Yorkshire Ripper victim Marcella Claxton finally has closure

Yorkshire Ripper victim Marcella Claxton finally has closure

November 13, 2020

‘I’m happy he’s gone’: Yorkshire Ripper victim Marcella Claxton, 64, who survived horrific hammer attack finally ‘has closure’ after his death at 74

  • Marcella Claxton was left needing more than 50 stitches after Peter Sutcliffe bludgeoned her with a hammer
  • Today 64-year-old Ms Claxton told MailOnline that she was ‘happy’ the Yorkshire Ripper was finally dead
  • She was attacked by the killer when she was 20 years old, after she had left a late-night house party in Leeds
  • She crawled to a nearby phonebox to ring for help but lost the baby she was four months pregnant with 

One of the Yorkshire Ripper’s few surviving victims has said she is ‘happy he is dead’ some 44 years after he bludgeoned her with a hammer. 

Marcella Claxton was 20 years old when she was attacked by Peter Sutcliffe after she had left a late-night house party in Leeds, in May 1976.  

Sutcliffe mistook her for a sex worker and hit her over the head, leaving her needing more than 50-stitches.  Although she survived, she lost the baby she was four months pregnant with.

Ms Claxton, whose family had moved to Leeds from the West Indies when she was 10, told MailOnline today she finally had closure after Sutcliffe’s death aged 74.

She said: ‘I’m happy he’s gone. I’ve thought about what he did to me every day since and although the news that’s he’s died brings those horrible memories back at least now I may be able to get some closure.

‘I’m hoping it will bring me a little peace knowing he’s no longer with us.’  

Marcella Claxton, pictured here in 1981, was 20 years old when she was attacked by the killer after she had left a late-night house party in Leeds in May 1976

Ms Claxton, pictured here in January 2005, told MailOnline today: ‘I’m happy he’s gone’

Ms Claxton appeared in the documentary, ‘Manhunt: The search for the Yorkshire Ripper’

She survived the attack and was able to help police produce a photofit – which later proved to be accurate – but she was discounted as a Ripper victim because she was not a prostitute. 

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe (pictured) has died at the age of 74 after contracting coronavirus

Ms Claxton told Sky News she was still suffering from the effects of his attack, 44 years on.

She said: ‘I have to live with my injuries, 54 stitches in my head, back and front, plus I lost a baby, I was four months pregnant.

‘I still get headaches, dizzy spells and black outs.’

Speaking in 2010 when Sutcliffe launched a bid for freedom at the High Court, Ms Claxton said: ‘I have not forgotten what he has done to my mind.

‘He has not been punished enough. If he ever comes out he could do the same thing again.’

Ms Claxton managed to crawled to a phone box after Sutcliffe attacked her, where she hid and phoned for help.     

Sutcliffe began his killing spree in 1975, battering 28-year-old sex worker Wilma McCann to death on October 30, 1975, which followed three non-fatal attacks on women earlier in the year.

Three months later, he murdered 42-year-old Emily Jackson, from Leeds, battering her with a hammer and stabbing her with a screwdriver.

In the same city, he struck again the following year, killing prostitute Irene Richardson, 28, on February 5, 1977.

Later that year, he then killed Patricia Atkinson, 32, in his home town of Bradford, Jayne MacDonald, a 16-year-old shop assistant which brought the case to the attention of the national press, and then 20-year-old Jean Jordan in Manchester.

In 1978, he went on to murder three more prostitutes  – Yvonne Pearson, 21, from Bradford; Helen Rytka, 18, from Huddersfield, and 40-year-old Vera Millward from Manchester, before killing Halifax Building Society clerk Josephine Whitaker, 19, on April 4, 1979.

Five months later, he murdered Barbara Leach, 20, in Bradford before claiming two more victims in 1980, Marguerite Walls, 47, from Leeds, followed by Jacqueline Hill, 20, a Leeds University student, on November 17.

Today, Neil Jackson, whose mother Emily was murdered, told of his relief that the Yorkshire Ripper was dead, adding that he should have been hanged after conviction.

A composite of 12 of the 13 victims murdered by Sutcliffe. Victims are: (top row, left to right) Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia Atkinson; (middle row, left to right) Jayne McDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka; (bottom row, left to right) Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Jacqueline Hill

The 13 murder victims of the Yorkshire Ripper

Wilma McCann

Wilma McCann

Age: 28

Killed on: October 30, 1975

A sex worker and mother of four, Sutcliffe battered Wilma McCann to death with a hammer and stabbed her in the neck, chest and stomach after picking her up in Leeds. He carried on life as normal with wife Sonia, and was to tell police: ‘After that first time I developed and played up a hatred for prostitutes in order to justify within myself a reason why I had attacked and killed Wilma McCann.’ Her body was found in Prince Phillip Playing Fields.

