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 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 12:12 GMT
Ripper and hoaxer 'were friends'
Peter Sutcliffe
Peter Sutcliffe is being held at Broadmoor
The Yorkshire Ripper and the infamous hoaxer Wearside Jack were friends who were both present at the unsolved murder of a prostitute in 1975, according to new claims.

Peter Sutcliffe, who killed 13 women, has always denied murdering Joan Harrison in Preston 27 years ago.

Investigative journalist Patrick Lavelle claims Sutcliffe killed Ms Harrison but denied the murder to protect his friend who was with him at the time.

Mr Lavelle has spent five years investigating the identity of Wearside Jack, whose tapes and letters claiming to be the Ripper disrupted the hunt for the real killer.

Peter Sutcliffe... also killed Joan Harrison but would not admit her murder for several reasons

Patrick Lavelle

Mr Lavelle claims Sutcliffe denied the 1975 murder to protect his friend Wearside Jack, who then repaid him by sending the "I'm Jack" hoax tape to detectives to divert attention from Sutcliffe.

Two other murders, for which lorry-driver Sutcliffe was convicted, bore striking similarities to the Ms Harrison killing.

Mr Lavelle believes Wearside Jack then went on to kill and that he is responsible for the death of Sunderland prostitute Julie Perigo in 1986.

New evidence

He said: "Peter Sutcliffe... did not wish to reveal that he had a mate or accomplice who travelled with him in his cab to Preston, who witnessed the murder and had sex with Joan Harrison before she was killed.

"That mate was Wearside Jack."

Northumbria Police said one man had been questioned last September over the Perigo murder but had been released without charge.

A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said the claims did not reveal any new "hard evidence".

Sutcliffe was jailed for life in 1981 but later ruled to be criminally insane and was committed to Broadmoor.

Mr Lavelle claims have been published in his new book Shadow of the Ripper.

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