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The Yorkshire Ripper



Joan Harrison was a poor vulnerable single girl who was murdered by being kicked to death in a disused garage near the centre of Preston on the 20 November 1975.

She had been sexually assaulted to such an extent that semen was found both in her rectum and her vagina. Her killer also bit her deeply on her left breast and stole her jewellery. He ritually placed some of her clothing and shoes in positions which were to be repeated in later murders in Yorkshire. Semen revealed that the killer was of the rare B blood group and was a secretor, that is, one whose semen saliva etc also reveal the blood group. This was a rare individual. One in sixteen people or 6% of all suspects.



It was also the key to the police efforts to identify and eliminate suspects. On average 94% of suspects would be outside the frame. The police were confident of identifying him because of the circumstances and the way Joan's purse and handbag were discarded at intervals as her killer walked away from the scene. Unlike many of the later Ripper victims in West Yorkshire, Joan was not a soliciting prostitute looking for motoring punters from the sidewalk.

For all these reasons the police were looking for a local man who was not a motorist.

The killer left a deep bite on Joan's left breast showing the track of his teeth revealing a distinct gap of almost one inch between the top front teeth. This bite mark was his signature and if ever apprehended this rare combination of clues was powerful and conclusive evidence to positively identify the culprit. Her purse was found under a hedge a short distance away indicating her killer was on foot and dumped it as he went.

A massive house to house dragnet was carried out in Preston and every man was asked to spit into a small glass jar so the police could observe his teeth as he spat. Suspects with any gap or dentures had their saliva tested. Thousands were asked to cooperate.

Nobody was told the reason for the spit but it was a ploy to observe the person's teeth.



The search was confined to Preston which Billy Tracey had visited for the day probably accompanied by his wife, who may have been left waiting in a cinema.

The Lancashire police regarded this murder as a challenge to them and for this reason they did not want it publicly associated with the growing toll of murders in West Yorkshire. They wanted to get their man.

With the Ripper murder of Irene Richardson in Leeds in February 1977 came the first clues that Joan Harrison was killed by the same person. Both were poor girls, neither was a soliciting prostitute, but vulnerable to being propositioned for cash by a clever man who could spot their weakness. Both were violently murdered.

Harrison was robbed of her bits of jewellery as was Wilma McCann of her money. Both Harrison and Richardson were obscenely sexually assaulted. The police never spelt out the exact facts in the Richardson case, but because she was in her period and one leg had been removed from her tights it may have been buggery. Both victims had their boots repositioned and draped over their legs. Both bodies were covered by their coats. The notable difference was that the killer didn't use a hammer or a blade in Harrison's case. This may not have been premeditated in the way the later murders were, as the pattern emerged.

It was a hallmark of all the Ripper murders that the killer was a smooth-talker who could entice his victim into a dark place on some pretext before turning on them without warning.

Joan Harrison was conned by the smooth-talking Tracey into entering an empty garage with him. He probably persuaded her to masturbate him for ten pounds or so. The speed, joking and confidence with which Tracey could do this would have to be seen to be believed. I witnessed this performance several times with total strangers who would be taken in so quickly. It was like a piece of magic.





Wilma McCann had been murdered in Leeds three weeks earlier by Billy Tracey and traces of B secretor semen were found on her in addition to the ritual rearrangement of her clothing and body. She had also been robbed.

Despite the fact that two months later there would be three more murders in Leeds which initiated the Ripper hunt, and there would be an additional five murders in West Yorkshire, all of which would be immediately linked to the Ripper; it was not until September 1978 that the West Yorkshire police included the Preston murder publicly in the Ripper frame.

This was done because of information sent by letters, posted in Sunderland to George Oldfield by the man police then believed was the Ripper. The paper bore his deliberate teeth imprints identical to those found on Joan Harrison's breast and the saliva traces confirmed the writer to be B secretor blood group. The author, Billy Tracey, signed the letter with his teeth.

A third letter sent on 23rd March 1979 promised another murder. The last murder had been almost one year earlier. Little more than one week after posting his letter, the respectable Building Society clerk Josephine Whittaker was murdered in Halifax by the Ripper. He bit her deeply on the left breast to authenticate his letters. The bite mark was identical to the one on Joan Harrison's breast in Preston and also on the letter.

Had this bite mark been different there is no way the two murders could have been in the same frame.


There they remained until Sutcliffe's arrest and elimination by the Lancashire police, who would not wear his confessions.



(above) Extract from Sunday Times analysis after the Hill murder in November 1980


Coincidentally, Sutcliffe has a gap between his top front teeth but it is very small, about one eighth of an inch, and his teeth don't match the bite marks which were made by the Ripper with very irregular teeth and a large gap in the top front.

