21 January 21 1978
Saturday night
9:30 pm
Bradford Murdered 37 days

Yvonne Pearson, a 21-year-old prostitute, was murdered by the Yorkshire Ripper on January 21 1978, her body not being found until two months later.

On the night of January 21st, Yvonne Pearson left her two children in the care of a 16-year-old neighbour and went to the Flying Dutchman pub. She left there at around 9:30 to go "earn some money" as she told a friend before she departed. Yvonne was due in court in five days later on a charge of soliciting. It would not be her first conviction for the offence, and there was the prospect this time of going to prison.

Meanwhile, that night had found Peter Sutcliffe helping move his parents to a new home near to the Bingley centre. His brother Mick and his father John had assumed that he wanted to get home to Sonia as the reason for not staying for a drink. However, Peter Sutcliffe bypassed his home when driving from Bingley to Bradford and was soon cruising the territory of Lumb Lane.

As he was driving, he narrowly avoided getting into an accident when a car backed out of a side street in front of him, the driver obviously not looking where he was going. He braked and soon was surprised to see a blonde-haired woman dressed in a black sweater and black pants tap on the front passenger window, and then open the door. He asked where she had sprung from, and she said, "Just good timing. You can put it down to fate." They agreed on a price of £5, and soon were on their way to piece of waste ground at the back of Drummond's mill, where his father worked.

After Yvonne Pearson had gotten out of the car, Sutcliffe hit her over the head several times with a heavy walling hammer, which he had kept under his car seat. Almost immediately, another car appeared and pulled in alongside his. Sutcliffe pulled her body beside an old sofa, and, to stop her from moaning and making noise, he grabbed handfuls of horsehair from it and began stuffing it into her mouth and down her throat, at the same time as holding her nose. After a while, he released her nose to see if she was still making a noise, and as she was, grabbed it and held it again.

Eventually, the car parked alongside his drove away, to Sutcliffe it "seemed like hours" before it finally left. Left alone with his victim, he dragged her trousers down, bared her breasts, and proceeded to start kicking her in the head and and on the body. At one point he jumped down on her chest with the weight of both feet. Finally, he hid Yvonne Pearson by throwing soil, rubble, and turf on her body, and then covering the makeshift grave with the old sofa.

Yvonne Pearson was reported as missing the following Monday, but as there were concerns for her life, there was also the suspicion that she had "gone to ground" to avoid her impending court appearance. The police checked derelict areas, and inquired about her whereabouts with other police forces, but no information about her whereabouts was forthcoming.

On Easter Sunday, March 26 1978, a passerby saw an arm sticking out from under the old sofa, and a putrid smell assaulted his nose when he approached what he first thought was a tailor's dummy. Yvonne Pearson, her head beaten unrecognisable and her body rotting, was finally discovered.

The police were left with several puzzles. To begin with, they found it inconceivable that her body would not have been discovered earlier by someone with her arm sticking out so obviously, unless it had been moved by a dog. As well a copy of the Daily Mirror, dated February 21st, exactly one month after the murder, was found under one of her arms, looking, apparently, deliberately placed. Peter Sutcliffe would later deny that he had returned to the body, continuing the mystery.

The second, and more important puzzle, was whether or not it was a Yorkshire Ripper killing. There were the massive head wounds, but Professor David Gee's examination led him to believe they had been caused by a boulder, and not a hammer. There weren't any stab wounds, but her clothing had been arranged in typical Ripper fashion, her bra and sweater above the breast, her other clothing dragged down. At first, the police discounted it as a Ripper killing, but later it was included in his catalogue of murders and attacks.


"The one I did after Moore was Yvonne Pearson at Bradford. I was driving along Lumb Lane, in my red Corsair, from the City Centre. A light grey or fawn Mark II Cortina started backing out of Southfield Square on my left as I approached, so I slowed down to let it out. That's when I saw Yvonne Pearson, she was blond and was wearing dark trousers. On reflection it was a very fateful moment for her, me just slowing down as she came along."

