Case File #0170
Wearside Jack
John Humble
"I see you are still having no luck catching me"
Towards the end of the investigation to catch the Yorkshire Ripper, the police and media received several letters and a tape recording, purportedly from the killer himself. Initially considered a hoax, the whole focus of the hunt for the Ripper now changed to pinpoint the distinctive Wearside accent of the man on the recording. When Peter Sutcliffe was eventually captured for the Ripper crimes, it was learned he was not the author of the letters or tape. The police now hunted the hoaxer they referred to as Wearside Jack.
By December 1977 the serial killer known as the Yorkshire Ripper had claimed six victims, murdered in cold-blood and attacked a further four women, leaving them mentally and physically scarred. In January 1978 the Ripper attacked a 21-year-old prostitute, repeatedly bludgeoning her with a ball-pen hammer and hid her body near Lumb Lane. Yvonne Pearson's body would not be discovered until 26 March. Later that month he killed 18-year-old prostitute Helen Rytka, in a vicious attack he struck her on the head five times, stripped her of most of her clothing and stabbed her in the chest several times. Her body was found three days later.

Peter Sutcliffe

The Police investigation had previously interviewed Peter Sutcliffe several times and released him after a series of blunders in the case. In July 1977 he attacked Maureen Long in Bradford, leaving her for dead. She survived and a witness saw Sutcliff's vehicle, but misidentified the make of his car, which resulted in thousands of man hours being wasted searching for the wrong type of vehicle. The police were also collecting the information on handwritten index cards, which caused problems in accessing and even storing the immense wealth of tips, witness statements, and suspect profiles. This made cross-referencing the data extremely difficult and detectives were ultimately unprepared for such a large serial murder investigation. As a result, vital pieces of information were not connected and Peter Sutcliffe slipped through the net on numerous occasions because of the inept operation.

Wearside Jack Letter

On 8 March 1978, Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield who was heading the Ripper inquiry received a letter, postmarked from Sunderland.

Dear Sir,

I am sorry I cannot give my name for obvious reasons I am the ripper. Ive been dubbed a maniac by the press but not by you You call me clever and I am. You and your mates havent a clue That photo in the paper gave me fits and that lot about killing myself no chance Ive got things to do, My purpose to rid the streets of them sluts. my one regret his that young lassie Macdonald did not know cause changed routine that nite, Up to number 8 now you say 7 but remember Preston 75, Get about you know, you were right I travel a bit You probably look for me in Sunderland don't bother I am not daft just posted letter there on one of my trips. Not a bad place compared with Chapeltown and Manningham and other places

Warn whores to keep of streets cause I feel it coming on again. Sorry about young lassie.

Yours respectfully

Jack the Ripper

Might write again later I not sure last one really deserved it. Whores getting younger each time. Old slut next time I hope, Huddersfield never again too small close call last one.
The authenticity of the letter was a matter of conjecture, however the letter mentioned a previous incident, the murder of 26-year-old Joan Harrison in Preston in November 1975. Detectives were under the assumption this case had not become public knowledge and only the real killer could have known this. This made the letter appear authentic and the police were convinced the Ripper had reached out to them, communicating and taking credit for his crimes. Several days later on 13 March, another letter was posted to the Daily Mirror Newspaper and again was posted from Sunderland.
Dear Sir,

I have already written Chief Constable, Oldfield "a man I respect" concerning the recent Ripper murders. I told him and I am telling you to warn them whores I'll strike again and soon when heat cools off. About the Mcdonald lassie, I didnt know that she was decent and I am sorry I changed my routine that night, Up to murder 8 now You say but remember Preston 75.

Easy picken them up dont even have to try, you think theyre learn but they dont Most are young lassies, next time try older one I hope. Police haven't a clue yet and I don't leave any I am very clever and don't think of looking for any fingerprints cause there arent any and dont look for me up in Sunderland cause I not stupid just passed through the place not bad place compared with Chapeltown and manningham can't walk the streets for them whore, Dont forget warn them I feel it coming on again if I get the chance.
Sorry about lassie I didn't know.

Yours respectfully

Jack the Ripper

Might write again after another ones' gone. Maybe Liverpool or even Manchester again, to hot here in Yorkshire, Bye.

I have given advance warning so its yours and their's fault.
Both letters referred to the 26 June 1977 murder of 16-year-old Jayne MacDonald. She had not been a prostitute and it was believed by many that this meant the Ripper was now targeting any woman he found on the streets, regardless of profession. The letters expressed the notion that McDonald's murder had been a mistake and that the next victim would be older. This was proved correct on 16 May 1978 when the Ripper struck again, murdering 40-year-old prostitute Vera Millward in Manchester. Nothing more was heard from the Ripper until March 1979 when another letter was sent to George Oldfield on 23 March 1979.