The police never commented on the teeth pattern before or after his arrest except to vent their anger at that time with the magazine who published minimal details about the gap. Never dreaming for a moment that the police were covering up a huge blunder with Sutcliffe's confessions, this led to speculation such as was reported in the Sunday Times article above. From the Whittaker murder onwards the police were certain that the letter writer was the Ripper and they redoubled their efforts to trace him.

Meanwhile, Sutcliffe, the disturbed Copy Cat killer, who believed he was the Ripper, was being eliminated because he was O blood group and did not have the big gap in his teeth. It was an easy matter for the police to eliminate Ripper suspects and thousands were eliminated on these factors, as was every man in Preston who was asked to cooperate.



Generally the newspapers gave the police full cooperation and only published what they asked. It is a measure of what the police thought of the public when they didn't state publicly that they were looking for a man with a large gap in his top front teeth. The thousands of suspects and fears of relatives and friends of suspects could have been averted if they had done so.

In addition the killer may have been identified earlier. However the potential fame of getting their hands on this easily identifiable killer was evidently more important for them and so the public were kept in the dark, and as the murders escalated so did the prospective fame of the Sherlock Holmes' of West Yorkshire who confidently expected to apprehend this murderer who had given them everything about himself except his name and fingerprints as he clearly taunted them both with the murders and his letters and taped message.

Finally in January 1981 Sutcliffe was arrested in Sheffield. The South Yorkshire police did not know these vital points of evidence. The West Yorkshire police confidently expected to capture the real Ripper and wanted to retain the glory. The copy-cat Sutcliffe's instant confessions upset their plans and a media euphoria, compounded by police tactical blunders, panicked them into a deal with him, which included a place in a secure mental home, with no trial and parole in 10 years. The case was to be closed without a trial with the aid of Sutcliffe's confessions supported by four eminent psychiatrists who would give evidence that he was indeed a mental case.

After he was charged with the murder of Jacqueline Hill and the massive publicity on the arrest of the Ripper broke, Detective Frank Gardner of Preston CID and another, went to West Yorkshire to interview Sutcliffe in relation to their Preston murder.

They took one look at his teeth, confirmed he was O blood group and baulked at cooperating with Dick Holland who had secured Sutcliffe's confessions to anything he wanted, as he conspired to close the whole file.

The Preston murder was ruled out. The Lancashire constabulary would not accept it. There was a lot of police argument and infighting because of this but this was lost in the euphoric reporting of the trial.

This murder is still officially an open case but nobody ever had the will to interview Billy Tracey, who had served time in Preston prison years earlier, and knew his victim as indeed he knew other victims in West Yorkshire. Joan had been up in Court a short time earlier and indeed it is possible Tracey met her there as he frequented the Courts as a spectator of theatre, where peoples vulnerabilities, records, names and addresses are exposed for all to see and hear.

The West Yorkshire police had Joan Harrison in the Ripper frame through 1979 and 1980 until the arrest of Sutcliffe, whose confessions, and Lancashire's unwillingness to conspire to a cover up, forced them to change the goal posts. The strong links with the murder of Irene Richardson and the bite marks identical to those on Josephine Whittaker, coming days after including Joan Harrison in his count when he wrote to George Oldfield, ensured that all three killings were in the same frame.




The conclusion is crystal clear.

If Sutcliffe did not kill Joan Harrison then he did not kill Richardson or Whittaker.

Barbara Leach murder was closely linked to the Whittaker murder by the three cornered file used to stab both victims repeatedly within the vagina. The Richardson murder was linked to the murders of Emily Jackson, Tina Atkinson and Vera Millward, at least by the ripping open of the hammered victims stomachs with the claws of the hammer.

The Jayne Macdonald and Helen Rytka murders were linked with these by the hammer blows and the repeated internal stabbing. All the murders in the Ripper frame at the time of Sutcliffe's arrest were also linked by the sheer level of brutality and the repositioning of the victims bodies and clothing so that there was no doubt that it was the Ripper again.

These 10 murders were clearly committed by one individual and there were two more, those of Jean Jordan and Yvonne Pearson, included in the Ripper frame as a result of the Ripper's letters and taped message. These were in a "grey area" as Oldfield stated.

Apprehending the copy cat was a peripheral objective of the police. They were concentrating on the main man. After Sutcliffe's arrest and being cheated of their real quarry, they brought all Sutcliffe's crimes into the Ripper frame as they attempted to cover up the whole sorry failed public relations exercise, and brokered a plea bargain deal with the mentally disturbed Sutcliffe.


Sutcliffe would have confessed to anything at that time as he was getting leniency the more he confessed to. A deal had been done in return for a place in a secure home. Sutcliffe did not want a trial.

Detective Chief Superintendent Wilf Brooks criticised the West Yorkshire police for ignoring valuable information supplied in 1979. This was a reference to my tip off to the West Yorks police which they fouled up.



This murder is still officially an open case.


Read the 20th January 2001 newspaper article in the Lancashire Evening Post



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