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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 23:31 GMT
Profile: UK serial killers
As the bodies of five dead women are found in Ipswich, Suffolk, within two weeks, fears are growing that a serial killer is on the loose.

How does this compare to past serial killers in the UK?


Through the late 1970s and early 80s, women in the north of England feared a killer known both as the Yorkshire Ripper and Wearside Jack.

Peter Sutcliffe
Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe was jailed for life in 1981

The killer, who it later emerged was a Bradford man called Peter Sutcliffe, is serving life for the murders of 13 women in West Yorkshire between 1975 and 1981.

Sutcliffe, now 60, also carried out attacks on seven other women during that period.

It is not known what sparked his attacks.

Sutcliffe, who struck in Yorkshire and Manchester, claimed at his trial that he had heard "voices from God" telling him to go on a mission to rid the streets of prostitutes.

The case only came to the attention of the national press in June 1977 when Sutcliffe claimed the life of Jayne MacDonald, a 16-year-old shop assistant who was not a prostitute.

The killings put a great deal of pressure on the West Yorkshire Police murder team.

However, the inquiry was thrown off course after three letters and a tape were sent to the investigation team by a man who was to be nicknamed Wearside Jack due to his strong Sunderland accent.

The man, whose actions disrupted the investigation, was later found to be a hoaxer.

Sutcliffe was sent to Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight, but was later transferred to Broadmoor secure hospital in Berkshire in 1984 after a fellow inmate at Parkhurst jail slashed him with a broken coffee jar.

During his time in prison, Sutcliffe has been attacked a number of times.

In 1997, he was attacked by a fellow patient at Broadmoor, Ian Kay, who stabbed him in both eyes with a pen. Sutcliffe lost the sight in his left eye as a result of the attack.

Sutcliffe remains at Broadmoor secure hospital.


On New Year's Day 1995 Fred West took advantage of a break in his suicide watch to tie some material to a prison door and hang himself at Winson Green prison in Birmingham.

He had been awaiting trial for 12 murders.

The deaths included those of his daughter Heather, 16, and eight-year-old stepdaughter Charmaine.

Charmaine was murdered and buried under the ground floor of the house he shared with his wife, Rose, 20 years before being discovered in 1994.

Fred West
Fred West killed himself in prison

Nine bodies were found buried beneath the couple's house in Cromwell Street, Gloucester.

Their victims were a mixture of hitch-hikers, lodgers and teenage runaways who had been either lured to Cromwell Street or abducted.

He and his wife sexually abused their victims before killing them.

In October 1995 Rose West was tried at Winchester Crown Court for ten murders - the two others that her husband had been accused of pre-dated their relationship.

She was found guilty on all ten counts by unanimous decision and was jailed for life.

The home secretary has since told her that she will never be allowed out.

There continues to be speculation that Fred West claimed more victims and buried them somewhere in Gloucestershire.


Britain's worst serial killer Harold Shipman was jailed in 2000 for killing 15 of his female patients.

However, a public inquiry later decided the 57-year-old doctor had killed at least 215 patients over 23 years.

Shipman, who committed his crimes while working as a trusted family GP in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, hanged himself using bedsheets in his prison cell in January 2004.

It means the true extent of his crimes may never be known.

Harold Shipman
Harold Shipman is considered to be the UK's most prolific serial killer

During his three-month trial Shipman never admitted responsibility for his crimes, nor hinted at a motive or expressed remorse.

Shipman's crimes first came to light in 1998 when he made a clumsy attempt to forge the 386,000 will of one of his victims, 81-year-old Kathleen Grundy.

Her daughter Angela Woodruff became suspicious after her mother's death and alerted police.

It soon became clear that the doctor entrusted to care for his patients was in fact murdering them, mostly by injecting them with fatal doses of diamorphine.

Shipman preyed on vulnerable people, usually choosing women living alone as his victims, who may have been elderly but were not seriously ill.

The killer jab was often administered on home visits.

His oldest victim was a 93-year-old woman and the youngest a 41-year-old man.

Shipman was given 15 life sentences in 2000 for murdering 15 patients by administering fatal doses of diamorphine and also found guilty of forging Mrs Grundy's will.

But the public inquiry heard a fuller account of the number of victims who died at his hands.

Of the 215 victims, 171 were women and 44 were men.


Ian Brady was jailed for life in 1966 after being convicted with his accomplice Myra Hindley of the abduction and murder of children in the Manchester area.

Four of their five known victims were buried on Saddleworth Moor.

Glasgow-born Brady was a quiet, brooding stock clerk who admired the Nazis and was heavily influenced by the writings of Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade.

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley
Ian Brady and Myra Hindley became known as the Moors Murderers

In 1961, the firm where he worked, Millwards Merchandisers in Manchester, recruited a new secretary, Myra Hindley. She harboured a crush on Brady for a year until he finally responded.

As lovers she agreed to take part in a murder spree with him.

Hindley, who was 19 when she met Brady, always portrayed herself as a gullible, easily-led and totally manipulated young woman who fell under the spell of an evil man and simply went along for the ride.

However, there is strong evidence to suggest that Hindley was far more than a passive accomplice.

The killings began on 12 July 1963 when Hindley lured Pauline Reade into her car as the 16-year-old walked to a dance at a railwaymen's club in Manchester.

She was then lured to Saddleworth Moor by Hindley. When they arrived they were met by Brady, who had ridden there on his motorbike.

The teenager was then taken off to a remote spot either by Brady alone or by both of them, was raped, beaten and stabbed before being buried.

The couple repeated the process with other victims.

Each time they elaborated on the process, taking more time over it, drawing out the agony for their victims.

In 1965 the couple made a fatal mistake when they invited a third person - Hindley's brother-in-law, David Smith - to join their killing spree.

He witnessed Brady axing to death 17-year-old Edward Evans, a stranger who he had met earlier that evening in a local pub, at the house the killer shared with Hindley.

Smith, who told the killers he would keep their secret, told the police.

He also told police the couple had bragged about having killed others and buried them on the moors, prompting a search which led to the bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride being recovered.

In 1966 they went on trial and were jailed for life with a recommended minimum tariff of 30 years.

Myra Hindley died in prison in November 2002 from a chest infection following a heart attack..

Brady was transferred from prison to a psychiatric hospital about 20 years ago, and has been campaigning for the right to starve himself to death.

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