Peter Sutcliffe, the infamous British serial killer dubbed the “Yorkshire Ripper” convicted of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others between 1975 and 1980, has shockingly been connected to two unsolved slayings in Sweden.
West Yorkshire Police contacted Swedish authorities last year in relation to two unsolved murders of Swedish women, wanting answers to a number of questions, including whether Sutcliffe was named in any of their ongoing investigations.
In a sense, it was a highly belated response to a question originally posed by Swedish police in the city of Malmo in January 1981 — they wanted to know of Sutcliffe’s whereabouts in the summer of 1980, following the murder of a 26-year-old local woman in September that year.
For reasons unclear, such enquiries didn’t reach Britain, and the potential Swedish dimensions of the case weren’t followed up by UK investigators. Interpol did respond to their requests — by saying Sutcliffe couldn’t have been in the city at the time of the crime.
However, this information has been found to be incorrect — a ferry passenger manifest lists Sutcliffe as traveling aboard a service between Malmo and Drago, Denmark, in the days before and after the murder. Moreover, authorities in both the UK and Sweden believe the “Ripper” may have also been responsible for the killing of a 31-year-old woman in Gothenburg in August 1980.
Beyond Sutcliffe’s potentially provable presence in Malmo, the bodies were both found in circumstances similar to his UK victims — Malmo victim Teresa Thorling was found rolled up in a carpet, Gothenburg victim Gertie Jensen on a building site. Moroever, both were killed by severe head wounds, evoking Sutcliffe’s favored murder method of hammer blows to the skull.
If the killer was Sutcliffe, determining his guilt may be relatively easy in one of the cases — Swedish police still possess a hair of unknown origin found on Jensen’s body — although the decision to grant British authorities access to any forensic material falls to the Swedish justice department. While unsolved murders dating prior to 1985 are considered “lapsed” under Swedish law, the same is not the case in the UK.
Sadistic sex murderer Sutcliffe, who worked as an HGV driver, was sentenced to 20 concurrent sentences of life imprisonment in 1981. He is currently incarcerated in Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire, England. In 2009, it was reported he was fit to leave the facility, although then-Justice Secretary Jack Straw said there were no circumstances in which he would ever be released.
The next year, Sutcliffe applied for a minimum term to be applied to his sentence, raising the prospect of parole after that date should he be judged safe for release. Psychological reports on his mental state were taken into consideration, as were the severity of his crimes. The High Court ruled he should never be released.
“This was a campaign of murder which terrorised the population of a large part of Yorkshire for several years. The only explanation for it, on the jury’s verdict, was anger, hatred and obsession. Apart from a terrorist outrage, it is difficult to conceive of circumstances in which one man could account for so many victims,” stated Mr. Justice Mitting.
As a result, it is likely Sutcliffe will spend the rest of his life in prison. In December 2015 he was assessed as being “no longer mentally ill,” and no longer in need of clinical treatment. He was subsequently transferred to Frankland Prison in Durham August 2016.
If Sutcliffe is found guilty, it will be far from the first time a killer was uncovered in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
In November 2010, 13-year-old Yara Gambirasio disappeared while walking home in Brembate di Sopra, Italy. Her body, riddled with stab wounds, was discovered in a field three months later. Over 15,000 DNA tests were administered to local residents. A man named Damiano Guerinoni was found to have a similar DNA profile, so DNA tests were performed on members of his family, including his deceased uncle Giuseppe, via an old postage stamp. The DNA was a perfect match — although he had died some 11 years before Gambirasio’s murder.
In that case, the killer had to be a very close relative of Giuseppe — a son or daughter — although his three children were eliminated as suspects. Nonetheless, it was soon discovered Guerinoni was a womanizer, and may have fathered an illegitimate child.
Over 500 women were investigated, and a woman named Ester Arzuffi was finally found to match the sample. She had three children with her husband of over 40 years, including a pair of twins, assumed by both to be their biological offspring — however, DNA testing confirmed one of the twins, Massimo Giuseppe Bossetti, was Yara Gambirasio’s killer. He was convicted of the murder June 2014.