The Yorkshire Ripper - Mind of a Killer: Revealed - Tuesday October 16

the yorkshire ripper – mind of a killer: revealed (7/9)

Part of Five’s historical documentary strand, tonight’s programme focuses on the controversial case of Peter Sutcliffe –the man responsible for the deaths of 13 women between 1975 and 1980. The film examines Sutcliffe’s behaviour throughout his 25 years behind bars to shed new light on his true mental state and address the question that has been asked ever since the man’s arrest: could the Yorkshire Ripper have been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time he committed his crimes?

It is now 26 years since the Yorkshire Ripper was arrested in Sheffield for murdering 13 women and attacking a further seven across West Yorkshire and Manchester. At first, the authorities thought they were dealing with a straightforward – if appalling –multiple murder case, but things got more complicated when Sutcliffe claimed that he had carried out his attacks after hearing God tell him to kill all prostitutes.

At his trial in May 1981, Sutcliffe pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility because of what psychiatrists diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. The jury rejected his story and found him guilty of 13 counts of murder and seven of attempted murder, and the judge sentenced the killer to 20 life terms. However, three years after Sutcliffe’s incarceration began, psychiatrists got their way and saw him transferred to Broadmoor –the high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire.

Ever since the trial, controversy has raged about the state of Sutcliffe’s mind –did he fake the symptoms of schizophrenia in order to avoid prison, or was he genuinely suffering from mental illness? Tonight’s documentary examines the 25 years that Sutcliffe has spent in jail to discover what his behaviour tells us about his mental state.

The film features interviews with key figures who have met Sutcliffe and played a significant part in his story since his arrest –including police officers, the prosecuting counsel at his trial, a nurse from Broadmoor and the victim of one of his attacks. Possibly the most significant contributions come from a formerly devoted pen pal who fell in love with Sutcliffe while he was in prison and, in his first full television interview, the Ripper’s brother, Carl.

Using archive footage from the 1970s and 80s, the documentary paints a vivid picture of the Yorkshire Ripper’s life since his arrest in 1981, featuring details of his nonchalant behaviour in court; the alleged attempts by the authorities to make him confess to other crimes; the women who considered a convicted mass murderer to be a suitable pen friend and the various attacks on his life since his imprisonment. However, only Peter Sutcliffe will ever know for sure if voices in his head really drove him to become one of the most notorious killers in British history.

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  • Anonymous

    does anyone know when this is repeated? x

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