I spent the next six weeks at Scunthorpe Police station trying to keep out of trouble and hiding from the bad people. My rank was so low it did not actually exist which meant I had less power over criminals than than Hannibal Lecter’s will power over a raw steak. I couldn’t even tell the naughty people that my gang was bigger than theirs so hitting me was not a good idea, although I did have a pen I could throw at them.
Bob and Phil did take me out and tried to look after me, mainly by telling me to say in the car whilst they went knocking on doors. Now, I have seen enough Police films to know that the cops always tell the hero to stay in the car but the hero always gets out as soon as they have gone. At just the right point they would enter the fray and save the day or get captured. I was no different. I had seen the films as well and one thing was clear to me. I was no hero and I was going to stay exactly where they left me.
The warrants we had gave Bob and Phil authority to arrest someone (usually for not paying their fines) before taking them to the Police station and bailing them to go to court. One such man we brought in just happened to have a “Geordie accent” and was a lorry driver. This meant only one thing. He was the “Yorkshire Ripper”. Not bad, I had only been in the job a few days and I had been on the team (well in the back of the car) when one of the biggest criminals in British history was finally brought to his knees. I had sat next to the UK’s most notorious killer in the car but decided asking for an autograph was not really professional and it was before we did selfies of everything. I just don’t know how I have managed a career without posting a picture to facefook of every bacon roll I have eaten, which is a lot.
The Ripper was still causing fear and panic in the North of England and the Police had been nowhere near catching him. Until now of course. Leeds was not that far from Scunthorpe and sparse details of who we were looking for was the first “classified” information I was actually given in my new job as a nobody. When I say given it was a bit of educated guesswork, a few letters and a tape of his taunts to George Oldfield who was leading the enquiry. Getting that information made me feel part of something but also, I looked at anyone with a Geordie accent as a murderer. So far I had 479 people on my list but now we had him. I could scrub out 478.
A lot was learnt from the Yorkshire Ripper enquiry and many mistakes were made including the reliance on the audio tapes and letters as being genuine. They were later found to be a hoax and derailed the enquiry for a long time. It was years later that “Wearside Jack” was found guilty of making the hoax tapes. It was one of the last major enquires where everything was on paper and there were no computers to link the clues concealed in 1000’s of forms and statements. It was a time when the Police relied on their 6th sense, something computers will never replace but occasionally that 6th sense also has a blue screen and needs to be rebooted.
Anyway, back to the arrest of the century and the fact that I may be promoted to the rank of at least Chief Superintendent (Detective) strait from the rank of nobody.
The suspect was in a white vest, was about 50 years old, 5’8”, thin, clean shaven (well a bit of stubble which meant either you did not care about your appearance or some hairy arsed coppers had dragged you out your pit early in the morning). He was greying but there was not much hair left to go grey. He did have an “Haway the lads” accent though. To me he did not look like a multiple murderer but I was new at this game and still had a lot to learn.
I stood by the cell door as Phil and Bob grilled the him under a flickering ten watt bicycle light with a soggy, rolled up newspaper. It was one way of being in the news and the papers were full of the Yorkshire Ripper investigation. At least ours was. Actually they just quickly asked him about several dates, made a phone call to Leeds and let him go. Apparently we were not getting our promotions or the plush offices and mini skirted secretaries. I needed to reinstate my list of Geordies …… minus one.
Peter Sutcliffe Yorkshire Ripper was eventually caught and convicted after killing thirteen women. There were many more victims of the Yorkshire Ripper however. He died alone in prison of Covid in 2020 aged 74.
The next couple of weeks spent with warrants and summons were just more of me sat in the back of the car like one of those nodding dogs or hula hooping Hawaiian girls in a grass skirt but at least it was a start.
The next department I went into was the collators. When I say department it was just one officer who was a walking “Google” of criminals and lots and lots of cards kept in lots of alphabetical metal draws. On the cards were facts, suspicions, sightings, descriptions and anything else one police officer or another deemed relevant. It was the modern equivalent of “Twitter” but a lot more factual. Unlike the computer systems of today where the information had to be relevant and factual anything could be put on the cards. So many crimes were cleared up by officers reading them and the throw away lines that had been written as an afterthought. At a later date in Hull a particularly horrific murder I was involved in investigating was cleared up because an officer put down a suspect smelt of pigs!
My six weeks at Scunthorpe were almost up as quickly as they started. My next job was going across the river Humber to Hull to get the holy grail. A Police uniform.
I went to a building commonly known as “Legoland” due to it being a number of prefabricated blocks next to each other rather than it having been built with small plastic multi-coloured bricks. My hair had just been cut shorter than I had ever had it before in preparation of getting a helmet but even so, the Police Sgt there, Bob, believed anything longer than a gnats cock hair was too long. I was measured, prodded and poked before trying on various bits of uniform and looking at myself in the mirror. Looking back at me was a Policeman and it was true, they were looking younger everyday.
The following day I went across to the imposing Magistrates court in Hull where I took the Queens shilling and swore the attestation on the bible and before the Stipendiary Magistrate.
I do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.
The oath means a lot to any Police Officer and if it does not then they should not be in “The Job”. It tells everyone that it is our duty to be impartial and show respect to all people.
I was now officially a Police officer with all the gear but with no idea.
Next stop was the Police training school at Dishforth to try and give me an idea. What a ten weeks that turned out to be……