This is the title of a book published in 1984 by Heinemann, London. It was
researched for two years, mainly with Peter Sutcliffe's family, friends
and acquaintances, by Sunday Times journalist, Gordon Burn. Nobody knew
more about the life and habits of Sutcliffe than Sonia Szurma who was
married to him in August 1974, after a courtship of six years.
Peter & Sonia Sutcliffe (left) - the Sutcliffe home
(centre) - Peter Sutcliffe (right)
Sutcliffe's first assault on an ordinary woman was
committed the following July, after less than 12 months of living with
Then, in August 1975, he committed 2 further unprovoked
assaults, one on a housewife walking home from a pub in Halifax, and the
other on a 14 year old schoolgirl in Keighley.
Sutcliffe vented his hatred
for Sonia on these females. There was little known about Sonia until
Gordon Burn's book was published. She had always attempted to portray the
image of an innocent housewife totally ignorant of a devious husband's
Here are some extracts which reveal the woman who was the cause of
Sutcliffe's unprovoked attacks on women (authors comments in yellow)...
When Peter first brought her home to visit his family. As the expected
breakthrough with Sonia failed to happen, Peter's father, in common with
the rest of the family, started to find his patience running out. 'How the
devil is that girl going to make a school teacher? How is she going to do
it? he'd wonder in exasperation at the end of another day in which Sonia
would have done nothing but sit and twiddle her thumbs. 'She just doesn't
have any conversation.'
She didn't seem to want to talk, and when she did it was in a whisper, so
that, half the time, you couldn't hear what she was saying. What they had
been prepared to overlook as shyness, after several months started to look
like arrogance; the popular interpretation of the sullen reserve which
Sonia so effortlessly maintained was that she was sitting in judgment on
Peter's sister, Maureen, had a baby, Rachel. "Unlike Peter, who bombarded
her with baby-talk and wet-nursed Rachel 'like a woman', Sonia made her
lack of interest plain, persuaded to hold the baby on one occasion, she
simply opened her arms and dropped it when it started to cry, letting it
fall heavily into a pram Peter's brother, Mick, said of her, "Putting it
crudely, he thought she 'looked like a fuckin horse.' Mick took an instant
dislike to Sonia and this, it became clear, was entirely mutual. An incident that took
place on one of her earliest visits helped set the seal on what was always
to be an uneasy relationship, no matter how badly Peter wanted them to get
on. She said to me mother one day and she'd only been in house on three or
four visits then, she says: 'Will you make me a cup of tea, without any
sugar, please ? We all looked round, like. Is she talking to me? I
thought, "Bloody hell, what a pillock." Any other lass'd probably say
D'you mind if I put the kettle on, I'm a bit dry?" But this was: "Will you
get up and make me a cup of tea?" Sort of, Now! She was really highly
At the heart of the problem - and it was a feeling that Mick shared to a
greater or lesser extent with all the rest of his family - was that Sonia
seemed to radiate disapproval. People tended to feel inhibited by her
presence in a room." "But she certainly thought she was well above
everybody else." "Sonia never really opened up. 'I am not a gushing
person', she would later say in the sort of tart understatement for which
she had become renowned."
The Bisbys, Peter's neighbours, who used to be visited by Peter and Sonia,
said " He was particularly fond of the children, with whom he seemed 'on
the same wavelength' although, as far as Sonia was concerned, they might
as well not have been there. She was difficult and reserved." "Sonia,
previously mute on her visits to Cornwall Road, started to make her
presence felt, albeit indirectly. 'Come here a moment', she'd say to
Peter, ordering him out of the living-room and into the kitchen, where she
could be heard 'quietly upbraiding' him for something that he had said or
done which didn't meet with her approval.
Sometimes, though, she'd just slap him down without bothering to extricate
him from the family which left his father open-mouthed in disbelief.
"But she'd just look at him when he was getting over-excited and say
"Peter!" and he'd immediately calm down. She could bring him down just
like that. Just by the way she'd look at him. Just like a schoolteacher
telling a naughty boy in the class to behave by saying his name out loud
in front of everybody. She could do that with him, quite effectively.
While in London, studying to become a teacher "Although still detached and
uncommunicative in class, in private she had become prone to unprovoked
outbursts of rage and agitation that would eventually be identified as
symptoms of her schizophrenia. Peter, on occasion, was forced to contain
her physically by pinning her arms to her sides, but as well as being
unpredictable and violent, she also seemed to be wasting away."
