From the moment her husband was arrested for the murder of the Yorkshire Ripper, Sonia Sutcliffe has been the target of insults and personal attacks.
She was now in the public eye of arsonists and robbers, as well as those who mistakenly believed that “she should have known.”
Days after Peter Sutcliffe’s trial for 13 murders began in the Old Bailey in 1981, the couple’s home in Bradford was firebombed, heavily damaging the living room.
It has also been robbed multiple times, with no fewer than nine raids in the five years since Sutcliffe was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Along with the physical attacks, the people, convinced that Sonia knew about her husband’s terror, constantly whispered.
It was the opinion that Sutcliffe’s truck driver was determined to put him to bed.
In my new book, I’m the Yorkshire Ripper, co-written with Alfie James, who has been with Sutcliffe for nearly 20 years, he says: “I’ve never been covered in blood.
“They said that Sonya should know something because of all the blood, but she was not there.
“She is completely white as snow. It’s just stupid people speculating. She never saw anything out of the ordinary.
“When I came in, she was already in bed. When I was late because I played snooker with the guys in the neighborhood, threw them up, and then went on a mission.
“And when I was away, I called her at night and said: “Oh, I can’t go back, I don’t have enough driving hours left, so I can’t go back.”
“I’m having a sleepover, so lock yourself up and go to bed” so she doesn’t have to worry about me.
There was never any evidence or hint that Sonya knew about Sutcliffe’s crimes prior to his arrest, but the gossip and threats never stopped.
Many years after his conviction, Sonya was still receiving letters with a poisoned pen.
Sutcliffe said: “She got threatening letters—anonymous cowardly bastards, of course.
“When she is threatened, she has to face it all. She is subject to this nonsense.
“They terrorize her and these people don’t have a shred of sympathy and they know she was perfect all along.
“She puts up with a lot, God bless her – she’s a good girl.”
Sonya later remarried after she and Sutcliffe finally divorced in 1994, but she continued to support her ex-husband and was his next of kin when he died at the age of 74 in November 2020.
Sutcliffe said: “She was with me for many, many years before she even considered separation.
She must have really loved me very much. Most women would just wash their hands in front of someone, but she knew me so well, my personality and this, that she couldn’t let go.
“All credit goes to her, and even after that, when I suggested she find someone else, she still keeps coming to me. She must have really loved me very much.
“Most women would just wash their hands in front of someone, but she knew me so well, my personality and this, that she couldn’t let go.
“No one could wish for a better, more faithful wife than Sonya was for me, and as a friend she still remains as faithful, and yes, I am very proud of her. She is an angel.”
More than three decades after the trial, when Sutcliffe let himself go and turned into a plump, unkempt and unhealthy pensioner, he did not lose sight of what initially attracted him to Sona.
Once at Broadmoor he said: “Sonya visited me twice on Friday.
“She came during the day and in the evening. She looked good, she looked fine, I would say.
“She didn’t gain any weight, she has a great figure, she was beautifully dressed and looked great.”
Like any other long-term prisoner, Sutcliffe sometimes thought about the different life he might have had had he not committed his crimes.
“Sometimes I think it went fast, but sometimes I think it went slow.
“It just depends on what mood I’m in, sometimes I think.
“All this time ago, since I made love to Sonia and all that, it dulls your memory – say 32 years without sex, without love with your wife.
“Or anyone, no one at all, that’s a long time in that respect.
“She’s a good girl. She says she still loves me even though she remarried.
I would like to do something simple, like a long walk through our favorite part of the countryside with Sonya in good weather, that would be nice.
“We send greeting cards, Christmas cards and stuff like that. I would like to do something simple, like a long walk through our favorite part of the countryside with Sonya in good weather, that would be nice.”
Spousal visits are illegal in the UK, and this rule, unsurprisingly, doesn’t have much support among prisoners, especially life-sentenced prisoners like Sutcliffe.
He said: “The marriage vow says: let no one separate the one whom God has united. But that’s what the system does, so they go against the Bible.
“They are hypocrites because they ask you to swear on the Bible, but they ignore what the Bible says.”
During the numerous visits to Sonya, the conversation inevitably returned to Sutcliffe’s murderous actions.
He said: “I explained why I did what I felt I had to do when I talked to Sonia and discussed things over the years.
“It’s the least I could do as long as she stayed by my side all this time.
“I never told Sonya to be careful when she went out at night somewhere all those years ago, because it would make me a hypocrite if you understood me. I knew she wasn’t in danger.”
- I am the Yorkshire Ripper by Robin Perry and Alfie James is published by Mirror Books on March 3 for £8.99. Also available in e-book.