Here I am in Sheffield at the exact location where Peter Sutcliffe was caught following a murder spree that left blood in the streets of northern England from 1975 to 80. He butchered thirteen women and tried to kill seven others. He was taken into police custody on a Friday evening from the spot where I'm stood - on the drive of a imposing detached company headquarters. Two policeman on an evening patrol found him in his car with a prostitute (who he was going to murder) and they arrested him as his car's registration plates were stolen.
I drove to the affluent Broomhill area on a Sunday afternoon when nobody would be around. Melbourne Avenue is a quiet narrow thoroughfare away from a main road. The fee-paying Sheffield High School For Girls dominates the tree-lined avenue and thereíre a some huge handsome buildings. I was there for about twenty minutes and didnít see another person. It was quiet in 1981 at the time of the arrest, an ideal place for prostitutes to bring their customers in the evening. I found number 3 and as itís now a company's offices I guessed the gates would be locked. When Sutcliffe was arrested it was the headquarters of the local steel craftsmenís federation but now itís LabLogic which provides software to various industries. Quiet is good, I thought, nobody to see me except cameras as I climbed over the fence, pushed myself through unforgiving bushes and walked up the drive.
I had a photograph of the side wall showing exactly where Sutcliffe had got rid of his murder tools and spotted it instantly by the drive. That Friday in 1981 heíd driven his Rover 3500 to a scrap yard and bought two registration plates as his insurance had expired. He could returned home but pulled into a service station at about 9pm and called his wife Sonia to say his car was making worrying noises. He taped the registration plates over the existing ones and, an hour later, was thirty miles from home cruising around a red-light area of Sheffield. He tried to pick up a 19-year-old prostitute but she said his eyes frightened her and she walked away from the car. He picked up 24-year-old Olivia Reivers from Broomhall Street who agreed £10 for sex. They arrived here where Iím stood, Sutcliffe reversing the Rover up the drive was a fast exit. His murder kit was under his seat. He turned out the light, paid Olivia, told her he was called ďDaveĒ and said heíd like to talk as heíd argued with his wife. He put his coat on the back seat and Olivia slipped off her knickers. Sutcliffe attempted sex for about ten minutes but wasnít excited. Suddenly the drive was illuminated by headlights of a police car which parked nose-to-nose with the Rover.
Two policemen patrolling in a car knew the Light Trades House building was closed so they were suspicious of the car on the drive. Sutcliffe pretended he was there with his girlfriend but the other policeman was on the radio checking the carís registration number. Sutcliffe asked Olivia if she could run off but she refused and she was put in the back of the police car. He grabbed the hammer, knife and rope beneath his seat and, without permission, walked a few feet up the drive saying he was ďbursting for a pee.Ē He went out of the policeís view and saw an oil storage tank along a wall and dropped the tools behind it. There was a clinking sound but the police didnít notice.
He was put in the police car and taken to the police station where - due to his physical appearance - he was questioned in relation to the murders of young women. Perhaps he would have slipped through the net again had the police failed to return to the building where Iím stood in the photographs and found the discarded tools. This spurred a search of his home in Heaton where tools sharpened for other purposes were found. He was questioned the following day and, with evidence mounting against him, the seemingly calm agreeable friendly truck driver confessed that he was The Yorkshire Ripper. It had been 46 days since his last murder and it had been his last. Olivia Reivers and the police had been lucky. It could have been avoided. Sutcliffe could have continued his murder spree had he not been caught drink-driving weeks earlier. Heíd only bought the false number plates as his car insurance had expired and he didnít want to spend money renewing it he'd be losing his licence soon.
I took a few photographs of the building and, having probably triggered some security cameras, was surprised a police car hadnít turned up. This is where it ended for Sutcliffe. I can easily remember the Ripper years (I was 8 to 13) but was too young to know he was only murdering women. To reach the back of our home at night you had to run up the back in darkness and I can remember sprinting in case a hand grabbed my should and pulled me back.
Blimey, this was it where the reign of terror ended. I stooped over to look at the ground near the black bin where heíd hidden his ripping tools. He'd put them on some leaves and there were some leaves still there from last autumn. I looked around the handsome building and garden. This could have been a murder scene as Olivia Reivers was certainly about to be butchered. When Sutcliffe was stripped at the police station they were shocked to find he was wearing a V-neck sweater on his legs - but upside down. The sleeves were up his legs and his genitals hung at the V-neck.† The elbows of the jumper were padded. They deduced this was to protect his knees as he knelt over his victims to rip them up or masturbate.
I looked at the grand Victorian building again and wondered if the employees of Lablogic knew of its attachment to a historic murder story. Probably - but not the details. I looked at the drive again. It was a little odd to think that when 35-year-old Sutcliffe's feet stepped off the concrete and into the police car his freedom had ended and he'd be incarcerated for the rest of this life. I climbed back over the fence onto Melbourne Avenue to find it empty. No security van or police car - just sparrows. Iíve printed my own business cards and carry them with me should someone stop me. I can show them Iím just a feckless geek, type the website printed on my card into my phone and show them Iím only a curious man adding stuff to my website (Iíve had to do this twice so far - only security men not police.) I did a wave to any security cameras watching me and left.
The arresting officers...