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Police apologise for ‘language and tone’ used to describe Yorkshire Ripper victims

Written by on 13 November 2020

The chief constable of West Yorkshire Police has apologised to Peter Sutcliffe’s victims for “the language, tone and terminology used by senior officers at the time”.

“Such language and attitudes may have reflected wider societal attitudes of the day, but it was as wrong then as it is now,” said John Robins.

The force – as well as media publications and the attorney general – have been heavily criticised for their attitudes towards some of the Yorkshire Ripper’s victims, who were sex workers.

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Sutcliffe’s victims and families left behind

Sutcliffe, who died in hospital after reportedly turning down treatment for coronavirus, murdered 13 women across Yorkshire and the North West between 1975 and 1980.

Earlier on Friday, the son of victim Wilma McCann told Sky News that West Yorkshire Police should apologise for the language used to refer to his mother 45 years ago.

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Mo Lea knows she was attacked by Peter Sutcliffe in 1980

“What can come out of this is for West Yorkshire Police to finally do the right thing and give us a bit of closure we can have and deserve, and that is to apologise for the way they spoke about some of the victims, including my mum, who they said were less than innocent,” Richard McCann said.

“When Jayne MacDonald, the 16-year-old girl, was killed it was said by the police that [Sutcliffe has] killed an innocent victim now.

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“My mum and all those other women were completely innocent and deserved to live.”

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Son of Sutcliffe victim speaks out

Ms McCann was the first known victim of Sutcliffe and was 28 when she was killed just yards from her Leeds home.

In a statement, Mr Robins offered his “heartfelt apology” to the victims’ families and said attitudes in the force had changed since then.

“A huge number of officers worked to identify and bring Peter Sutcliffe to justice and it is a shame that their hard work was overshadowed by the language of senior officers used at the time, the effect of which is still felt today by surviving relatives,” he said.

“Thankfully those attitudes are consigned to history and our approach today is wholly victim-focused, putting them at the centre of everything we do.”

Son of victim recalls 'beautiful' moment he learned of serial killer's death

Son of victim recalls ‘beautiful’ moment he learned of serial killer’s death

Retired detective Roger Parnell, who worked on the Ripper inquiry, rejected accusations the force did not care about victims who were sex workers.

“We certainly did, I can assure you we did,” he told the BBC.

“These ladies were wives, they were mothers, they were sisters. And the inquiry did not change at the murder of Jayne MacDonald.

“We were all determined from the beginning to catch the perpetrator of all these murders.”