Wearside Jack 79

Dear Officer,

Sorry I havn't written, about a year to be exact but I havn't been up North for quite a while. I was'nt kidding last time I wrote saying the whore would be older this time and maybe I'd strike in Manchester for a change. You should have took heed. That bit about her being in hospital, funny the lady mentioned something about being in the same hospital before I stopped her whoring ways.

The lady wont worry about hospitals now will she I bet you are wondering how come I hav'nt been to work for ages, well I would have been if it hadnt been for your curserred coppers I had the lady just where I wanted her and was about to strike when one of your cursen police cars stopped right outside the land, he must have been a dumn copper cause he didn't say anything, he didnt know how close he was to catching me.

Tell you the truth I thought I was collared, the lady said dont worry about coppers, little did she know that bloody copper saved her neck. That was last month, so I don't know when I will get back on the job but I know it wont be Chapeltown too bloody hot there maybe Bradfords Manningham. Might write again if up North.

Jack the Ripper

PS Did you get letter I sent to Daily Mirror in Manchester.
The letter boasted of the correct victimology of the latest victim, as well as the area the murder occurred. Any doubts the police had about the authenticity of the letters were now beyond question, the letter writer was with a doubt the Ripper. The following month the killer claimed his tenth victim, murdering 19-year-old building society clerk Josephine Whitaker as she walked home from work. Although the police focus was now directed towards discovering the identity of the author of the letters, the entire investigation was thrown off track in June 1979. On 17 June a tape cassette was sent to George Oldfield, once again posted from Sunderland and containing the recording of a man's voice who claimed to be the Yorkshire Ripper.
I'm Jack. I see you are still having no luck catching me. I have the greatest respect for you, George, but Lord, you are no nearer to catching me now than four years ago when I started. I reckon your boys are letting you down, George. Ya can't be much good, can ya?

The only time they came near catching me was a few months back in Chapeltown when I was disturbed. Even then it was a uniform copper, not a detective.

I warned you in March that I'd strike again, sorry it wasn't Bradford, I did promise you that but I couldn't get there. I'm not quite sure when I will strike again but it will definitely be some time this year, maybe September or October, even soon if I get the chance. I'm not sure where. Maybe Manchester; I like there, there's plenty of them knocking about.

They never learn, do they, George? I bet you've warned them, but they never listen. At the rate I'm going I should be in the book of records, I think it's 11 up to now, isn't it?
Well, I'll keep on going for quite a while yet. I can't see myself being nicked just yet. Even if you do get near, I'll probably top myself first.

Well, it's been nice chatting to you, George. Yours, Jack the Ripper.

No good looking for fingerprints, you should know by now it's clean as a whistle. See you soon. 'Bye. Hope you like the catchy tune at the end. Ha-ha!


(This was followed by 22 seconds of the song "Thank You For Being A Friend" by Andrew Gold)
The police had the tape examined by dialect analysts Stanley Ellis and Jack Windsor Lewis, aswell as the FBI who were consulted throughout the manhunt. It was the opinion of the FBI, and specifically US profiling expert Robert Ressler that the tape was fake and they believed no more attention should be given to the work of an obvious hoaxer. The confessional tape indicated the Ripper originated from a Wearside background and pinpointed the distinctive accent to the Castletown area of Sunderland. The police narrowed their search for the killer to this area and questioned 40,000 men based on the dialectology.
However the real killer Peter Sutcliffe was from the Bradford area, 78 miles to the southwest. Assistant Chief Constable Oldfield ignored the testimony of survivors who believed their attacker was from Bradford, and used the tape as a point of elimination, instead of a line of inquiry. The police had previously tested the saliva found on the first three letters and checked it against the DNA taken from the Ripper crime scenes. It showed the letter writer was of the same blood group as the Ripper, a type shared with only 6% of the population.
The police were now determined to locate the Ripper in his supposed home city of Sunderland and invested thousands of manpower and man-hours searching in the wrong area and for the wrong suspect. They also began a substantial publicity campaign into which around £1 million was invested. It included 'Dial-the-Ripper' hotlines, newspaper ads and billboards with information about the letter writer and the cassette tape. On 1 September 1979 the Ripper murdered a 20-year-old Bradford University student. Barbara Leach.
The police had spent unnecessary resources searching for clues left by the letter writer and then in 1980 two more women would fall victim to the killer. Peter Sutcliffe was on a list of 300 names in connection with the new £5 he gave to Jean Jordan who he murdered on 1 October 1977. When he realised the note could be traceable he returned to the body to retrieve it but was unable to locate it. As a result he was interviewed twice by police in 1979 and was ruled out of their inquiries because of the Wearside accent on the tape recording.
On 2 January 1981 Sutcliffe was arrested by police in the company of a prostitute. At the scene officers found weapons and rope whilst at the police station he later confessed after two days of questioning to being the Ripper. With a suspect in custody it soon became apparent the Wearside Tape Recording had not been sent by Sutcliffe, and he also denied being the author of the letters. The police investigation came under intense scrutiny for diverting the inquiry towards the Sunderland area and Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield received much criticism for his handling of the case and his refusal to acknowledge the advice of the FBI and survivor witness testimony.
At his trial in May 1981 Peter Sutcliffe was charged with the Yorkshire Ripper murders and received 20 consecutive life sentences. Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield took early retirement after Sutcliffe's arrest because of the humiliation and bad press concerning his handling of the case, he later died in 1985. The press dubbed the hoaxer "Wearside Jack" and his identity would continue to remain a mystery.
By September 2003 it was reported by the BBC that police had called off their search for Wearside Jack and no plans were made to continue the investigation due to the amount of time that had passed. However the hoaxer case was re-opened in 2005 when West Yorkshire Police decided to review the case. At the time the letters were originally sent, the police believed they were genuine because of the details about the murder of Joan Harrison in Preston in November 1975. Sutcliffe was never charged with this crime and during questoning he denied killing Harrison. Investigators decided to enter the DNA taken from the Wearside Jack envelopes into the national database, they got a match.

