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Home > Culture and Society

Win Friends and Influence People, the Yorkshire Ripper Way

21 October 2005

This week John Humble appeared at Leeds Magistrates' Court charged with perverting the course of justice by pretending to be the Yorkshire Ripper. Humble sent letters and a tape to the police, taunting them for not yet having caught 'him'. As well as wasting massive amounts of police time and taxpayers' money, it also sent the investigation in the wrong direction for three years, during which three more women were killed.

Still, you've got to have a hobby.

Lest we forget, the Yorkshire Ripper comes pretty high in any top 10 of serial killers (no doubt currently in production at Channel 5). Peter Sutcliffe lacked the prolificacy of Harold Shipman, or the mind-bogglingly depraved weirdness of Fred West, who once presented his wife Rose with the amusing gift of a wrought-iron sign to hang on the end of their bed, which read simply 'CUNT'. How they must have all laughed at 25 Cromwell Street!

Nonetheless, Sutcliffe was about as deranged as they come, killing 13 women and bringing a genuine sense of fear to the North. Fans of lurid real life crime books will also know that the murders were said to be accompanied by some deeply gruesome touches, for example gouging out the eyes of victims after they were dead because Sutcliffe felt they were looking at him. Thus, at the risk of sounding a bit nave about the sheer weirdness of humanity, we have to ask: what the *fuck* was going through John Humble's troubled mind?

Occasionally you'll read a story in the paper about some fantasist who claims to have been a captain in the SAS or similar, usually leaving a trail of fraud and manipulated lovers behind them. But being in the SAS at least sounds exciting and tends to command respect. Pretending to be the Yorkshire Ripper is a slightly different plateau of weirdness. If anything the Ripper hoaxer demonstrates that there's a secret army of alienated weirdos out there for whom sick hoaxes are the only way of getting attention. You might recall the man who sent hoax emails to relatives of missing people following the Asian tsunami disaster. Lincolnshire odd bod Christopher Pierson sent about 35 emails to relatives who had posted their details on the Sky News website, posing as a government official.

Another, more global, variant of this odd type of hoaxing is the missing child email hoax in which it is claimed that a child is missing, usually in a believable and distressing way, i.e.:

'I am asking you all, begging you to please, forward this email on to anyone and everyone you know, PLEASE. My nine year old girl, Penny Brown, is missing. She has been missing for now two weeks. It is still not too late. Please help us.'

'Hoax' isn't really the right word for such deceptions. The idea of a hoax usually has playful or amusing connotations, like the faked Nessie picture. The only conceivable satisfaction that can be derived from Ripper/tsunami/missing child hoaxes is seeing your own dismal lies snowball out of control in the media or on
the internet.

Maybe these people perhaps even deserve sympathy at some level. If you're so deprived of basic human attention and respect that you're prepared to claim to be a deranged sex killer or concoct false pleas about missing children, then you could probably do with a hug.

And there are certainly less mental and more enjoyable ways to get attention. The next time we at TFT feel lonely and unloved, we'll probably just phone Noel Edmonds, claiming to be from the BBC. 'We want House Party back on the air!' we'll say. 'For the next 20 years! Can we have the contract biked over right now? There's just one condition - we want to see you stick your head up a cow's arse.'

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