Netflix's new true crime docuseries The Ripper isn't about Jack the Ripper, but rather another English serial killer from the 1970s: the Yorkshire Ripper. The latter's name was likely inspired by Jack the Ripper because they both brutally killed women, mostly sex workers. However, the Yorkshire Ripper was eventually caught and sentenced for his crimes, while Jack the Ripper's true identity was never discovered.
In 1981, Peter Sutcliffe, aka the Yorkshire Ripper, was convicted and given 20 life sentences for killing 13 women and attempting to kill seven others in the northern England area, according to the New York Times. Several police blunders had made it possible for Sutcliffe to keep on killing long after the 1975 investigation into his crimes had begun.
According to the AP, Sutcliffe, who was a truck driver and grave digger, was interviewed nine times in connection to the murders. At one point, he was shown a photo of the suspect's boot print that matched the same boots Sutcliffe was wearing during the police interview. They failed to notice. They also discounted testimony from a survivor who described Sutcliffe as her attacker, because she wasn't a sex worker. The police were convinced that the Yorkshire Ripper was only targeting sex workers, but not all of his eventual victims fit that description. At other points during the investigation, police were misled by a hoax confession from someone else pretending to be the killer as well as improperly filed data. Sutcliffe later said, "It was just a miracle they did not apprehend me earlier — they had all the facts."
Sutcliffe's history of attacking women stretched back even further than most people knew. Years before he started his 1975 killing spree, he'd attacked a woman with a large rock in 1969, per the BBC. He'd also gone after two other women with a hammer and knife in mid-1975 but they both survived. Then he killed his first victim, a sex worker named Wilma McCann, in October 1975. According to the AP, Sutcliffe later said, "After that first time, I developed and played up a hatred for prostitutes in order to justify within myself a reason why I had attacked and killed Wilma McCann."
Per CNN, Sutcliffe was finally arrested in 1981 after a cop noticed that he was driving a car with stolen plates. They found that he had a sex worker as a passenger and later discovered a hammer and knife at the scene. The AP reported that Sutcliffe confessed while in police custody, although he would later plead not guilty during his trial. He was swiftly convicted anyway and sent to prison. According to The Telegraph, he was then moved to a psychiatric hospital in 1984. The judge at Sutcliffe's initial trial recommended that Sutcliffe serve at least 30 years of his sentence before he would even possibly be eligible for parole, according to the BBC. In 2010, with that 30-year deadline coming up, the court changed his sentence to a "whole life" term, per the BBC — meaning that he would never be allowed to re-enter society.
CNN reported that Sutcliffe spent over 30 years at the psychiatric hospital before he was deemed "stable enough" to be moved back to the prison system in 2016, where he remained until this year. In November 2020, Sutcliffe died after contracting COVID-19, per CNN. He was 74.