Peter Sutcliffe murdered thirteen women but the last three might never have died horrific deaths had policeman Andy Laptew been believed. He first identified Sutcliffe as the Yorkshire Ripper who was spreading terror in the streets of northern England. Unfortunately senior detectives did not believe him and even ridiculed him. Here I am at the crematorium where the final bit of his life came to a close.
The Yorkshire Ripper wasn’t caught until January 1981 but in August 1979 Andy - a young policeman at the time - alerted senior detectives that a Bradford lorry driver called Peter Sutcliffe was a serious suspect for the (then) ten murders. Along with Detective Constable Graham Greenwood he produced a two-page report which pointed the finger at Sutcliffe. He'd identified a pattern of similarities between Sutcliffe and the known facts that were too coincidental. He might have been believed but police chiefs concentrated their efforts on three anonymous letters and a cassette tape they'd received from a man from Sunderland claiming to be the killer (all a hoax.) Andy's report was dismissed, marked “to file” and no further action was taken. Sixteen months of time and costly police effort were wasted before "the Ripper" was caught.
Andy had taken his concerns to Detective Superintendent Dick Holland and was made to feel so small that he “could have crawled under the crack in the door”. Later he said he had been “the lone voice crying out in the wilderness against West Yorkshire Police and I was a pariah when all I had ever done was display loyalty. People I thought were friends ignored me, senior officers made life a little difficulty for me and instead of speaking to me they would grunt at me."
The police hunt for “the Ripper” was a fairly sloppy affair marked by poor leadership and Andy was one of the few police officers to emerge from the case with any credit. He was also let down by journalists who knew he was inexperienced in dealings with the press by twisting his words. Knowing it would have enormous repercussions they didn’t hide their source of their information and Andy was made to look silly.
Andy worked for the West Yorkshire force from 1971 to 2001, working in CID for 23 years and on 60 murders. Following his retirement in 2001 he volunteered as a guide at Keighley Police Museum and Bradford City Hall. He died of cancer aged 68 at a Marie Curie hospice surrounded by his family. He left behind a wife, three daughters and four grandchildren. The funeral was held at Bradford Cathedral and he was cremated here at Nab Wood Crematorium. I went to do a salute at the chimney of the box burner.