ITV’s new seven-part crime drama The Long Shadow follows the real-life story of the hunt for notorious serial killer Peter Sutcliffe – dubbed the 'Yorkshire Ripper' in the press – that took place between 1975 and 1981.


The series sensitively focuses on the lives of Sutcliffe’s victims – he murdered 13 women while at least nine more were attacked but survived – and the police investigation that eventually led to Sutcliffe’s arrest on 2nd January 1981.

Police believe that Sutcliffe may have been responsible for more murders and assaults than he was prosecuted for. In the 1981 Byford Report, part of an official inquiry into the case, Inspector of Constabulary Lawrence Byford wrote: “We feel it is highly improbable that the crimes in respect of which Sutcliffe has been charged and convicted are the only ones attributed to him.”

In the end, Sutcliffe was charged with 13 murders and also faced seven charges of attempted murder. These are the women whose lives were cut so tragically short, and those who survived but whose lives were forever changed by his violence.

Peter Sutcliffe's victims: Who were the 13 murder victims?

Gemma Laurie as Wilma in The Long Shadow
Wilma McCann as played by Gemma Laurie in The Long Shadow. New Pictures for ITV

Wilma McCann

Mother-of-four Wilma McCann, 28, was Sutcliffe’s first murder victim. On 30th October 30 1975, at around 7.30pm, she left her council house in the Chapeltown area of Leeds and went into the city centre, where she was seen in various pubs throughout the evening. It is believed that Sutcliffe picked her up in his car at around 1am. Wilma was murdered less than five minutes' walk from her front door, in Prince Philip Playing Fields – Sutcliffe struck the back of her skull twice with a hammer, then stabbed her 15 times.

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In a 2005 BBC documentary (as reported by The Guardian), Wilma’s eldest daughter Sonia Newlands talked about the grief she still experienced following her mother’s murder. “I think most people remember the number 13 – for the number of women he killed. But what about the children – there’s 25 of them and no one remembers them.”

Emily Jackson

42-year-old Emily was a part-time sex worker who was killed by Sutcliffe on 20th January 1976. He picked her up outside the Gaiety Pub in Leeds and drove to an area near abandoned buildings on the Manor Street Industrial Estate. He hit her on the head with a hammer, dragged her body into a yard and then stabbed her 52 times with a screwdriver. Emily’s body was found the next morning by a workman.

Following Sutcliffe’s death in November 2020, Emily’s son Neil – who was 17 when she died – told Yorkshire Live: “I’m quite happy with the news. It should have been 42 years ago – they should have hung him.”

Irene Richardson

Irene, a prostitute based in Leeds, was 28 years old when Sutcliffe killed her on 5th February 1977. The mother of three was last seen near the Gaiety Pub, the same place he had picked up Emily Jackson the year before.

He drove her to Soldier’s Field, and attacked Irene with a hammer. He also stabbed her three times. Irene’s body was found by a jogger the following day, and police later discovered tyre marks that came from Sutcliffe’s car.

Patricia Atkinson

On 23rd April 1977, Sutcliffe committed the first murder in his hometown of Bradford, which led to the police expanding their investigation beyond Leeds.

Patricia, also known as Tina, was picked up by Sutcliffe in Bradford’s red light district. He then drove her to her flat in Oak Avenue, where he hit Patricia four times on the back of the head with a hammer and stabbed her six times. He left a boot print at the scene that was similar to one found on Emily Jackson’s body the year before.

Patricia’s body was discovered by Robert Henderson, a friend of hers, when he visited her home the following evening.

Jayne MacDonald

Sutcliffe’s youngest murder victim was 16-year-old Jayne MacDonald, whom he killed in the early hours of 26th June 1977.

Jayne had been working as a shop assistant in Grandways Supermarket in Leeds and was on a night out in the city centre when she began to walk home. Sutcliffe followed her, and attacked her on Reginald Street. She was found the next day by schoolchildren in the local playground. Sutcliffe had hit her three times on the head with a hammer, and also stabbed her.

Being the first of Sutcliffe’s murder victims who had not been a sex worker, Jayne’s death changed the focus of the police investigation. Three years later, when Sutcliffe’s identity was still unknown, her mother Irene spoke to the press, asking the women in her daughter’s killer’s life to turn him in.

“I dare them to turn him in,” she said (as reported by the Daily Mail). “This man is a coward, but the biggest coward of them all is the person shielding him. It is his mother, wife, sister or indeed a male, they should put themselves in the position of we women who have lost someone they loved. It makes my stomach churn to think that someone is saving his neck.”

