Tiny mislaid clue that led police to the Ripper hoaxer

A former Yorkshire Ripper squad detective who caught hoaxer Wearside Jack has revealed that a chance find of a tiny bit of evidence led police to him. The voice of Sunderland brickie John Humble became synonymous with the hunt for serial killer Peter Sutcliffe when he sent a cassette to officers in June 1979.

Humble was snared in a 2005 inquiry by DCS Chris Gregg, the only West Yorkshire officer on both the Wearside Jack cold case and the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry.

In a Behind the Crimes podcast released today, the retired detective reveals that many crucial exhibits had been destroyed.

Scientists had treated Humble’s three letters with special chemicals to try to find the writer’s fingerprints but the tape did not yield clues.

A biologist’s search of a lab cage finally led to Humble.

Mr Gregg said: “In a place it shouldn’t have been were glass slides. In between the two pieces [of glass] was a perfectly-preserved 2cm section of the seal from envelope three. Perfectly preserved. She blew the dust off and that quickly produced a one-in-a-billion profile.”

A DNA sample matched to Humble, then 50, after a drink-drive arrest. He admitted perverting justice and was jailed for eight years. He died in 2019 aged 63.

Mr Gregg remembers hearing Humble’s tape for the first time: “Lead detective George Oldfield said they’d received a tape which he was going to play for us and that they are satisfied that this was from the killer.” That caused the murder inquiry to focus on the Sunderland area while Sutcliffe went on to kill three more women and attack others.

The Bradford lorry driver murdered a total of 13 women and tried to kill at least seven more before being caught in January 1981 in Sheffield. Sutcliffe died while in prison custody in 2020 aged 74.

  • Behind the Crimes with Robert Murphy is at podcasts.apple.com

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