Helen Rytka (1960? to 31st January 1978)


Here I am in a cemetery in Bradford beside the pitifully meagre grave of Helen Rytka who death was pitifully horrid. She was an 18-year-old prostitute half-caste Jamaican who was brutally murdered by Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. She and her twin sister Rita had only been selling their bodies for a few weeks when she picked up the monster who was now a season killer and had attacked fourteen women. The sprawling cemetery on a long slant would have meant a long search for the grave but I had a photograph with a building the background; this allowed me to zoom into the correct area. Past photos showed a wooden cross on the grave and I hoped it was now adorned with a full stone. Sadly the only advancement that had been made was of deterioration. There's not much to see; I felt like putting a bouquet on it. Surely some relatives of Helen are still in the area.


Life ended abruptly on Tuesday 31st January 1978. Helen and her sister Rita were both prostitutes and that evening they walked to the red-light area in Great Northern Street in Huddersfield. It was an industrial setting: railway viaduct arches, garages and timber yards. There were even some public toilets and Helen and Rita stood outside them to get customers. For protection they would accept customers at the same time and meet up back at the toilets twenty minutes later. That Tuesday evening at about 9:10pm both disappeared with separate customers. Helen returned first and was spotted by Peter Sutcliffe who was cruising around with hammer and knife under his seat. He didn't know Huddersfield’s red light area but had made a delivery there two days ago and seen some prostitutes. He pulled over and persuaded Helen to have a sex in the Garrard’s timber yard about 40m away. It was a well known place to take customers, a maze of alcoves made from stacked timbers (it's now a car-breaker's yard.)


Sutcliffe’s blood was bubbling and he was ready to cause havoc (he’d murdered prostitute Yvonne Pearson only ten days previously.) He planned to do it the usual way - wallop her skull with a hammer as she got in the back seat. However Helen remained in the front seat and undid her pants. Sutcliffe found himself getting aroused and didn’t expect this. Giving himself time to think he said he needed to wee and stepped out of the car. When he came back he asked Helen if they could do it on the back seat of the car. Before she could open the back door Sutcliffe swung his hammer but missed. The hammer glanced her but skimmed across the roof of the car. Helen thought she’d been slapped hard and said, "There is no need for that, you don't even have to pay!" When she asked, "What was that?" Sutcliffe said chillingly, "Just a small sample of one of these,' and swung the hammer at her head again. She went down immediately moaning loudly. Oddly Sutcliffe could have been identified and caught years earlier as nearby were two chatting taxi drivers. They either saw what happened and chose to ignore it or weren’t looking.


In a panic Sutcliffe grabbed Helen by her hair and dragged her across the timber yard. He thought her silence meant she was dead but he saw her eyes were open and her hands were up to ward off further hammer blows. He lay his body on top of hers, covered her mouth with his hand and told her to keep quiet. With minutes to live Sutcliffe had sex with the semi-conscious moaning victim (the only one he had sex with.) When two taxi drivers had driven away he fetched his hammer back and when he saw Helen slowly getting to her feet he whacked her across the back of the head. She went down again and Sutcliffe dragged her to the front of the car and threw her belongings away. Surprisingly he saw she was still alive and stabbed her several times through the heart and lungs. He pushed her bra and jumper up passed her breasts and took off her shoes and socks. He dumped her body behind a disused garage and covered it with asbestos sheets. He wiped blood on her knickers and tossed them into the timber yard (the yard workers hung them up the next day.) He drove twenty minutes back home to Heaton and went straight to the kitchen. Here he wiped blood off his shoes, rinsed the knife that had been through Helen’s body and returned it to the kitchen drawer.


Back at the toilets Rita waited for her sister and eventually went home. It took her three days before she could surmount her fear and contact the police. She confessed to them that she was a prostitute and a search ensued. A policeman found Helen's knickers in the timber yard and a police dog found her body.


I looked at the messy grave and guessed Helen would still be alive had she not moved to Huddersfield in 1977. She'd only moved there a few weeks before her murder and didn't know the area well. Also had Peter Sutcliffe not made a delivery to Huddersfield in his work's truck he probably wouldn't have come back. I'd probably now be stood over the grave of another prostitute murdered in Bradford or Leeds.


In the past someone had placed flowers on the grave but it needs something more substantial. Is her sister Rita still alive? Did she leave the flowers for Helen? I doubt she can even think about her sister's last harrowing minutes: hammered on the head, half suffocated, raped while half-dead, hammered again and then stabbed through the heart. I did a salute and as I looked up some lads in a car driving at a speed undignified for cemetery paths saw me and saluted back. They looked cool but the £800 car had probably cost £1600 to insure which isn't very cool. I did a final salute and left.















An old photograph of the grave...