Emily Jackson

Emily Jackson

Age: 42

Killed on: January 20, 1976

A part-time sex worker, Sutcliffe pretended his car wouldn’t start when he picked her up and battered her twice with a hammer as she offered to help. He the dragged her body into a yard and used a screwdriver to viciously stab her a total of 52 times in the neck, breasts, lower abdomen and back. Her body was found on Manor Street in Leeds.

Irene Richardson

Irene Richardson

Age: 28

Killed on: February 5, 1977

Another prostitute Sutcliffe picked up, he attacked her in Roundhay Park, Leeds, where they had stopped so she could go to the toilet. As she crouched down, the killer delivered three heavy blows to her head with a hammer, then he tore open her jacket and blouse and began to stab and slash her with his Stanley knife.

Patricia Atkinson

Patricia Atkinson

Age: 32

Killed on: April 23, 1977

Sutcliffe’s first victim in his home town of Bradford was another prostitute. He picked her up and took her to a flat in Oak Avenue, where he picked up a hammer and dealt four massive blows to the back of her head. He also stabbed her six times in the stomach with a knife and tried to do the same to her back, before throwing bed linen over the top of her body and leaving.

Jayne MacDonald

Jayne MacDonald

Age: 16

Killed on: April 23, 1977

A shop assistant who had just left school, Jayne MacDonald was the first ‘non-prostitute’ victim and it was her death that saw the hunt for the killer draw national attention. Sutcliffe spotted her in the early hours of the morning in Leeds and followed her into an adventure playground, where he struck her with a hammer on the back of the head. After she fell down, he then dragged her, face down, into the play areas and stabbed her several times in the chest and back. 

Jean Jordan

Jean Jordan

Age: 20

Killed on: October 1, 1977

A young prostitute, Jean Jordan was the Ripper’s first victim in Manchester.  He beat her 11 times with a hammer in allotments next to Southern Cemetery, dumped her body and threw her bag, containing a brand new £5 note he gave her, into nearby shrubs. Police found the bag and traced the serial number on the note back to the payroll of Yorkshire hauliers T and W H Clark, who employed Peter Sutcliffe, but when questioned he provided an alibi that he was at a party.

Yvonne Pearson

Yvonne Pearson

Age: 21

Killed on: January 21, 1978

A young prostitute, Sutcliffe took her to a piece of waste ground at the back of Drummond’s mill in Bradford, where his father worked. There he hit her several times with a hammer. He pulled her body behind an old sofa, stuffed horsehair down her throat before kicking her in the head and jumping down on her chest.  

Helen Rytka

Age: 18

Killed on: January 18, 1978

A teenage prostitute, Helen Rytka was picked up and driven to a timber yard in Great Northern Street, Huddersfield by the killer.  There he beat her with a hammer several times but she remained alive until he grabbed a knife and stabbed her multiple times through the heart and lungs. Before leaving, he hid her body behind a stack of timber.

Vera Millward

Vera Millward

Age: 40

Killed on: May 16, 1978

A prostitute living in a run-down council flat in Hulme, Manchester, Vera Millward was Sutcliffe’s ninth victim. He took her Manchester Royal Infirmary where he attacked her with a hammer as soon as she got out the car. After killing her with the hammer blows, he then dragged her body to a spot by a fence and began to stab her with a knife.

Josephine Whitaker

Josephine Whitaker 

Age: 19

Killed on: April 4, 1979

A teenage building society clerk, Josephine Whitaker was approached by Sutcliffe in Savile Park, Halifax where they got chatting. He hit her from behind with a hammer and again as she lay on the ground before dragging her into the darkness after hearing voices. He then stabbed her 21 times with a screwdriver in the chest and stomach as well as in the leg. Her skull had been fractured from ear to ear.   

Barbara Leach

Barbara Leach

Age: 20

Killed on: September 20, 1979

Barbara Leach was a university student, about to start her third and final year in social psychology. He spotted her while driving in Bradford and opened the car door to get out as she was walking towards him. He attacked her with a hammer and dragged her into a back yard, before stabbing her with the same screwdriver that he had used on Josephine Whitaker. He then placed her body in a distorted jack-knife position behind a low wall into an area where dustbins were usually kept, covering her body with an old piece of carpet and some stones. 

