A personality profiler who worked with police on the original Yorkshire Ripper case has offered her opinion on news the serial killer could move from a psychiatric unit back to jail because his mental health has improved.
Diane Simpson, a former Chester resident and handwriting expert, helped West Yorkshire Police during the investigation stage and subsequently, and at Sutcliffe’s invitation, spent 400 hours talking with him one-to-one over a period of nine years.
The serial killer, 69, who was convicted of murdering 13 women, has been housed at high-security Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire since 1984. He was dubbed the Ripper due to the way he mutilated the bodies of his female victims using a hammer, a sharpened screwdriver and a knife.
Diane, who sat opposite Sutcliffe in hospital and last saw him in 2000, believes the Ministry of Justice and psychiatrists are best placed to decide his fate.
She recalled: “There were reports that he deliberately put symptoms on in order to go to psychiatric hospital. He initially was sent to prison on the Isle of Wight. Warders reported him being heard to say that it would be more cushy in a psychiatric hospital. I don’t know if that’s so.
“My own view is, it’s down to the Ministry of Justice and his psychiatrists. They will know. The situation would be very different in prison than in a psychiatric hospital because they are patients not prisoners. It’s very different and so it should be.”
Diane, who still works as a personality profiler for police and talks about her work on cruise ships, also points out that prison would be less costly on the public purse.
She vividly remembers the time she spent alone with Sutcliffe, whom she defined as having ‘a personality disorder’ and being ‘emotionally crippled’, but wasn’t in fear for her own safety.
“I saw him on the ward in an interview room. The nurses used to sit outside but the door was open. I was there for a reason. He wasn’t stupid. He would be unlikely to hurt me in that situation. I’ve heard people say he would have killed the vicar’s wife if he met her on a dark night.
“He might have had the urge to kill but it never manifested itself in front of a uniformed officer, only when he was in front of someone vulnerable.”
And she never lost perspective despite all those hours spent in his company.
“The crimes that were committed were so violent and so horrific. I knew some of his victims’ families, you just felt numb. It was just so horrific what happened.”
Bizarrely, dozens of women have written letters to the Ripper over years. Diane, whose husband David is a former Chester city councillor, was contacted by one such prospective female correspondent who was seeking a postal address. Like Sutcliffe she was from Yorkshire but had been born before his crimes and felt it was ‘a long time ago and we should move on’.
Diane, who counts the relatives of the murdered as well as Sutcliffe’s family as victims, reflected: “It made me realise that it may have been a long time ago, and it’s not getting even locking him up, but it’s a message to those who lost mothers, daughters, aunts – especially with someone who is capable of living with himself – that our society will not let such people back into society.”
It is understood medical reports suggest Sutcliffe be moved from the psychiatric unit to prison but the final decision rests with Justice Secretary Michael Gove.
Media reports indicate Sutcliffe would be unhappy at such a move although Diane says at one time he had actually wanted a return to a prison in his home county of Yorkshire so he could be nearer his family. She suggests he will be institutionalised, just as he would had he been incarcerated in jail.
The normal difference between the two environments was a stay in hospital usually implied an indefinite stay until the person became well again whereas a prisoner was given a release date. However, in Sutcliffe’s case the High Court had determined he should never be released.
And Diane, who now lives in Norfolk, says his victims would not ‘be happy with him walking the streets again’. She concluded: “He was given a life tariff and I agree with that.”