"Convinced that 'all the machinery was stopping and the world was coming
to an end," Sonia had wandered out into the street at night in her pyjamas
where she had been apprehended and later admitted to a Bexley hospital.
The next time Peter saw her was after her transfer to the Linfield Mount
psychiatric hospital in Bradford, and he was dismayed.
He thought she looked grey and 'terrible'; she thought he was an aeroplane
Among her other delusions was that she was the 'second Christ' - she could
'see' the stigmata on her hands. She was also restless and shrill and
insistent that she wanted a 'bigger teddybear.' But a few months after
coming out of hospital, Sonia suffered a relapse; this time, part of the
pattern of her generally disturbed and frenetic behaviour included tearing
her clothes off in public or at odd times at home, such as in the middle
of a meal."
Left alone with Peter's 15 year old sister Jean once, "I were just sitting
quiet, reading, when Sonia stood up an' did a little twirl in front of the
settee. "Guess who I am today?" she said. She were just wearing a
summer cotton frock, a shawl an' these silver sandals. "Cinderella," she
said. I thought, "Oh, bloody hell....... "
Peter started dating Sonia in 1967 when she was 16. Sonia's mental
abnormality started in May 1972. She married Peter in August 1974.
Peter & Sonia Sutcliffe
There was difficulty getting a best man for the wedding. Peter's brother
Mick let it be known he would not do it "because of what he's marrying."
They lived with her parents in their back bedroom
for the next three years in what were extremely difficult circumstances.
After 11 months of this life with the Szurmas Peter Sutcliffe cracked and
took his hatred for Sonia out on a Mrs Anna Rogulsky by a vicious attack
with a stone-loaded sock. He clearly didn't intend to murder her or the
On her attitude to children, Sonia said to Peter's sister, "No, they just
keep you poor, do kids."
The sexual side of the relationship can be judged by her putting a towel
under her backside and telling him to get it over with so as not to soil
Peter had saved for 3 years to put a deposit on a house in Heaton for
Sonia. The first Saturday night in his new home he went to Manchester and
assaulted Jean Jordan, then hid her in a double hedge. On 9th October
1977, 8 days after he had assaulted Manchester prostitute, Jean Jordan,
Peter and Sonia gave a house warming party to his family. The potatoes
were so hard, his sister Jane knocked one off her plate as she tried to
put a fork in it. Everyone laughed heartily for 2 hours, except Sonia.
That night after leaving his family home, Peter
drove to Manchester and pulled the dead body of Jean Jordan from a hedge
and attempted to cut it up. He placed a fresh £5 note in her handbag which
led the Manchester police to him via his employers, on what was to be the
first of 12 police interviews.. The Jordan murder was not regarded as a
The next time Peter's parents were invited to Sonia's new home was
Christmas week 1977. "The only trouble was that it was under-heated. With
the exception of Sonia and her mother, who were wearing layers of
cardigans and jumpers and knitted 'leggings', everybody was freezing.
Kathleen (Peter's mother) was particularly susceptible to the cold because
of the poor state of her health, and John was forced to bend down and
switch on the electric fire in the living-room himself when neither Peter
nor Sonia volunteered. Within quarter of an hour, though, Kathleen, who
had drawn her chair close to the only source of heat, was shivering again,
the fire was off and they could only assume the reason it refused to
relight was because the power had been turned off at the mains. Kathleen
spent what was left of the evening sitting huddled in her winter coat, and
this time even Peter's customary 'daftness' couldn't rescue the situation.
When she got home that night, his mother swore she would never set foot in
Garden Lane again, and she never did."
"To see Peter and Sonia together in one of the local pubs
at all after they were married was considered something of an event. It
wasn't unknown for her to sit outside in the car while he had a drink with
one or other of his family, or for Sonia to come and get him if she felt
she had been kept waiting too long. 'A boring woman' was her
brother-in-law, Robin Holland's conclusion."
Peter's younger brother, Carl, used to visit him on weekends. He said "it
was a rare weekend he didn't sense an atmosphere. "She resented Peter
being with him." Those who only knew Sonia as the shy, softly spoken
schoolteacher and they included Peter's father found it difficult to
imagine her in this other, dominant role for a long time. Listening to his
complaints about her nagging, John once found himself saying as much to
Peter, only to be assured that, at home, she was 'all mouth.'
