Yorkshire Ripper's crimes 'extreme horror'

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The Independent Online

The notorious crimes committed by Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe - who is never to be released - were described as being at the "extreme end of horror" by top judges today.



Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, and two other Court of Appeal judges, dismissed an appeal by the serial killer against an order that he must serve a "whole life" term.



Sutcliffe, now 64, received 20 life terms for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of others in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester after being convicted at the Old Bailey in 1981.



Rejecting his challenge against a High Court judge's decision last year that he can never be freed, Lord Judge said an examination of the "entire catalogue of the offences as a whole demonstrates that this was criminal conduct at the extreme end of horror".



Lord Judge, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith and Mr Justice Griffith Williams declared that the interests of justice required "nothing less" than a whole life order.



Sutcliffe, a former lorry driver, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, who is now known as Peter Coonan, was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper because he mutilated the bodies of his victims using a hammer, a sharpened screwdriver and a knife.



He was to tell psychiatrists who examined him, and gave evidence at trial, that while working in a graveyard in 1967 he heard a voice, which he took to be a divine voice, which eventually told him it was his mission to kill or eradicate prostitutes.



Sutcliffe carried out his first attack on a woman on July 5 1975 - but not all of his victims were sex workers.



In today's ruling, Lord Judge said the "passage of time does not make the appellant's account at trial of how he came to commit these offences any more likely to be credible now than it was then".



He said: "We are not, of course, suggesting that the man who perpetrated these crimes was in any ordinary sense of the words 'normal' or 'average'."



The "sheer abnormality of his actions themselves suggest some element of mental disorder".



But he added: "There is, however, no reason to conclude that the appellant's claim that he genuinely believed that he was acting under divine instruction to fulfil God's will carries any greater conviction now than it did when it was rejected by the jury."



It had been argued on Sutcliffe's behalf that the mental disorder "suffered, and still suffered" by him was a "sufficient mitigating circumstance to justify a long, finite term of years" - which would give him the opportunity at some stage of putting his case for parole.



Lord Judge said: "Each of the attempted murders, as well as each of the murder offences, taken on its own was a dreadful crime of utmost brutality: taking all the offences together, we have been considering an accumulation of criminality of exceptional magnitude which went far beyond the legislative criteria for a whole-life order.



"Even accepting that an element of mental disturbance was intrinsic to the commission of these crimes, the interests of justice require nothing less than a whole-life order.



"That is the only available punishment proportionate to these crimes."