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Who is Sonia Sutcliffe? Meet Peter Sutcliffe aka the Yorkshire Ripper’s ex-wife

Jane Corscadden November 10, 2020
Who is Sonia Sutcliffe? Meet Peter Sutcliffe aka the Yorkshire Ripper’s ex-wife
Photo by Harry Prosser and Mike Maloney/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Who is Sonia Sutcliffe? The ex-wife of Peter Sutcliffe, infamously known as the Yorkshire Ripper, lived with him for seven years before his arrest, reportedly with no knowledge of his crimes.

What we know about Sonia Sutcliffe

Sonia Sutcliffe (née Szurma) was born on 10 August 1950 to Czechoslovakian parents, Maria and Bohdan Szurma. Sonia’s mother lived with her daughter from 1997 until her death in 2003.

Sonia first met Peter Sutcliffe at a disco when she was 16 and he was 20. They married eight years later on 10 August 1974, Sonia’s 24th birthday, and remained married until 1994.

Their marriage came roughly two years after Sonia began treatment for schizophrenia.

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Barbara Jones, a journalist who spoke with Sonia many times between 1984 and 1993, described her in The Evening Standard as: “The most irritating, strangest and coldest person I’ve ever met. She’s so incredibly prickly and demanding.”

Despite getting remarried in 1997 to hairdresser Michael Woodward, Sonia Sutcliffe still lives in the Bradford house she shared with the Yorkshire Ripper. The pair bought the house for £16,000 in 1977.

It’s believed Sonia visited Peter in prison until only a few years ago.

Who is Peter Sutcliffe?

Infamously known as the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe was arrested on 2 January 1981.

On 22 May of the same year, he was convicted of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others. Sutcliffe was found guilty of murder on all counts and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images

His crimes were committed in West Yorkshire and Manchester between 1969 and 1980.

Sutcliffe was in Broadmoor Hospital from 1984 to 2016 after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia during his trial in 1981.

The police manhunt for the Yorkshire Ripper was described by The Guardian in 2019 as “stunningly mishandled”. This was due to the length of time it took for police to track Peter Sutcliffe down, allowing him at least seven years to murder 13 young women.

The police were accused of focusing on a hoax tape reportedly sent by the Ripper. It turned out John Humble, dubbed Wearside Jack, had sent hoax letters and an audio tape in the late 1970s.

He was unmasked and sentenced to eight years in jail in 2006 after admitting perverting the course of justice.

Humble’s tape led police to concentrate on finding the serial killer in the Wearside area. However, Sutcliffe had been interviewed by police and released on nine separate occasions in five years before his eventual arrest.

Peter Sutcliffe has been in the news recently as he tested positive for coronavirus in prison. He’s believed to be gravely ill due to complications caused by the virus and is thought to be refusing treatment.

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Jane is a freelance journalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland specialising in news, culture and politics. She studied Politics at Queen’s University Belfast before completing a Journalism MA at the University of Ulster. Always trawling social media and keeping up to date with the latest trends and crazes, her main interest lies in digital culture and internet trends.