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The Yorkshire Ripper




Five weeks after the Rogulsky attack, on Friday night the 15th August Olive Smelt, a respectable housewife walking home after a night out in a pub with friends, was assaulted by Peter Sutcliffe, and after his arrest, and indeed, before his arrest this assault was reported to police and corroborated by his friend Trevor Birdsall, who accompanied him on the night he did it. Birdsall gave evidence in the Old Bailey that Sutcliffe was snubbed by some women in a pub and this probably triggered his reaction. Whether it was Olive's group or a different party the papers did not look for this detail.

Ex Chief Constable Gregory's memoirs confirm that Birdsall saw Sutcliffe tip a blood stained stone from a sock when he returned to his car where Birdsall waited for him. Birdsall read about the assault in the paper the next day and remained silent. Had Sutcliffe been the Ripper it is certain that Birdsall would be arrested and charged with being an accomplice and withholding evidence. However the police had much to hide and wanted this case closed fast. Birdsall, an accessory and witness to a "Ripper" attack went scot free.

He was even paid for his story. This attack was linked to the Ripper frame three years later as a possible early attempted murder by the Ripper. Olive was battered over the head by a stranger who walked up to her and commented that the weather was letting us down, before he struck her. She said he was good looking, had wavy hair and long sideburns and spoke with a Liverpool accent. Scratch marks, probably made by his fingernails as he fumbled in her underwear were found on her abdomen which were not explained at the time and as she was carried off to hospital upon discovery and in the absence of simple explanations, evidence of semen was not found. It would look odd to see policemen searching for semen stains on a roadway with a magnifying glass the day after the assault even if Olive knew her attacker had masturbated over her.

Traffic, rain, insects, birds and time would leave no trace. As in the Rogulsky case no clothing was removed. The assault did not get a high priority at that time and it was only much later when it became associated with the Ripper case that it came to be considered as a possible early Ripper attack. Detective Dick Holland, who investigated this assault had her husband Harry as his principal suspect at first. It was very similar to the Rogulsky attack some 5 weeks before, in Keighley, and to the attack on Miss Tracy Browne, less than a fortnight later in the same town of Keighley.

In her case, she heard him grunting as he masturbated and his blood group being different to the Ripper's ensured this never came into the Ripper frame. After Sutcliffe's arrest in 1981 much was made of the Smelt attack to convince the public that he was the Ripper rather than a sick sexually inadequate blackguard who hated women. Here was a man who hated his wife so much that this hatred was extended to all women and his early attacks were made opportunistically so that he could masturbate over a female while groping her. As he came to the notice of Billy Tracey, his life took on a new meaning and the mission from God developed. At his arrest it was convenient for the police that they had included the Smelt attack in the Ripper frame because of all the evidence corroborating it with Sutcliffe.

It made him look like the Ripper indeed. The grey area that it was always in, was forgotten about. These attacks would be highlighted and the Ripper murders played down.

It is very likely that it was Sutcliffe who phoned Olive Smelt in 1980 in an effort to get out of the dilemma he was locked into. It was just one of his many attempts at proving he was the Ripper in that year. He wanted to be identified. Who better to turn to than an actual victim who might identify him?


Harry Smelt shows where the nightmare began for his family in Halifax


Olive Smelt being escorted into court at Sutcliffe's trial






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