Arguably, his arrest was delayed by the hoax letters and tapes sent to the police and which set them off on a false trail. I remember a massive advertising campaign about the tapes – and it was thought that, because of the accent of the voice on the recordings, that the Ripper came from Sunderland. In fact, Sutcliffe came from West Yorkshire, where most of his crimes were committed.
I’ve just watched an interesting television programme on the hoax tapes which details the arrest of the man who was actually responsible for them – an alcoholic named John Humble. Apparently, Humble became depressed after sending the tapes, and attempted suicide. He also phoned a message to the police to say that the tapes were phoney, but did not give enough detail to substantiate his claim. He was only caught a few years back, thanks to advances in DNA testing, and was sentenced to eight years in prison (though presumably he will soon be released, if he is not out already.)
Humble was asked what his motive was, and his answer was ‘notoriety’. A sick twist on the celebrity culture, I suppose. The programme was a sobering reminder of Britain’s biggest manhunt, and a shocking episode in our history. Humble appears in many ways to be a pathetic character, and by misleading investigators who had become desperate for a lead, it is arguable that his hoax cost the lives of a number of young women. How sad, and what a pointless waste of life.