I watched a documentary about the Yorkshire Ripper this week. I was brought up in West Yorkshire where killings happened and was a child when the Ripper was at large. I actually can't remember a time before the very real threat of the Ripper to our communities.
I used to go to the swimming baths with the school and there were posters up with photographs of the women killed. It seemed to me as a child that the numbers of photographs went up every week or so. I know that cannot be true but that is how it felt and I remember wondering if one day, the photo would be of someone I knew and/or loved. The nearest we got to that was when a former pupil from my school was murdered by him.
My mum and my best friend's mum worked as early morning cleaners at another school. They used to telephone each other before setting off to agree a meeting point. Mum was terrified until she reached Mavis. She carried a knife throughout the whole period and was very vocal about the fact that she would not hesitate to use it if "that bugger bothers me". One morning, she bumped into a female jogger, a parishoner of our church, and they scared each other half to death. They laughed about it afterwards but how terrible that a woman can not take exercise freely or go to work without panic.
One day I went for a walk with a schoolfriend. We ended up walking much further than usual and found ourselves in fields. I suddenly said (ever the drama queen!), "This is the sort of place the Ripper attacks". Imagine how worked up we got and the walk home was awful, hearts thumping wildly.
When Peter Sutcliffe was finally caught, he was brought to my town's Magistrates' Court. It was so odd to see streets I knew so well on the telly. It is probably the first time I conciously saw a blanket used to cover an alleged criminal. I remember devouring newspapers covering all the facts that we had not known for so many years. It was quite difficult to accept that the "monster" was a fairly ordinary, some would even say good-looking, bloke. I remember his wife getting a slating for being with him and supporting him. If they can find a woman to blame, they will!
My Dad knew a lot about the police investigation as he insured the police authority but he told me little. When I went to university, a friend asked me to go with her to a talk by the former Attorney General. He appeared to "get off" on knowing all the details of how the women were killed. That may be unfair but it is how it appeared to me and I am not sure young students needed to have that information. It was not nice. It was not pretty. I will keep it to myself but understand families were not told the whole truth.
I wonder if the children and women who grew up in those times and particulary in the relevant areas were affected in the longer-term in some way. I do not trust men or at least that is my starting point with them. The worry is that similar crimes are committed now and there is still that debate about whether the girl was a good girl or a bad girl. Whatever they were, they did not deserve to be killed. Better a working girl than out on the street committing carnage for victims and their families and friends.
I cannot find an easy conclusion. I just believe in my gut that the Ripper events will have ricocheted out to all sorts of people and in some very negative ways. I welcome comments.