Review: The Ripper

Context: This show is a documentary about the killing of several women in Yorkshire during the late 1970s. 


If you are a true crime nut like I am, then you will enjoy the four-episode original Netflix documentary series titled The Ripper. The series will have you frustrated, anguished, enthralled, and horrified throughout, and perhaps double and triple checking all doors and windows are locked before bedtime.  

The Ripper tells the story of a series of horrific serial killings that occurred in West Yorkshire, England between 1975 and 1980. The killer left law enforcement officials baffled for five long years while terrorising the young women of the community. The Yorkshire Ripper, born Peter Sutcliffe, most likely killed 13 women during his reign of terror, but also attacked several others.  

Sutcliffe earned this grisly moniker because of the similarities between his killings and the Jack the Ripper killings in the Whitechapel area of London during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Sutcliffe’s targets were, at times, sex workers, and he often used a knife to slash and stab his victims. His first official victim died on the night of 30 October 1975, and he murdered his last victim in November 1980. 

The Yorkshire police interviewed Sutcliffe at least nine times as a person of interest, but because of insufficient organisation and lack of cross-referencing information on the case, he flew below the radar. Sutcliffe’s arrest came when a patrol officer discovered him parked in his car, accompanied by a prostitute. When police later returned to the scene, they discovered that Sutcliffe had disposed of a hammer, knife, and rope – all tools of the Yorkshire Ripper.  

Most of your frustration will come from the way in which the police and media handled the investigation. Because some of the victims were sex workers, one gets the impression that the police did not give as much attention as they should have to the first few deaths, as the women were not respected by society, actively shunned for their occupation. The process of inquiry evolved, however, when the Ripper started to target university students and women deemed ‘innocent’. In fact, the fledgling movement called Take Back the Night, a non-profit organisation focused on stopping violence against women, saw more support during this time of fear. Several of these organisations included those who had survived Sutcliffe’s attacks. The assaults had occurred at night, a factor that prompted law enforcement to suggest curfews for women. But why should women fear venturing out after dark? Why should women constantly be on guard, constantly fearing that they would be a victim of male violence? This issue is addressed several times throughout the four episodes and created an interesting frame in the rest of the documentary. 

I grew up and live in the United States where the majority of the world’s serial killings have occurred. Reflecting back on the most famous of these serial killings, one will quickly take note that the 1970s and 1980s were fraught with them: from Jeffrey Dahmer to Ted Bundy to the Zodiac Killer to Richard Ramirez to John Wayne Gacy… It makes you wonder why these decades saw such horrible murders.  

Rating: A solid 3.5 out of 5 stars 

By Jenn Gosselin 

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