Woman tells court she thought 1972 attack was by Yorkshire Ripper

A woman who says she was violently raped by a man weeks before he became a notorious child killer dubbed the Beast of Wombwell has told a jury how she once thought her attacker might have been Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe.
Leeds Crown CourtLeeds Crown Court
Leeds Crown Court

The woman, who is now in her 60s, told a jury how "monster" Peter Pickering tied her up in his van before raping her, burning her breasts with cigarettes and saying he would kill her when she was 18-years-old, in the summer of 1972.

Leeds Crown Court has heard how, three to four weeks after this alleged attack, Pickering abducted, raped and killed 14-year-old Shirley Boldy in the Barnsley area of South Yorkshire which his barrister said led him to be referred to as "The Beast of Wombwell".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Pickering has been in secure psychiatric hospitals, including Broadmoor and Ashworth, since 1972.

Giving evidence from behind a screen on Tuesday, the woman told the jury: "I remain of the fervent belief that whether he has a mental illness or not the man is a monster and wherever he is now that's the right place for him to be."

She said the only person she told about the attack, until police contacted her in 2016, was a psychiatrist a few months after the assault.

Prosecutors have told the jury that it is now believed this doctor was working on behalf of Pickering's defence team in 1972.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But the woman told the court she had no idea she might have been helping Pickering.

She said: "In hindsight, if I'd known I had been helping him in any way, I wouldn't have gone."

Sasha Wass QC, defending, suggested to the woman that she must have known what Pickering was accused of at that time.

Miss Wass said this was someone "the press described as the Beast of Wombwell" and who had a "sort of notoriety" at the time.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But the woman told the jury she was a naive 18-year-old who lived a closeted existence with her strict family.

When Miss Wass suggested that she must have "put two-and-two together", the woman said: "Years later, I actually thought he was Peter Sutcliffe."

The judge, Mr Justice Goss, then explained to the "younger members of the jury" that Sutcliffe is the Yorkshire Ripper.

In her second day giving evidence, the woman, described how she got into Pickering's van voluntarily when he picked her up as she was walking to work from her home in the Stocksbridge area of Sheffield.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She agreed with Miss Wass that Pickering suddenly changed from being amiable and pleasant when he "went beserk" like a "mad man".

She said: "It was like somebody flicked a switch".

The woman agreed with the barrister he was like "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde".

She described her terror when Pickering forced her into the back of his van in woodland.

She said: "I expected him to kill me there and then.

"I do remember him saying 'I'll have to kill you'."

The woman told the jury she remembers worrying mainly about the pain her death would bring to her parents.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said she never reported the attack in the 1970s because she did not think she would be believed and had to be persuaded by police to co-operate when the matter re-emerged in 2016.

Pickering, who appeared in court via video link from Swindon Crown Court, in Wiltshire, denies rape and false imprisonment.

The jury has been told that he was subjected to a hospital order in 1972 for the manslaughter of Shirley Boldy by reason of diminished responsibility. He has never been released and is currently being held at Thornford Park Hospital, in Berkshire.