Jean Jordan

Less than four months after the murder of Jayne, Sutcliffe sought out a new victim. He murdered 20-year-old Jean Jordan, a prostitute from Manchester, after picking her up in Moss Side on 1st October 1977.

Sutcliffe hit Jean 11 times, dumped her body and threw her bag – which contained a new £5 note he had given her for sexual services – into bushes nearby. He left the scene and later returned to retrieve the note but couldn’t find it. He also mutilated Jean’s body while he was at the scene.

Jean’s body was discovered eight days later by local worker Bruce Jones (who went on to star in Coronation Street as Les Battersby). Jones later told the Daily Mirror that the discovery greatly affected him.

“I lost everything because of that,” he said. “It actually destroyed me to learn that people can do that to a human being. I had nightmares like you wouldn’t believe.”

Police found Jean’s bag and traced the £5 note to branches of Midland Bank in the area. They interviewed more than 5,000 men on the basis of this clue, including Sutcliffe, but he provided an alibi.

Yvonne Pearson

On 21st January 1978, Sutcliffe killed Yvonne Pearson, a 21-year-old prostitute from Bradford.

Yvonne had two children – two-year-old Colette and five-month-old Lorraine – who were being looked after by a neighbour on the night she was killed.

It is believed Sutcliffe picked her up at around 10pm, and then drove to waste ground where he attacked her with a hammer. Disturbed by a car passing by, he hid her body with a sofa. Her body was not found until 26th March and initially her murder was not connected to the man that the media was now calling the Yorkshire Ripper.

Helen Rytka

Ten days after Yvonne’s murder, Sutcliffe killed Elena Rytka (known as Helen) in Huddersfield on 31st January 1978.

Helen and her twin sister Rita were both working in the local red light district, but Helen went off alone with Sutcliffe while Rita was with another client. The 18-year-old was attacked with a hammer near a local timber yard. Sutcliffe then proceeded to stab her 13 times. Her body was found on 3rd February 1978 by police.

When he was later questioned about Helen’s murder (as reported by The Times), Sutcliffe told police: “I had the urge to kill any woman. The urge inside me to kill girls was now practically uncontrollable.”

Vera Millward

Mother of seven Vera, 40, lived in the Hulme area of Manchester. A sex worker with serious health problems, including only having one lung, Vera went out to meet a regular client on 16th May 1978. Instead, she got into Sutcliffe’s car and travelled with him to Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he parked in a disused area of the car park.

He attacked Vera with a hammer and then stabbed her. Her body was found the next day.

Josephine Whitaker

Josephine was just 19 years old when she was killed by Sutcliffe at Savile Park Moor in Halifax on 4th April 1979.

A local clerk, she was walking home when he hit her from behind. After she fell to the ground, Sutcliffe stabbed her 27 times with a screwdriver. Her body was found the next day, and the police discovered a boot print that matched those from the crime scenes of Emily Jackson and Patricia Atkinson’s murders.

Barbara Leach

Barbara was the 11th woman to be murdered by Sutcliffe.

A 20-year-old student at Bradford University studying social psychology, she was killed on 1st September 1979 while walking home after a night out. Leaving her friends near their shared home in Grove Terrace in Bradford, Barbara was followed by Sutcliffe. He attacked her from behind, and then dragged her body into an alleyway where he stabbed her.

Sutcliffe hid Barbara’s body in the alley, and it was discovered two days later after Barbara’s friends had reported her missing.

Marguerite Walls

Civil servant Marguerite left her Leeds office on the evening of 20th August 1980, having worked late because she was due to go on holiday the following day. She proceeded to head home to her house in the Farsley area – a well lit, 30-minute walk.

Sutcliffe followed her and attacked her from behind with a hammer, and then tied a rope around her neck. He dragged her into a garden and strangled her before hiding her body in the grounds of Claremont House.

Her body was discovered by gardeners the following day.

Jacqueline Hill

Jacqueline was Sutcliffe’s 13th and final murder victim. She was killed on 17th November 1980.

A student at Leeds University, she had been studying late before getting the bus back to her college residence in Alma Road. With less than 100 yards to go before she reached the safety of her flat, Sutcliffe attacked her with a hammer and then dragged her body to some nearby waste ground where he stabbed her with a screwdriver.

Her body was found the next day.

