Unique memento of 'Wearside Jack' investigation up for sale

Police picture of John Humble
Police picture of John Humble

A unique reminder of one of Sunderland’s most notorious crimes will be up for sale next week.

West Yorkshire Police Detective Sergeant Stuart Smith was one of the leading officers in the search, arrest and conviction of John Humble - the Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer dubbed ‘Wearside Jack.’

The complete lot

The complete lot

Sgt Smith not only arrested Humble at his Ford Estate home, but also oversaw the interviews that led to his confession, for which he received a commendation.

Now his police medal trio, including his Police Long Service and Good Conduct medals, Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal 2012, are up for auction, along with newspaper cuttings, a summary of his Commendations, facsimile paperwork, Crimewatch DVD, letter of thanks and a signed copy of “Wicked Beyond Belief”, the full story of Humble’s identification, arrest and conviction.

Lot 738 will be on offer at Sheffield Auction Gallery on Friday, September 22.

John Humble was just 22 when he began writing the letters to police which would catastrophically derail the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.

Sgt Smith's police medals

Sgt Smith's police medals

In total, he sent police three letters and an audio tape, a hoax which saw detectives shift the focus of their manhunt from Yorkshire to Sunderland.

The tape in particular, which directly taunted the head of the Ripper team West Yorkshire Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield, convinced officers to focus their attentions on Wearside and hundreds of men were interviewed in an effort to find the man claiming ‘I am Jack.’

Realising the enormity of what he had done and wracked with guilt, Humble tried to kill himself by jumping from Wearmouth Bridge five months after sending the tape.

He was pulled out of the river by police, and would carry the secret of what he had done with him for another 27 years.

Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe was finally arrested in 1981. He had killed three more women while police focused their attentions on Sunderland.

It would be a quarter of a century before justice finally caught up with John Humble. A cold-case review ordered by West Yorkshire detectives turned up a fragment of the original envelope from the letter he had posted to the Daily Mirror in March 1978.

Detectives were able to obtain a sample of ‘Jack’s’ saliva and build up a DNA profile.

It was then the investigating team struck lucky - John Humble’s DNA had been placed on the police database in 2001, after his arrest over an assault.

Humble finally appeared at Leeds Crown Court in March 2006, when he admitted perverting the course of justice and was jailed for eight years..