Marguerite Walls

Marguerite Walls

Age: 47

Killed on: August 20, 1980

A civil servant who worked at the Department of Education and Science office in Pudsey, Marguerite Walls was the Ripper’s twelfth victim. After spotting her in Leeds, he attacked her with a hammer blow, yelling ‘filthy prostitute’. He then looped rope around her neck and dragged her into a garden when he would strangle her and strip her of all her clothing except her tights. He partially covered the body with grass cuttings and leaves before making his escape. 

Jacqueline Hill

Jacqueline Hill

Age: 20

Killed on: November 17, 1980

An English student at Leeds University, Jacqueline Hill had taken the bus home from a meeting with probation service workers where she had applied to become a volunteer. Sutcliffe spotted and followed her before delivering a blow to her head as she was passing an opening.  Her body was discovered on a stretch of wasteland 100 yards from where she lived. She suffered four skull fractures and cuts to her head, a stab wound to her left breast and a stab wound to her right eye.  

The 62-year-old building site labourer, from Leeds, told MailOnline: ‘Thank God for that. It a great relief. The sooner the better.

‘It would have been a lot better if he had been hanged after he was convicted.

‘It would have save the country a lot of money and saved the families of the victims and the surviving victims a lot of heart ache.

‘Whenever Sutcliffe is mentioned I think of my mum. In fact I think of her every day. I have photos of my mum up all over the house.

‘She was taken too soon.’ 

The family of another Ripper victim, Olive Smelt, were also relieved that Sutcliffe had died and hit out at him being allowed to live in ‘luxury’ for so many years.

Mrs Smelt was attacked by Peter Sutcliffe in August 1975 – the Ripper’s second victim.

Then aged 46, she was struck twice on the head with a hammer and slashed with a pickaxe near her home in Halifax, West Yorkshire.

She survived the attack but passed away in 2011.

Daughter Julie Lowry said: ‘I think it’s about time, Sutcliffe should have died a long time ago.

‘He’s taken a lot of people’s lives away from them. I’m not sad, not at all

‘It’s a bit of closure. We’ve had to live with what he did all our lives. Not just us but all victims and their families, people whose lives he affected and destroyed.

‘I think he’s been kept in luxury for how many odd years, so I won’t shed a tear or share any grief at this news.’

However, the son of the Yorkshire Ripper’s first recognised victim said he reached out to the serial killer’s brother ‘to offer my condolences’ after hearing the news of his death.

Richard McCann was only five years old when his mother, Wilma McCann, was murdered in 1975.

He revealed he had been in touch with one of Peter Sutcliffe’s brothers, Carl, following the news that the murderer had died in prison on Friday.

Mr McCann told the BBC: ‘I gave him a call when I got the news to offer my condolences.

‘Carl Sutcliffe reached out to me many years ago when he read about my journey – he reached out to me with compassion and I felt the same.

‘I know he obviously did some horrendous things but he was still his brother so I felt like I wanted to call him.’

He said news of Sutcliffe’s death had brought him ‘some degree of closure’, but that he had never wished him dead, nor was he celebrating the news.

He said: ‘Every time we hear a news story about him, and my mum’s photo is often shown, it’s just another reminder of what he did.’

He said ‘one positive’ to come from Sutcliffe’s death is that ‘we’ll hear much less about him, and no more reminders about what happened all those years ago’.

A mother of four, Wilma McCann was just 28 when she was killed on playing fields in Chapeltown, Leeds, just yards from her home.

Her son said he was left terrified after his mother’s death, and when Sutcliffe killed Jayne MacDonald, who also lived in his street.

Mr McCann said: ‘I was convinced as a child, having had no therapy of any description, that he was out there and that he was going to kill me.’

He added: ‘It really affected me. I was ashamed of being associated with Sutcliffe and all his crimes and, possibly, to do with the way that lots of people in society looked down, and the police and some of the media – describing some of the women as innocent and some not so innocent.

‘I’m sorry to harp on about this but I’ve had to live with that shame for all these years.

‘There’s only one person that should have felt any shame – although I doubt that he did – and that was Peter Sutcliffe.’

Former Senior Officer from West Yorkshire Police, Bob Bridgestock, one of the first officers on the scene when Josephine Whittaker was attacked in 1979.

He said: ‘Peter Sutcliffe wasn’t an intelligent killer he was just brutal. He is in my mind, along with [Ian] Brady, a serial killer who will be detested until he is gone.

‘I have walked with my dog this morning and seen people say ‘good news, good riddance’. He destroyed lives as a brutal attacker of sex workers.

