in the 1880s, murdering and mutilating six prostitutes.
The Yorkshire Ripper became Britain's most prolific mass murderer in memory, prompting a massive manhunt and focusing public attention on an increasing incidence of violent attacks on women in British cities. University students in college towns like Leeds and Oxford organized groups to protect women walking at night. Feminist groups organized demonstrations protesting the inability of police to catch the Ripper and the exploitation of violence against women in the media, particularly in a spate of recent American films now playing here.
A crowd of about 2,000 besieged the magistrates' court in the mill town of Dewsbury where Sutcliffe was taken tonight to be charged and ordered jailed for a minimum of eight days without bail while the investigation continues. As he was pulled by police in and out of the courthouse with a blanket over his head, while television lights and flash bulbs lit up the evening darkness, people screamed abuse and threw things at him.
In the courtroom, Sutcliffe, a man of medium build wearing a blue sweater and gray trousers, stood silently, except to answer "yes" to his name and "no" when asked if he was represented by a lawyer.
Police had long suspected the killer might be a truck driver who traveled periodically to the various cities where the Ripper had struck. They also had suspected he might work for an engineering firm because he battered and mutilated his victims with specialized work tools, including a round-headed hammer and an x-pointed screwdriver.
William Clark, head of the W.H. Clark engineering firm for which Sutcliffe worked, told reporters today that police questioned him and several of his employes, including Sutcliffe, after the Ripper killed his seventh victim in October 1977 in Manchester.
The police had traced a pound 5 currency note found in the handbag of the victim, a Manchester prostitute, to a West Yorkshire bank and believed it may have gone to one of Clark's employes in his pay envelope, according to Clark.
"Detectives asked us where we had been on certain dates and wanted to know our blood groups," Clark said today. "As I remember, Peter [Sutcliffe] was interviewed two or three times. When police came to the firm, Peter showed no emotion and was quite cool."
Police today sealed off Sutcliffe's four-bedroomed, stone house in Bradford. They said they were questioning his wife Sonia, a pottery teacher, as "a material witness." Neighbors described the couple, who have no children, as pleasant and quiet.
The woman who was with Sutcliffe in his brown Rover when he was arrested Friday night also was questioned but would not be charged, according to police officials. After the two patrolmen making a spot check on his car discovered it had stolen license plates, they arrested Sutcliffe. He also was charged in court today withstealing the license plates from an auto dealer.
The woman who was in the car with Sutcliffe when he was arrested was identified by police as a prostitute, United Press International reported. She said tonight, "I was in the car with him for about 20 minutes. rAfter only a few minutes, I realized there was something strange about him," UPI quoted her as saying.
"When police officers came to the car, he was very frightened. I was glad to see the police," she said. "I was very relieved. I am quite convinced that had they not arrived when they did, I would be dead now. . . ."
The ripper manhunt has cost several million dollars and utilized hundreds of police officers who checked out and questioned thousands of potential suspects.
The case had become a obsession for West Yorkshire Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield and may have been a factor that caused him to suffer a heart attack. The ripper taunted Oldfield in a tape recording in 1979, telling his pursuer, "You are no nearer catching me now than four years ago."
Last November, after the ripper killed Hill in Leeds, Oldfield was replaced as head of the investigation by his deputy, James Hobson.