Describing her mean nature. Carl said "He
assumed that was the reason they sat on hard chairs in the kitchen most of
the time, ignoring the bigger, more comfortable rooms in the rest of the
house. 'You'd go up, say in the morning, and you'd sit in there all
through until 6.00. Then Peter might suggest having a look at what was on
the telly but they would never put fire on an' it were freezing. Really
cold. An' they'd have the telly on really quiet as well, You couldn't even
hear it. You had to strain your ears.'"
When there was only the two of them at home, Sonia frequently took
exception to Peter having the television on at all, and would snatch the
plug from the wall. She would also 'tease' him by refusing to let him read
a newspaper, swiping at his head and kicking him, and screaming at him so
hard sometimes that he was sure the neighbours must be able to hear. But
he would remain quite impassive, holding her arms at her side until she
calmed down, but never hit her. He would leave the house rather than raise
There was always 'hell to pay' if Peter ever entered the house with his
boots on or put any of his clothes in the washing machine: he had remained
sensitive about the smell his socks made anyway, and was happy to wash all
his own clothes by hand in the kitchen sink. Sonia's obsession with
cleanliness stretched to cleaning the carpets inch-by-inch with a brush
and pan and working on the house at all hours of the day and night.
'I'd have buried her in back garden by now, if it were me', was a thought
that Carl shared only with Mick. When Mick wanted to take Peter out for a
drink Sonia would say "He's not going anywhere. He's doing this, and when
he's finished he's doing that and that.."
'Like he might be out three nights wi' wagon around country somewhere an'
he'd come back bloody jiggered about four in the afternoon after driving
all of the night and most of the day as well. Obviously he wanted to go to
bed, have a few hours sleep, like, but no, he had to come in an' start on
bloody decorating. She used to start first thing in the morning and go
right through day practically non-stop and all through night till mebbe
five in the morning. Then she'd expect him to get straight on it, soon as
he came in. She were cleaning fanatic. There were always summat."
Regarding Sonia's cooking ability 'Wherever they were though, Mick noticed
that his brother always tried to eat plenty of 'proper' food, before going
home to whatever Sonia might have ready for him. 'She used to make him
little bowls of spicy stuff an' that weren't fillin' or owt I've known him
to have his dinner there then shoot out an' have fish and chips twice an'
guzzle 'em like, in motor. Sometimes he used to come to me mother's in
From September 1978, Peter's assaults and 2 Copy-Cat
murders were included in the Ripper frame by the police because of the
Ripper's letters. He had been interviewed by the Ripper squad several
times before 1980 commenced.
"Peter seemed to spend most of the time when he was round at Carl's place,
which he tended to be increasingly, complaining about Sonia's incessant
nagging. 'She'd been on at me again', were often his first words after
he'd sat down. And it seemed to get worse as 1980 wore on, until Carl got
the impression that 'he were fed up wi' whole job, fed up wi' whole affair
completely.' He had packed his bags on two separate occasions, intending
to leave. On the evidence of his own experience Carl had started to feel
that maybe Sonia was 'cracking up.' Always pernickety, by the beginning of
1980, she had started taking her obsession with cleanliness to 'weird'
extremes: 'If she come to a chair. in a pub, the pictures, somebody's
house, any chair, she wouldn't just sit down. She'd blow on it, an' start
brushing and dusting it with her cuff. She'd spend a good two minutes
going like that before she'd Plonk herself down."
In November 1980, the month Peter committed his last
2 attacks, Sonia announced her home was not for sale. "This
coincided with a change in her appearance that left Barbara Bowman, a
neighbour, feeling stunned : Sonia come out of the house one day with the
'long, beautiful hair' that she had always worn down her back, crudely
hacked off. 'I said at the time "That wasn't done by any hairdresser."
She'd obviously done it herself. "
While Peter was being held in custody, the police visited Sonia at her
home. She was watching T.V. "She lowered the sound but declined to give
the police her undivided attention until Det. Chief Supt. Holland walked
up to the set and turned it off. She would eventually report him to his
superiors for 'discourteous behaviour.'
They quickly embarked on a search of what one of them would later describe
as 'one of the most meticulous - as well as one of the coldest' houses he
had ever seen : 'There wasn't a thread out of place. Everything from the
facecloths in the bathroom to worn-out clothes down to shoe rags, were
folded to a sharp crease. There were crochet-covers over the covers over
the living-room suite."
