Former Ripper Squad cop on mistakes that let Sutcliffe kill again

Former detective Bob Bridgestock was one of the first on the scene when Josephine Whitaker was murdered by Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe in Savile Park, Halifax in April 1979.

The young officer, who joined West Yorkshire Police in 1974, remembers that it was pouring down with rain but officers didn’t have anything to cover the body and preserve the scene.

The officers managed to borrow a tarpaulin from a nearby wagon but rainwater gathered and it then collapsed.

Senior detectives weren’t impressed with what had happened – but it was the kind of incident which summed up aspects of policing at the time.

Mr Bridgestock, now an author, told Yorkshire Live that officers were equipped with a truncheon and a torch and not much else.

Former West Yorkshire senior officer Bob Bridgestock

“Investigations back then were about arresting people and obtaining admissions and we know the problems with that.”

Failings in the Ripper investigation were laid bare later but they were known at the time by officers on the ground.

Senior officers “wore blinkers on the investigation” and it was “very frustrating” for officers who were trying to point this out.

One of the biggest blunders was the focus on the Wearside Jack tape which was later found to be a hoax.

Mr Bridgestock, who later became a senior detective, said the Ripper inquiry broke basic rules of detective work.

“The golden rule is assume nothing and let the evidence dictate what happens.”

Another golden rule that senior officers follow is ‘listen to your team’ – something that Ripper Squad bosses failed to do.

Mr Bridgestock recalled the murder in Huddersfield of Helen Rytka, 18, in 1978.

KEEP UPDATED HERE WITH ALL THE REACTION FOLLOWING HIS DEATH

By coincidence, he and a colleague had been keeping a close eye on a woodyard for seven days in order to catch an arsonist in the act.

After a week of keeping watch, the stakeout was called off. The following day, Helen was murdered just yards from the location the officers had been observing

Mr Bridgestock described Sutcliffe as not a very intelligent killer, just a brutal man who attacked vulnerable, lone women.

“It fits, in my mind, into the likes of (Myra) Hindley and (Ian) Brady and the likes of Robert Black – serial killers who will be detested way after they’ve gone.

“I’ve walked with my dog this morning and people have said ‘Good news, good riddance’, and that’s what a lot of people will be thinking about (it).”

Mr Bridgestock said the real victims were the families left behind.

He added: “It’s the victims that served the life sentence and then the victims’ families that really serve the true life sentences.

“For them today, they will have some kind of closure.

“The news today will bring back some very sad memories for a lot of them. And we should remember the victims, not the killer.

“Today is about the families and they won’t shed a tear for him, but it will bring back some terrible memories for them.

“For those that were attacked and survived, it will give them a little bit of peace knowing that they don’t actually have to hear about him after today any more.”

YorkshireLive – Halifax