Sutcliffe was later stopped by police on 2nd January 1981 for having false number plates on his car and he was questioned in connection with the Yorkshire Ripper case. After two days of police interrogations, Sutcliffe confessed he was the Ripper on 4th January 1981.

Peter Sutcliffe's victims: Who survived his attacks?

Jasmine Lee-Jones as Marcella Clayton in The Long Shadow
Marcella Claxton as played by Jasmine Lee-Jones in The Long Shadow. New Pictures for ITV

As well as being charged with 13 murders, Sutcliffe was also accused of seven counts of attempted murder. Police believe there are at least 10 women who survived his attacks, beginning with an unknown woman in 1969, who he confessed to attacking with a stone in a sock in his home town of Bradford.

Sutcliffe’s victims who survived include:

Anna Rogulskyj

A 36-year-old woman who was walking alone in Keighley on 5th July 1975. Sutcliffe attacked her with a hammer and slashed her stomach with a knife, but did not kill her. As reported by The Guardian, Anna later said she was “fed up with being associated with the list of women killed by this man. I’ve been afraid to go out much because I feel people are staring and pointing at me. The whole thing is making my life a misery. I sometimes wish I had died in the attack.”

Olive Smelt

Olive was attacked on 15th August 1975 in Halifax. Sutcliffe struck her with a hammer and attacked her with a knife but was interrupted by a passing car. Olive, who was 46 at the time of the attack, died in 2011, and her daughter, Julie Lowry, told the press afterwards (via the Daily Mail): “She never got over that night. She did well to survive and had to learn to accept what happened mentally. But physically her mobility was never the same. She has been through hell and suffered in silence.”

Tracy Browne

Sutcliffe’s youngest victim, Tracy was just 14 years old when he attacked her on a country lane in Silsden in Bradford on August 27, 1975. After striking up a conversation with her, he hit her five times in the head but ran off when a car passed them. “We had walked together for almost a mile, for about 30 minutes and I never once felt intimidated or in danger,” she said in the Channel 5 documentary Left for Dead by the Yorkshire Ripper in 2014 (as reported by the Telegraph & Argus). Tracy required brain surgery following the assault.

Marcella Claxton

20-year-old Marcella was attacked by Sutcliffe in Roundhay Park in Leeds on 9th May 1976. She was pregnant with her third child and lost the baby, and Sutcliffe’s assault also left her with chronic depression, headaches and blackouts. “It’s like my brain is bursting and hitting the inside of my head, often all day,” she told The Guardian in 2020.

Maureen Long

On 10th July 1977, Sutcliffe attacked Maureen Long in Bradford after she left a local nightclub. He struck her on the head and when Maureen was found the next day, she was suffering from hypothermia. She spent nine weeks in hospital, and after her release bravely went with a police officer to clubs in Bradford in an attempt to identify the man who attacked her.

Marilyn Moore

25-year-old Marilyn was attacked by Sutcliffe in Leeds on 14th December 1977. She managed to escape when he stumbled, despite having severe head injuries. She described Sutcliffe and his car to police, and her description was used to make one of the first photofit images of Sutcliffe.

Upadhya Bandara

Upadhya, a 34-year-old doctor from Singapore, was walking home when she was followed by Sutcliffe in Headingley on 24th September 1980. He hit her, rendering her unconscious, but for an unknown reason he then fled.

Maureen Lea

Maureen, known as Mo, was an art student at Leeds University when she was targeted by Sutcliffe on the night of 25th October 1980. He attacked her as she was rushing down a side street towards a bus stop, leaving her with substantial injuries. Sutcliffe was never charged with her attack, although as The Guardian reports, police are sure he was responsible. She told the newspaper: “I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and there are all sorts of things that I struggle with because of the attack. But he didn’t break me, and he never could. I’m a survivor, not a victim. Nothing can break me. I’m lucky to be here and I want to make the most of it.”

Theresa Sykes

On 5th November 1980, Theresa was attacked in Huddersfield on the way to a local shop. Sutcliffe hit her from behind, but Theresa’s boyfriend heard her cries and rushed out, and Sutcliffe ran away. Years later, she told The Guardian how the attack affected her: “I used to go up to my bedroom of a night and put the wardrobe behind the door, put the dressing table behind the door. I had to sleep with a knife under the pillow, which my mum used to go barmy about, but that was the only thing that made me feel that bit safer.”

Read more about The Long Shadow:

The Long Shadow begins on ITV1 and ITVX at 9pm on 25th September 2023. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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