The men behind the film adaptation of the Wearside Jack hoax have visited the scene of the crime.
Sunderland-born author Mark Blacklock’s novel “I’m Jack” relates the story through the eyes of hoaxer John Humble.
The movie rights have been snapped up by York-based production company Mad As Birds and Mark visited Wearside with the company’s Celyn Jones and Ade Shannon to take a look at possible locations and get a feel for the city.
The three took time to call in at the Echo’s Rainton Bridge offices. The Echo features prominently in the novel and English Literature lecturer Mark was inspired by the work of former Echo journalist Patrick Lavelle, who spent years trying to track down Wearside Jack.
The film will largely be told from Humble’s point of view in prison , but Sunderland will feature extensively in flashbacks.
“We have been down to Ford Estate,” said Mark.
The book has been described as Mark’s love letter to Sunderland and it is his novel which is the core material, but there is still a creative journey you go on.Celyn Jones
“We’ve been to the crematorium and Kayll Road library, where John Humble borrowed a book on the original Jack the Ripper murders, which he never returned. That came out in the court case.
“In the book, I have him walk from the library, back through the grounds of the crematorium.
“We have been down to the bridge and around the town, we have been into Jacky White’s Market so the guys can hear the voices naturally, hear the accents.”
Celyn is co-writing the script with Mark and said coming to Sunderland had been critical to getting a sense of the city and the ways in which it had changed since Humble sent his letter and tape to the police and media.
“The visit is just get a feel for the area and the changes that have taken place – the story spans 25 years - and to share Mark’s feel for city,” he said.
“The book has been described as Mark’s love letter to Sunderland and it is his novel which is the core material, but there is still a creative journey you go on. It is important to get Mark’s view of the landscape.
“When you are stood at the bridge, on the one side you’ve got brand new apartments, on the other the port and old Sunderland. That feeds into what you put on the page.”
Shooting could start within months.
“The main thing is to get the script ready,” said Ade. “One you’ve got the script, you can start to build up the rest of the film. We are certainly looking at filming towards the end of the year or certainly by the beginning of next year.”
John Humble sent police and the media three letters and a tape between March 1978 and March 1979, a move which moved the focus of the manhunt from Yorkshire and Lancashire to Wearside.
Ripper Peter Sutcliffe killed three women and attacked three others while the investigation was centred on Sunderland.
Justice finally caught up with the hoaxer in October 2005, after a cold-case review by West Yorkshire detectives turned up part of the envelope from a letter had Humble sent to the Daily Mirror in March 1978.
DNA technology which simply had not existed at the time of the murders meant experts were able to build up a genetic profile from Humble’s saliva on the envelope, which was matched to a sample he had provided when he was arrested over a assault four years earlier.
John Humble admitted perverting the course of justice at Leeds Crown Court in March 2006 and was jailed for eight years.