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The Dr Mike Drayton column



Who would write to a convicted sex killer responsible for a series of horrific murders? It seems bizarre that anyone should even entertain the idea, butthe Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe had numerous female admirers who regularly wrote to him. One penfriend has even published their correspondence, but psychologist Dr Mike Drayton wants to bring this tragic chapter to a close.

Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, remains Britain's most notorious serial killer.

The grisly official statistics record that in the 1970's and 1980's he brutally murdered 13 women - although theByford Report (published a few a weeks ago under Freedom of Information) suggests hewas responsible formany more.

When the report was released, and tocoincide with Sutcliffe's 50th birthday,Sandra Lester published ‘The Ripper Unmasked'.

Sandra was Sutcliffe's penpal, exchanging increasingly intimate letters with him on a daily basis for nearly a year. The relationship developed and became intimate.

She wasn't the only one drawn to this psychopath.

Sutcliffe, currently serving a life sentence in Braodmoor, has many dozens of penfriends, who he writes to regularly,

He also receives about thirty new letters a week proposing friendship.

When she found this out, Sandra stopped writing and claims the correspondence with Sutcliffe blighted her lifefor the following 13 years.

What would make a woman, or a man for that matter, want to write to a brutal serial killer like Peter Sutcliffe?

Arelationship by correspondence is like most other relationships in that people begin them hoping that their emotional needs will be satisfied.

Those who writeto Sutcliffe do so out of compassion and to feel that they are caring for somebody who most people would despise or fear.

Some people would identify his notoriety with glamour, and would hope the "celebrity" rubs off on them (“Oh yes, I am a friend of the Yorkshire Ripper”).

Other people are just lonely and vulnerable and are easily drawn into destructive relationships.

In the book, Sandra Lester admits to being at a low ebb and emotionally fragile when she began writing to Sutcliffe.

Her relationship had just ended and she was preparing to become a nun. She wanted to write to Sutcliffe as a last act of compassion before entering a convent.

Peter Sutcliffe is a sadistic killer and his needs are somewhat different to those of the women he writes to.

People with a psychopathic personality disorder don't experience feelings of empathy or compassion like most of us do.

That is how they are able to murder.

To them, other people are objects for their gratification.

People like Sutcliffe are controlling and ruthless.

They take pleasure from other people's distress.

Being locked up denies them the opportunity to do this directly, so they do it indirectly through writing letters. It helps to ease the boredom.

But why would anybody carry on writing to Sutcliffe if it's so unpleasant?

Well, because he can be very charming and manipulative. That is why he has found success as a serial killer.

Psychopaths have an uncanny ability to spot other people's vulnerability.

One murderer I interviewed said to me, rather chillingly, “I can sniff out other people's vulnerable parts like a pig can sniff out truffles”.

If you are a lonely woman, Sutcliffe will write in a glib ‘Mills and Boone' romantic style about how that person is the only one who has ever really understood him, and about wanting to walk on a beach and sit by a log fire reading poetry to the woman.

As the same murderer said to me, “I give them what they want until they are hooked. Then it's payback time”.

That is when the psychopath will take pleasure in tormenting the woman. They will often share the letters with fellow prisoners and laugh about their victims gullibility and suffering.

It is the human right of Peter Sutcliffe and other convicted serial killers to correspond with whomever they want, as long as they are not overtly threatening or offensive.

Incarceration in places like Broadmoor stops them from physically harming people but it does not prevent them from gaining sadistic pleasure from harming people psychologically and emotionally.

Should more controls be put on letters written by psychopathic offenders like Sutcliffe? I think so.


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