Former Halifax journalist gives 'shocking' recall on Netflix's new Yorkshire Ripper documentary

A former Halifax Courier journalist has recalled her time on the newspaper during the late 1970s when the Yorkshire Ripper was at large.

Friday, 18th December 2020, 4:08 pm
Updated Friday, 18th December 2020, 5:39 pm

In the new four-part Netflix documentary The Ripper, Christa Ackroyd gave her view working as a budding, young female reporter at the height of the infamous unsolved murders of Yorkshireman Peter Sutcliffe.

It was on April 4, 1979 when Sutcliffe killed his 10th victim Josephine Whitaker, who was killed in Savile Park around midnight aged just 19.

Speaking on the Netflix documentary, Mrs Ackroyd said: "It was really shocking to see the Ripper Squad in this exclusive area.

Peter William Sutcliffe killed 13 women between 1975 to 1980
Peter William Sutcliffe killed 13 women between 1975 to 1980

"It was the first person I've ever seen dead.

"Murder in such a middle-class area changed everything.

"She was a middle-class clerk who worked at the Halifax Building Society."

Mrs Ackroyd, would go on to work for the BBC and now writes as a columnist for the Yorkshire Post, but gave a mixed review of her time covering the Halifax patch after hearing about Sutcliffe's fourth victim Patricia Atkinson, who was murdered in Bradford in April 1977.

Christa Ackroyd gave her view working as a budding, young female reporter at the height of the infamous unsolved murders of Yorkshireman Peter Sutcliffe

"To hear about Patricia's murder immediately resonated," said Mrs Ackroyd.

"Patricia's vulnerability really did strike accord with me."

At the time, Ms Atkinson, who was a mum-of-three, was working as a prostitute.

"Suddenly, it started to move closer to me personally," said Mrs Ackroyd.

Sutcliffe's 10th victim Josephine Whitaker, who was killed in Savile Park around midnight aged just 19

"To learn that a woman had died under such horrific circumstances made me realise I knew nothing about what was happening.

"I was some naive, closeted, lucky young girl.

"I wanted to be a reporter.

"When I went to work in newspapers it was such a disappointment, because we [women] were so categorised.

Left to right - Helen Rytka, Irene Richardson, Vera Millward and Patricia Atkinson, who were all victims of Peter Sutcliffe

"We [women] did the golden weddings,and the WI [women's institution] meetings, the flower shows.

"The men did the crime. The men told interesting stories."

Mrs Ackroyd then regaled her opinion that because men were covering the murders left by Sutcliffe, along with male police officers, it put 'seeds of doubt' as to how these women were being portrayed.

"The press and police had inferred that this was a man who hated prostitutes," she said.

"A description that planted in your mind that if you are not that kind of woman, who had many boyfriends, then you were fine."

However, it would later be revealed that many of Sutcliffe's victims were not prostitutes, including some of the victims who were accused of taking part in that activity with a lack of evidence - such as his first victim Wilma McCann, who died aged 28 on October 28, 1975.

Wilma McCann was Sutcliffe's first victim

The Netflix documentary comes over a month after the death of Sutcliffe, who died of coronavirus on November 13 this year.

In total, he murdered 13 women across Yorkshire and north-west England between 1975 and 1980.

Sutcliffe was convicted of the crimes in 1981.

He spent three decades at Broadmoor Hospital before being moved to HMP Frankland in County Durham in 2016.