The quiet Sheffield street where Sutcliffe was apprehended
Olivia Reivers (left) & Denise Hall
Light Trades House, where Sutcliffe was arrested (A)
showing the oil tank where he hid a hammer (B)
Police Constable Robert Hydes (left) & Sergeant Robert
Ring, the arresting officers
In Dewsbury police station, Peter Sutcliffe was
waiting for an opportunity to confess. Inspector John Boyle was talking to
Boyle continued... I believe you put the false number plates on to
conceal the identity of the vehicle in the red-light district."
Sutcliffe "That is not true. To be honest with you, I've been so depressed
that I put them on because I was thinking of committing a crime with the
car." Boyle " Why did you leave your car and go to the side of that
Sutcliffe " To urinate."
Boyle "I think you went for another purpose. Do you understand what I am
saying? I think you are in serious trouble."
Sutcliffe " I think you have been leading up to it."
Boyle " Leading up to what?"
Sutcliffe " The Yorkshire Ripper"
Boyle "What about the Yorkshire Ripper?"
Sutcliffe " Well, it's me. I'm glad its all over"
He made only one request - that he be the one, to tell Sonia. When she was
brought to him, he said "It's me." She said "Is it? Is it really?" She
didn't cry or show emotion for an hour and a half when she was told of the
huge press interest in the Ripper.
From there on Sonia concentrated on the financial
Prospects of being the wife of the Yorkshire Ripper which culminated in
the High Court in London in May 1989 as she sought damages for an alleged
libel against Private Eye, who merely reported the press activities to
sign her up for her story.
Four months after his arrest and while still on remand. "Sonia was the
only one still seeing her husband. The family's verdict was that she had
always wanted him to herself, and now, by 'poisoning his mind' against
them, she had got him. No member of his family ever saw Peter while he was
on remand in Armley without Sonia also being present. 'I never got the
chance to really talk to him in depth, because she kept this running
commentary going all the time.'
'"What 'finally killed the pig' for Peter's father, though, was the
morning he turned up outside Armley with Maureen and Maureen's two
children, and waited for an hour and a quarter in the rain, only to be
told that Peter had left instructions that he only wanted to see his wife
that day. As they turned to leave, Sonia brushed past them without
speaking and rang the bell to be let in. 'That was when I realised she
controlled him.' It was the last time he was to see either Sonia or his
Sonia was there when Mick got a word in to Peter on his first visit:
'When you tell me, then I'll start taking it in. So have you done it or
what?' An' he says, 'I haven't done 'em all. I'll tell you that now. But
I've done six or seven of them, aye." So I says, 'Well, that's it then,"
an' we sat down."
What Carl knew was mainly what his brother had told him on his first visit
to see him in Armley. "He said he hadn't done them all." He said to me,
"They aren't really as bad as they say." "He hadn't really ripped them to
bits", he said."
In July 1981 the Daily Star published a book
entitled The Yorkshire Ripper. It was written by John Beattie. Quotes....
"Peter Sutcliffe wrote to his brother Mick. "Don't take so much notice of
any ignorant talk about me as the public in general know absolutely
nothing about me or the type of person I am. It is all absolute rubbish
that has been printed so far."
In another letter to Carl he says. "Don't feel too bad because soon you
will know the whole truth of this matter."
In every case the reaction was one of stunned disbelief.
Sonia's mother, Maria Szurma, told reporters: "We just can't believe it.
Peter is so loving, so generous, so thoughtful. He would do anything for
anyone if he could. Nothing was too much trouble for him."
"I just can't believe Peter is the man who killed 13 women. It is not
possible. I will not believe it. Even if it comes from his own mouth I
will never accept that he is the Yorkshire Ripper. He was worried about
the Ripper and used to drive me about when I had to go out at night so I
would be safe."
The foregoing is only a small sample of published
accounts which give an insight into the quality of married life with Sonia
in the back room of her strict parents home. The offer of a private room
in a luxury mental home with T.V. and choice of menu as well as room
service, albeit with limited freedom, was an option Peter Sutcliffe
grasped when it presented itself later. He was going to prison for his own
murders, so any deal he could do by "confessing" to murders he hadn't done
could only be to his advantage.