The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, might have been apprehended earlier if the initial detective who linked the crimes to a serial killer had maintained leadership over the investigation, according to a senior judge.
After evading capture for several years, Peter Sutcliffe, was arrested in 1981. He was picked up by chance in an area known as Sheffield’s red light district with a 24-year-old sex worker. He had taken the lives of 13 women and attempted to kill seven more during his reign of terror from 1975 to 1980.
His Honour Judge Barrington Black, a distinguished legal figure who concluded his illustrious career as a Supreme Justice of Gibraltar prior to retirement at 82, posits that Sutcliffe could have been stopped sooner if the capable detective he knew well had been allowed to oversee what would become a mishandled investigation, as reported by The Daily Mail.
Dennis Hoban, a police officer from Leeds, played by Toby Jones in the ITV drama The Long Shadow was recognised as one of the first law enforcement officials to treat the case with gravity and connect Sutcliffe’s murders.
Hoban was assigned to the case after the first known murder attributed to the Ripper – the brutal killing of Wilma McCann, a 28-year-old mother of four.
The ITV drama documents the lives of the victims of and Sutcliffe crimes, giving them a voice first aired on the 25th September.
Judge Black commented, “I feel that Dennis Hoban may have done better, as he had good luck on his side. He had a reputation for picking up villains out of thin air.”
Judge Black cited an incident where Hoban overheard a group of men discussing their stolen collection of expensive fur coats from a van. Hoban cleverly befriended them and led them to Chapel Allerton police station, under the guise of showing them a hiding spot.
Rising through the ranks of West Yorkshire Police from an early departure from school at age 14, he eventually led Leeds CID.
However, DCI Hoban, recognised for his distinctive style and dedication to duty, relied not only on luck but also on relentless commitment. Working tirelessly for 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, Hoban, along with his partner Jim Hobson, was widely esteemed in the Leeds area for their integrity and exceptional contributions, especially during a time when policing methods were relatively crude and corruption was prevalent.
Hoban had an amiable relationship with the media and was highly regarded, posthumously honoured with an annual trophy by Yorkshire journalists for exceptional detective work. As Detective Chief Superintendent, he initially spearheaded the murder investigation, later replaced by DCS Jim Hobson.
Hoban, renowned for his intuition and keen detective skills, tragically passed away in March 1978 at age 52 due to complications from diabetes, three years before Sutcliffe was eventually apprehended.