Wearside Jack: Story of infamous Sunderland hoaxer John Humble to feature in new BBC documentary The Yorkshire Ripper Files

The story of infamous Sunderland hoaxer Wearside Jack is to feature in a new BBC documentary airing this week.

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 9:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th March 2019, 8:28 pm
John Humble: Wearside Jack

The three-part series The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story begins on BBC Four tonight at 9pm, with an hour-long episode looking at the case of Wearside Jack on Wednesday (March 27) at 9pm. The third part airs at 9pm on Thursday.

John Humble, of Sunderland, taunted detectives when he claimed to be the Ripper in three letters and an audio tape in the 1970s.

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His actions made police concentrate their hunt in Sunderland while the Ripper continued to kill in Yorkshire.

Humble escaped justice for decades, but his identity was discovered 25 years later when his DNA, taken after a minor offence, was matched against saliva on an envelope sent to detectives.

In March 2006 he admitted four charges of perverting the course of justice and was jailed for eight years. Judge Norman Jones told him his offences were at the upper end of seriousness when it came to perverting justice.

Episode two of the The Yorkshire Ripper Files will look at how Humble's actions led to promising lines in the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry being overlooked as his hoax tape took centre stage, leaving the real murderer - Peter Sutcliffe - free to kill again and again.

The programme will include interviews with survivors and relatives of those who were attacked recounting how they were not listened to when their descriptions of the attacker did not match the voice on the tape.

Director Liza Williams also speaks to police officers who tell her about other promising lines of inquiry, tracing clues left behind at murder scenes - but how The ‘Wearside Jack’ tapes, took centre stage.

The blurb on the BBC's website reads: "While the police disregarded evidence and focused on the tapes, terror grew and the killer started to become a kind of cult figure, with Yorkshire Ripper chants at football matches and Thin Lizzy’s Killer on the Loose topping the charts.

"As Liza discovers, this myth-making provoked anger from women and the police’s failure to catch the killer led to a demonstration on the streets of Leeds."

It goes on: "The letters and tape, addressed directly to George Oldfield, West Yorkshire’s chief constable, were sent by a man calling himself Jack the Ripper.

"Oldfield was so certain that they came from the killer that other suspects were ruled out on the basis of their handwriting or whether they had a North East accent like the one on the tape."