"She stepped straight up to the car as I stopped and tapped on the window. She asked me if I wanted business. This was one time when I was genuinely going home as it happened, but I still had a hammer in the car on the floor, under my seat. I told her to get in. She suggested that I turn the car round and she told me where to drive."

"I drove back along Lumb Lane, past Drummond Mill, turned right down a road onto White Abbey Road, and I was directed to turn by Yvonne left into a street behind Silvios Bakery. I drove to the very end of this street where there was a large open space like a parking space and parked the car."

"I asked her how much she wanted. She said, 'It depends how much you can afford.' 'A good time £5, more than a good time £10.' She had very few words to say after that, the last words she said was, 'Shall we get into the back?' We both got out and she went round to the back door of the car on the nearside, she tried to open it but it was locked. I opened the front passenger door, reached in, and opened the rear door catch."

"As she opened the door, I hit her from behind twice on the head with the hammer. She fell down and started to moan loudly. I dragged her by the feet on her back about 20 yards or so to where there was an old settee lying on its back on some spare land. When I got her to the settee she was still moaning loudly. At that moment a car drove up and parked next to my car."

"I saw there was blond woman in the car and a man driving. To stop her moaning, I took some filling from the settee, I held her nose and shoved the straw into her mouth, then I shoved it down her throat. I was kneeling behind the settee, hiding from the motor car, keeping hold of her nose."

"I let go after a while to see if she was still making a noise through her nose, but when I did, she started again, so I took hold of her nose again. The car seemed to be there for ages before it drove away. I stayed still, petrified with fear while the car was there."

"When the car had gone I was seething with rage. Her jeans were nearly off, because she had undone them at the car, and when I was pulling her by the feet I nearly pulled them off. I pulled her jeans right off. I think I kicked her hard to the head and body. I was senseless with rage and I was kicking away furiously at her."

"After this, I remember acting very strangely, I talked to her and apologised for what I had done, but she was dead. I put the settee on top of her. I was very distraught and I was in tears when I left her. This was the first time I had apologised to someone I had killed. I drove home, I cannot recall the time, but it was after 9.0pm. I can't remember if Sonja was in the house or not."

"I remember stopping on the way home and I just sat in the car trying to work out why I had done this killing. My mind was in a turmoil. Oh, I've just remembered it might have been a walling hammer that I used on Yvonne, there was two walling hammers in the garage of the house when I moved in. I remember I put one in the car when I threw the other one away at Sharps. It might still be in the garage somewhere."

"I kept reading the papers and I found it incredible to believe that she hadn't been found. I read a story that she had gone to Wolverhampton. I didn't dare go back to where she lay, there was no reason to go back."

OTHER STATEMENTS BY PETER SUTCLIFFE (Further confessions, trial testimony, conversations, etc.)

"It was a sequence of events. I was simply on my way home from work at the time. As I was proceeding along Lumb Lane, a car backed out into the road. He obviously hadn't looked where he was going and I had to stop suddenly. She came straight round the same corner the car had reversed from."

"She tapped on the window and opened the door. It was a complete surprise to me because I wasn't looking for a prostitute at all. She said, 'Are you' - you know, having business or something. I asked her where she sprung from because it happened so suddenly. She said, 'It's good timing, or you can put it down to fate.' Unfortunately for her, I thought this was my direct signal.

I had a hammer on the car floor, and she said very little after that. I took her to where she wanted to go and after I killed her I apologised. I said I was sorry and she could get up, and that she would be all right. She didn't and I realise it was meant to be."

(Statement made by Peter Sutcliffe during his testimony at his trial. Source: The Times.)

(NOTE: Source material (details): Burn, Cross, Jones, Yallop. Source material (quotes): "Statement Of Peter William Sutcliffe", The Times. Photo source: Cross.)