Humble

On 25 October 2005, John Samuel Humble who lived on the Ford Estate in Sunderland was arrested for perverting the course of justice. His DNA had been taken by police during a drunk and disorderly incident in 2001. When arrested Humble was so intoxicated, police had to wait several hours for him to sober up before questioning him. At first he denied all knowledge of the accusations but eventually admitted responsibility for the letters, but denied perverting the course of justice.
He also admitted to police he had felt shame for sending the letters, which he had originally intended to be a joke and explained he acquired details about the Harrison murder from his local newspaper and pub gossip. Infact he revealed he had used library books as a source of inspiration for the letters and tape and became panicked when the police began interviewing men in the Castletown area of Sunderland. His neighbour had been considered a suspect but Humble himself had not been questioned.
He was remanded in custody and his lawyers attempted to push for the lesser crime of wasting police time. On 9 January 2006 he was tried at Leeds Crown Court where he pleaded not guilty. He would continue to protest his innocence until he finally admitted to being Wearside Jack on 23 February 2006. During the trial he claimed to have called police in 1979 and told them the letters and tape were fake, but investigators believed the call was a hoaxer and it was officially discounted. He described to the court his descent into alcoholism and that he had tried to commit suicide on several occasions, without success.
On 21 March 2006 he was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. In July he appealed his sentence, which was upheld in October. The murder of Joan Harrison in November 1975 would remain unsolved until 2011 when DNA from the crime scene was matched to Christopher Smith who died in 2008. Not long after he began his sentence in March 2006, Humble began to receive letters from Peter Sutcliffe who accused him of contributing to the deaths of the Ripper's last three victims and accused him of having blood on his hands.
The letter read in part;

MARCH 2006

"I have just heard that you got eight years in prison on Tuesday for the crimes you committed."
"I am not surprised that you got that length of time because what you did was very bad indeed."
"You have now had your 15 minutes of fame and you have reopened old wounds again and put me back in the media spotlight."
"I do not need this now or ever again. The same thing will happen when you are released.
"I hope you get some treatment for your problems, John, because you are very ill indeed."
"You could even end up in Broadmoor with me. That is where you belong."
"It would be very strange, that - the two of us sharing history in the same place."
"You could have saved those three women, John. You have blood on your hands."
"I was under the influence of voices. What was your excuse John? Drink and drugs, I hear."
"You have some sort of fascination with my case."
"Maybe you are responsible for the other bodies which only a few other people know about. Did you kill them others, John? I must know."
When he received no reply, Sutcliffe, seemingly put out that Humble did not answer his first letter wrote another letter in April 2006:

APRIL 2006

"I want you to write back, John, so we may exchange letters and maybe organise a visit here at Broadmoor."
"We have loads to talk about. I want you to say sorry for your crimes and interfering in the investigation into my crimes."
"I am cured of my evil thoughts and you can be cleansed as well. Treatment and drugs will help you, John. I know."
"Be strong, God will look after you,"
"Your friend Peter."
John Samuel Humble was released from prison in October 2009, and gave his first interview to the press in July 2013. It was reported on 20 August 2019 that Humble had died at his home in South Shield from the effects of alcoholism which caused heart failure.

Written by Nucleus