‘Then with Josephine Whittaker that opened it up and people in West Yorkshire were afraid to go out. 

‘I was 30 years as a detective, and what I found is it is the victims and the victims’ families that truly serve the life sentence.

‘For them today, they will have some kind of closure that he’s died. But it won’t bring any of the family members back.

‘The news in the media today will bring back sad memories for maybe of them. We should remember the victims not the killer.’

He added: ‘Today is about the families and they won’t shed a tear for him, but it will bring back terrible memories and the peace will come from knowing they won’t have to her about him anymore.’

Michael Bilton, former Sunday Times investigative journalist who wrote: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper told BBC Today: ‘My feelings today go out for the children of people he made motherless. 

‘The thing about this man’s crimes is the victims’ families and some of those who survived, he actually attacked an awful lot of women who survived, they can ever escape the memory of Peter Sutcliffe and what he had done.

‘He somehow managed to keep his notoriety going from inside Broadmoor and later inside prison.’

Meanwhile, retired detective Roger Parnell, who worked on the Ripper inquiry, rejected accusations the officers ‘did not care less’ about prostitute victims.

He told BBC Radio 5Live: ‘We certainly did, I can assure you we did.

‘These ladies were wives, they were mothers, they were sisters. And the inquiry did not change at the murder of Jayne MacDonald.

‘We were all determined from the beginning to catch the perpetrator of all these murders.

‘When I heard this morning that Peter Sutcliffe had died, I just could not care less, to be honest.’

Mr Parnell said: ‘The senior officers at the time …. they just swallowed hook, line and sinker the Wearside Jack tape.

‘Many of us, the officers on the ground, the DCs and the sergeants, we didn’t swallow this, to be quite honest.

‘We let our thoughts be known but we were ignored.’

The emotion showed on the face of the elderly mother of the Ripper’s final victim, Jacqueline Hill, today as she answered the door of her home in Middlesbrough.

Mrs Hill nodded when asked whether she had heard Sutcliffe had died, but said: ‘I’m sorry I don’t walk to talk about it.’

Her daughter, a former Sunday School teacher, was 20 when Sutcliffe bludgeoned her to death on a patch of waste ground near her student halls in Leeds on November 17th 1980.

He struck as Jacqueline was walking to the halls her parents, Mrs Hill and husband Jack, had persuaded her to move to for her own safety while the Ripper was on the loose.

Following her death many female students left their courses and went home. 

Jacqueline was studying English at Leeds University and on the night she was murdered she had been to a  meeting with probation service workers where she had applied to become a volunteer. 

The group decided to go to a nearby pub at the end of the meeting and Jacqueline was invited along.

The final-year student then took the bus home, which stopped 300 yards from her halls of residence around 9.20pm.

Her body was discovered on a stretch of wasteland 100 yards from where she lived. She suffered four skull fractures and cuts to her head, a stab wound to her left breast and a stab wound to her right eye.

One of the probation volunteers, who’d met Jacqueline that night, later said: ‘It never occurred to any of us that this was a risky thing to do.

‘This was just getting too much. If somebody could be killed at 9.15pm in the evening in a reasonably busy area – this just took it up a level, this has got to stop.’

Jacqueline’s death sparked marches in the streets by groups of women incensed that females were being given a night-time curfew. They believed it should have been men forced to stay indoors during hours of darkness.

Mrs Hill always maintained her daughter would be alive today but for shortcomings in the police investigation and in 2013 asked for an investigation into the way the enquiry was handled.

The serial killer, who murdered at least 13 women in the 1970s and 1980s, died today at the University Hospital of North Durham. 

A Prison Service spokesman said: ‘HMP Frankland prisoner Peter Coonan [born Sutcliffe] died in hospital on 13 November. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman has been informed’.

A source told The Sun: ‘No tears were shed. His death was as pitiful as the vile life he had lived.’

Sutcliffe was returned to HMP Frankland around ten days ago after a five-night stay in a local hospital with heart problems. 

However on his return to the jail’s  medical isolation unit Sutcliffe began to complain again of shortness of breath and chest pain, later testing positive for covid-19 on November 7. 

Sutcliffe was being monitored in isolation at the jail over the weekend when his health began to deteriorate. 

The notorious serial killer was then re-admitted to hospital on Sunday – but he has died five days later. 

It was his second stay at the University Hospital of North Durham in less than a week.

On his first visit he spent five nights there, from November 3, and was discharged after testing negative for Covid – he had complained of covid-19-like symptoms on admission to hospital.

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