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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 17:43 GMT
Ripper visit 'blow to families'
Peter Sutcliffe
Sutcliffe was accompanied by four prison officers
The Home Secretary's decision to allow Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe to visit the site of his father's ashes has provoked widespread criticism.

Sutcliffe, 58, visited the site at Arnside in Cumbria on Monday after Home Secretary Charles Clarke ratified an earlier decision by David Blunkett.

Labour MP Fabian Hamilton said: "I think for the families that survived, this is quite a blow."

But the Home Office has insisted: "It was the right and proper thing to do."

The mass killer, whose father John died from cancer in a West Yorkshire hospice last year, is reported to have been accompanied by four staff as he left Broadmoor high-security hospital for the visit.

I think it is a little bizarre...because they have, all the time I was involved with Sutcliffe, refused him any concessions
Former West Yorkshire chief constable Keith Hellawell

Mr Hamilton, MP for Leeds North East, in whose constituency some of the Ripper's victims' families live, said he was disturbed by the decision.

"I'm pretty upset about it. I opposed the possibility of his release for his father's funeral.

"It seemed harsh at the time, but he didn't give any quarter or sympathy to any of the victims, many of whom were from my constituency."

In a statement, the Home Office said: "The decision on this individual was made by the previous Home Secretary David Blunkett.

"This decision was subsequently reaffirmed by Charles Clarke.

"A full and comprehensive risk assessment was made by the authorities and the individual was closely supervised at all times.

"At no point was there any danger to members of the public."

Keith Hellawell, the former chief constable of West Yorkshire who investigated the full scope of Sutcliffe's crimes after his trial, said he thought the decision was "odd".

HAVE YOUR SAY
Simply no. He didn't care about the families of his victims
Anon, Swindon, UK

"I think it is a little bizarre and also inconsistent because they have, all the time I was involved with Sutcliffe, refused him any concessions," he said.

"As his father died more than a year ago, it just seems rather odd.

"I don't think it is wrong, personally, because we don't have capital punishment in this country and we do keep people in prison for a long period of time.

"I think it would have been inhuman personally not to allow them to do things when there have been serious incidents within their family, such as deaths."

But Conservative MP Julie Kirkbride, who was at school with one of his victims, has criticised the Home Office action.

"I was a schoolgirl living in West Yorkshire when the Ripper was carrying out his murders.

"He killed a girl who was in my class at school, very close to my house.

"I don't think it's possible that the Home Secretary understands the fear in which women in West Yorkshire lived for many years, that they would be the Ripper's next victim."

Victims 'forgotten'

Harry Smelt, whose wife Olive survived an attack in Halifax in 1975, said: "Nobody worries about the victims at all these days.

"I think all the victims have moved on now.

"They have their lives to live. We have grandchildren and a family. Let's bring it to an end."

Sutcliffe was jailed for life in May 1981 at the Old Bailey.

Between 1975 and 1981 he murdered 13 women and seven others were left for dead in a killing spree which terrorised the north of England.

At his trial the former lorry driver claimed "voices from God" told him to purge the streets of prostitutes.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Outcry over Ripper's Cumbria visit




SEE ALSO:
Ripper visits father's ashes site
20 Jan 05 |  West Yorkshire
Ripper expert dies at home
30 Apr 03 |  West Yorkshire


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