Peter Sutcliffe refused to be shielded from Covid, inquest hears

Peter Sutcliffe, the convicted serial killer known as the Yorkshire Ripper, refused to be shielded in prison in the months before he died from the coronavirus, an inquest has heard.

Sutcliffe had been warned that he was vulnerable to Covid-19 by authorities at Frankland Prison near Durham.

The coroner, Crispin Oliver, was told that Sutcliffe, who changed his name to Coonan, died aged 74 at University hospital of North Durham on 13 November 2020.

The serial killer was serving a life sentence at Frankland for the murders of 13 women in the 1970s and was in poor health. Oliver, sitting in Crook, County Durham, was also told that Sutcliffe had heart disease and diabetes, both risk factors for Covid-19.

Lee Drummond, a prison governor, said vulnerable prisoners had been warned of the dangers of coronavirus after the first lockdown in March 2020.

Drummond said they were offered measures similar to shielding in the community, being kept apart from other inmates at meal times and to use the phone, but Sutcliffe turned down the offer.

The coroner concluded that Sutcliffe died a natural death with no suspicious circumstances. As he delivered his findings, he addressed the victims’ families and wished them “some sense of closure”.

He said: “Obviously I think of his family at this time, but [my thoughts] also return to those women whose names I read out at the opening of this inquest last November – they were his victims.

“I hope you have some sense of closure at this point and that your loved ones, the victims, may better rest in peace now that Peter Sutcliffe is dead.”

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The serial killer was first taken to hospital on 27 October after feeling dizzy and being diagnosed at the prison’s healthcare unit with a blocked heart.

He returned to Frankland on 4 November and it was after this first hospital stay that he tested positive for Covid-19.

A prison nurse, Angela Spence, said Sutcliffe was treated with antibiotics for a cough and his health deteriorated and he had a rapid heart rate.

A pathologist, Dr Clive Bloxham, appearing by videolink, said his postmortem examination revealed the prisoner had “extremely heavy lungs” – typical of someone with the coronavirus. He said the cause of death was Covid-19 infection, with heart disease and diabetes contributing, and confirmed the death was not suspicious and was from natural causes.


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