Yorkshire Ripper: Why Peter Sutcliffe is leaving Broadmoor

Tribunal rules serial killer no longer needs psychiatric treatment and should be moved to a mainstream prison

Peter Sutcliffe
(Image credit: Express Newspapers)

The Yorkshire Ripper, serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, is to be moved to a mainstream prison after a tribunal ruled he no longer requires treatment for mental health problems.

Sutcliffe, who has changed his name to Peter Coonan, was convicted in 1981 for the murders of 13 women between 1975 and 1980, most of them sex workers he mutilated and beat to death. He injured a further seven women.

He was given 20 life terms, a sentence later changed to a whole-life term. After losing an appeal against this in 2010, he is now certain to die in jail.

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Sutcliffe's original trial plea of insanity, saying he had heard the voice of God telling him to kill, was dismissed by the judge and he was tried and sentenced as mentally fit.

However, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after three years in prison on the Isle of Wight and moved to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital in Berkshire, where he has remained for 32 years.

On Thursday, a mental health tribunal ruled he no longer needs clinical treatment and could be moved back to a mainstream prison. The decision has to be approved by the Ministry of Justice.

The High Court was told in 2010 that Sutcliffe had been given anti-psychotic medication since 1993 which had successfully contained his illness, reports The Guardian.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Sutcliffe is reluctant to leave Broadmoor, where he "reportedly has a Freeview television and DVDs in his room". He has said in the past he will go on hunger strike if transferred.

Moving Sutcliffe from an expensive psychiatric facility will save some £250,000 a year, adds the paper, as Broadmoor is thought to be six times more expensive than a high-security jail.

Yorkshire Ripper 'no longer mentally ill'

01 December

Serial killer Peter Sutcliffe is no longer mentally ill and should be moved from Broadmoor to a mainstream prison, doctors have recommended.

Known as the Yorkshire Ripper, the former lorry driver was jailed in 1981 for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of 7 others over a period of five years.

He was given 20 life sentences and in 2010 the High Court ruled that he should never be released.

Now 69, Sutcliffe has been detained at the high-security psychiatric hospital since 1984. He claimed he was on a "mission from God" and refused treatment for his paranoid schizophrenia until 1993.

Sutcliffe's psychiatrists now believe his mental disorder is under control and have recommended a transfer, though the final decision rests with Justice Secretary Michael Gove.

If he is moved to a prison, it is likely that he will be placed on a small unit where he can be protected from other inmates at all times, says the Daily Telegraph.

Dr David K Ho, a forensic psychiatrist who has previously worked at Broadmoor, said that it was not uncommon for patients to be returned to prison after being treated at the hospital for long periods.

"Loosely speaking, schizophrenia is a little like diabetes in the sense that when you treat it its symptoms get less, when you stop treating it, it may recur," he told the BBC.

"So I don't think it's the case that his mental disorder has completely been cured, but I think it perhaps has reached a stage where its symptoms are under control."

Richard McCann, the son of Sutcliffe's first victim Wilma, said he was not angry at the recommendation. "I am not sure whether he needed to be in Broadmoor or not, but what I do believe is, he is ill, he must have been ill to have done the things that he did," he said.

"It is 40 years since it happened and I'll let the professionals make the decisions. Hopefully they've made the right one."

Sutcliffe is said to be on suicide watch after hearing about the possible transfer, The Sun reports. He reportedly told a friend: "I've lost all hope. Category A prisons are a pit of black despair and hopelessness. I will spend the rest of my days there."

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