An article on how errors can be compounded from book to book.

One of the problems of reading books on true events is the fact that sometimes, usually unintentionally, an error of serious consequence is found that works its way into the true story, and is later compounded by other authors using that book as a resource.

For example, after Emily Jackson was murdered, there was a news report that the murderer had driven off in Emily Jackson's van, since the publican had failed to see it at closing time. Meanwhile, Sydney Jackson confirmed that the van had not moved and that he had, in fact, locked it before taking a taxi to go home. Naturally the story grew that the killer, after murdering Emily Jackson, had cheekily brought the van back to the pub and a myth about the killings began. This "fact" was also included in the first two Yorkshire Ripper books published (Kinsley & Smyth, and Nicholson). David Yallop, in his book, Deliver Us From Evil, pointed out this error, and how the story had grown. Other than it appearing in Beattie's book, subsequent books on the Yorkshire Ripper, fortunately, did not continue the story.

The following regrettable error, while never in full-length books on the Yorkshire Ripper, is reflective of how an error can be transported from book to book without correction, which could have been done by simply checking other resources, especially a full-length book on the crimes.

As a background to the error, Marguerite Walls was murdered on August 20 1980, Upadhya Bandara was attacked on September 24 1980, and Theresa Sykes was attacked on November 5 1980. Twelve days later, November 17 1980, was the final known murder by the Yorkshire Ripper, that of Jacqueline Hill.

Colin Wilson, with Donald Seaman, in their book "Encyclopedia Of Modern Murder 1962-1983" (1986) begins 1979 with the murder of Josephine Whitaker in April and mentions the murder Barbara Leach in September, and then the murder of Marguerite Walls as being on August 20, which, chronologically, would be the next year, 1980. Unfortunately, they then mention that the attack on Upadhya Bandara took place in October 1979, (thereby moving the murder back a year to 1979) followed by the attack on Theresa Sykes "a few weeks later" in November. It goes on to say: "Possibly it was this close shave with capture (referring to nearly being caught by Theresa Sykes' boyfriend) that made Sutcliffe lie low for a while. His final murder took place more than a year later".

The error seed had been sown.

Compounding this error in his own books, Colin Wilson, along with Damon Wilson, in the book "World Famous Serial Killers" (1992) has an article on the Yorkshire Ripper which is basically a re-write of the 1986 article. It now states, however, that there were three murders in 1979, with the final murder over a year later. Alas, Marguerite Walls murder is firmly placed in 1979. A later book, "A Plague Of Murder" (1995) while not specifically mentioning the victims by name, talks of the attacks and murders and says "two more in the autumn of 1979 when the victims survived."

This error can also be seen in two other books I have (and there could be other examples) showing what resource the authors used for writing their book.

Michael Newton's "Hunting Humans, The Encyclopedia Of Serial Killers, Volume 1" (1990) also has Marguerite Walls murder taking place in 1979, but must have noticed that chronologically it should have been listed before Barbara Leach, so states: "twelve days later Sutcliffe slaughters co-ed Barbara Leach". He also mentions attacks in October and November, and Sutcliffe's "vacation" for a year before murdering Jacqueline Hill.

Andrew Boot's "Psychic Murder Hunters" (1994) book is filled with errors about the case. As an example, the attack on Theresa Sykes is most entertaining, and fictional: "Theresa Sykes walked to the bottom of her garden with her boyfriend to say goodnight. He left her standing at the gate as he made his way home. Theresa was sixteen and in love: she stood looking at the moonlit sky, thinking about her future together with her boyfriend. It was an idyll from which she was suddenly rudely awakened." It goes on to say Sutcliffe attacked her, and her boyfriend rushes back to save her. Alas, the real story is hardly as romantic as the above version. Theresa Sykes was attacked on her way home from buying a package of cigarettes, and her boyfriend, and father of their child, came rushing out of the house out to help her. The book also states that Marguerite Walls was killed in 1979 before Barbara Leach, and places the attack on Upadhya Bandara in October of 1979 and the attack on Theresa Sykes in 1979, clearly indicating the source for those errors in dates.

Another example of where an error in dates can cause confusion is that during the Yorkshire Ripper case, the police were looking at other cases which might be linked to the Ripper murders. One such case was the murder of Mary Judge, a 43-year-old prostitute, who was found naked and battered to death on waste ground near the Leeds Parish Church.

In the book by David Yallop, it says the murder took place in 1970. Two other books, one by Peter Kinsley and Frank Smyth, and the other by Roger Cross, both stated that after the Emily Jackson murder (in 1976) the police were looking at the murder of Mary Judge six years previously, therefore again in 1970. However, a May 4 1997 article in the Electronic Telegraph (the website of the Daily Telegraph) stated that her murder took place on February 26 1968, not in 1970. I still don't know which date is correct, but it has an important bearing on whether Sutcliffe could be responsible for the murder. If it is in 1968, before the 1969 stone-in-sock attack and before Sutcliffe's arrest weeks later for "going equipped for theft" when he was really out with a hammer intending to use it on a prostitute, then it would be extremely doubtful that it could be an attack of his. If it is 1970, then it remains a possibility to be explored. (EDIT: further research revealed that the murder was in 1968.)

Keith Brannen - May 2000