Peter Sutcliffe: Yorkshire Ripper refused to shield in prison before Covid death, inquest told

Coroner Crispin Oliver said he hoped victims’ families could ‘have some sense of closure’ after Sutcliffe’s death

Joe Middleton
Wednesday 22 September 2021 16:38
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<p>Peter Sutcliffe, who changed his name to Coonan, was serving a life sentence at HMP Frankland for the murders of 13 women in the 1970s</p>

Peter Sutcliffe, who changed his name to Coonan, was serving a life sentence at HMP Frankland for the murders of 13 women in the 1970s

The Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe refused to shield before he died of coronavirus, despite being warned by prison authorities that he was vulnerable, an inquest was told.

The serial murderer died aged 74 at the University Hospital of North Durham on 13 November, 2020 after catching the virus.

Coroner Crispin Oliver said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his demise and that he died a natural death after receiving good medical care.

Mr Oliver said: ““Obviously I think of his family at this time, but (my thoughts) also return to those women whose names I read out at the opening of this inquest last November - they were his victims. My continuing best wishes go to their families, loved ones and friends.

“Speaking to the victims’ families, loved ones and friends, I hope you have some sense of closure at this point and that your loved ones, the victims, may better rest in peace now that Peter Sutcliffe is dead.”

Sutcliffe, who changed his name to Coonan, was serving a life sentence at HMP Frankland for the murders of 13 women in the 1970s.

Prison governor Lee Drummond told the inquest that Sutcliffe, who suffered a myriad of health conditions including heart disease and diabetes, was one of a number of vulnerable prisoners who had been warned about Covid-19 when the country locked down in March last year.

The prisoners were offered measures similar to shielding in the community, being kept apart from other inmates at meal times and to use the phone separately, but Sutcliffe had turned them down.

The murderer was first taken to hospital after feeling dizzy on October 27 and being diagnosed at the prison’s healthcare unit with a blocked heart.

He returned to Frankland on November 4 and it was after this first hospital stay that he tested positive for Covid-19.

The prison’s head of healthcare Angela Spence said Sutcliffe was treated with antibiotics for a cough and tests showed he had a rapid heart rate.

Mr Drummond said Sutcliffe went in and out of hospital in the coming days, before being admitted a final time on November 10.

His next of kin - ex-wife Sonia Woodward - had been informed of his deteriorating health and eventual death, the inquest heard.

She was aware of the inquest and was invited to attend either in person or remotely, but declined, the coroner heard.

Sutcliffe, who arrived in 2016 after being held at Broadmoor secure psychiatric hospital, was a category A prisoner and was held on Alpha wing - “a more relaxed environment” for prisoners with mobility issues.

Pathologist Dr Clive Bloxham, appearing via video, said his post-mortem examination revealed Sutcliffe had “extremely heavy lungs” - typical of someone with coronavirus.

He said the cause of death was Covid-19 infection, with heart disease and diabetes contributing. He confirmed the death was not suspicious and was from natural causes.

Additional reporting by PA

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