On Monday 5 January, when Peter Sutcliffe appeared in the magistrates court in Dewsbury, the question that had plagued the British public for the past five years was answered. Everyone now knew the identity of the Yorkshire Ripper. The question as to why he had killed thirteen women and left seven more so brutalised that they would wish they too had died was answered on Tuesday 6 January.
Peter Sutcliffe told police that in 1967, at the age of twenty, he had heard the voice of God speak to him as he worked at Bingley cemetery. He would claim that he had first heard that voice while digging a grave. He stated that the voice had led him to a cross-shaped headstone upon which were written the Polish words JEGO, WEHBY and ECHO. It was this same voice that had ordered him to kill prostitutes. Police officials were satisfied that Peter Sutcliffe was mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and should be incarcerated in an institution for the insane.
Mr. Justice Boreham was not as sure as the police, the psychiatrists, the prosecution and Sutcliffes defence counsel. They had made their conclusions purely on the basis of what Sutcliffe had told them. It seemed very likely that Sutcliffe could be lying. Sutcliffe had been overheard telling his wife that he might be able to reduce his sentence to as little as ten years if he could convince everyone that he was mad. Boreham informed the Attorney General, Sir Michael Havers, of his decision that Peter Sutcliffe should go to trial before a jury of twelve members of the public. They would decide whether Peter Sutcliffe was mad or guilty of the crime of murder.
The trial would last fourteen days and it would take the six men and six women of the jury six hours to make their decision. Like the deliberations of any jury in a murder case, there was much discussion, but unlike in any other case, this jury did not discuss whether or not Peter William Sutcliffe had committed the crime of murder. It was the responsibility of this jury to determine the true mental state of Peter Sutcliffe. The prosecution had put before them the possibility that Sutcliffe had been lying when he told police about the voice of God, which had ordered him to kill. The defence, with the help of many psychiatrists, had attempted to prove that the story was true.
On Friday 22 May 1981, Peter Sutcliffe stood before the jury as the jury foreman declared the decision that Peter William Sutcliffe was guilty of thirteen counts of murder. Ten of these twelve men and women believed that Peter William Sutcliffe was not insane, but was in fact an evil and sadistic murderer.
Five years of terror and pain for so many women, their parents, relatives, friends and their thirty-six children came to a sudden end when Peter William Sutcliffe, the notorious Yorkshire Ripper was led away from the dock, showing no emotion, to begin his sentence of life imprisonment. Justice appeared to be served, but the scars would never heal for those who survived the carnage wrought by the hand of one man.