Ripper detective wins £50,000 damages

A senior policeman has won £50,000 libel damages after being accused by a writer of setting up Ripper hoaxer John Humble.

Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Gregg, of West Yorkshire Police, was accused by Irish writer Noel O'Gara of "stitching up" John Humble as the writer of hoax letters and sender of a tape recording purporting to be from the Yorkshire Ripper.

In March 2006, Humble, of Flodden Road, Ford Estate, Sunderland, was jailed for eight years after admitting four counts of perverting the course of justice by producing the hoax material, which diverted police attention from the real Yorkshire Ripper's killing spree during the late 1970s.

But Mr O'Gara, author of a book on the Ripper, accused Mr Gregg of deliberately causing the conviction of an innocent man, being a party to DNA evidence being tampered with, and the mistreatment of Humble in his interviews.

Mr Gregg launched a libel action last year. In a hearing at the High Court in London, Mr Justice King entered "summary" judgment against Mr O'Gara after ruling he had no real prospect of successfully defending the libel case.

He said the writer, a wealthy landowner and accountant from Athlone, in County Westmeath, Ireland, had put forward no evidence to back up his claims and "no sources, other than his own imagination".

He had pursued a "persistent campaign of vilification against Mr Gregg", the judge added.

In his book, The Real Yorkshire Ripper, Mr O'Gara claimed that the real Yorkshire Ripper was not Peter Sutcliffe, the man jailed in 1981 for the murders of 13 women across the North of England.

He suggested that Sutcliffe was a copycat killer and that someone else was responsible for most of the killings as well as the "Wearside Jack" hoax letters and tape.

The theory came unstuck in 2005 when Humble pleaded guilty to being responsible for the hoax tapes.

Mr O'Gara then published the material which Mr Gregg complained of, hinting at a police "stitch-up" of Humble.

Mr Gregg said that he had been defamed in four pieces of material.

Mr O'Gara defended the libel claim on the grounds of "justification", that the meanings contained within the published material were substantially true.

But, entering judgment against the writer, the judge said nothing that Mr O'Gara had put before the court could contradict Mr Gregg's evidence in support of his own assertion that each of the allegations was "indisputably false".

There was evidence that Mr Gregg had never interviewed Humble and that the forensic evidence with which he was alleged to have tampered was never in his possession.

Importantly, there were Humble's own confessions. Even in a letter put before the court, written by Humble to Mr O'Gara, the serving prisoner had continued to profess his guilt, Mr Justice King said.

In the letter, sent after his conviction, Humble told Mr O'Gara that he was wrong to suggest that he had been framed or mistreated and went on to say that, although he disagreed with the length of his term, he knew he had to spend time in prison.

The judge said: "I have no doubt that there were extremely serious libels of a senior serving police officer."

The judge awarded damages of 50,000. He ordered that Mr O'Gara make an initial payment of 10,000 towards Mr Gregg's legal costs.

He refused the writer's application for leave to appeal, but Mr O'Gara said he would take the matter further.