Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer Wearside Jack dies

media captionWhen arrested in 2005 Humble read aloud a section of the hoax tape he sent to police in 1979

The man who hoaxed detectives by claiming to be the Yorkshire Ripper has died, police have confirmed.

John Humble, who was dubbed Wearside Jack, sent police on a wild goose chase when he sent them hoax letters and an audio tape in the late 1970s.

Northumbria Police said Humble, who had changed his name to John Samuel Anderson, died on 30 July.

West Yorkshire Police detectives, headed by the force's assistant chief constable George Oldfield, believed the letters and tape were genuine and diverted resources to Humble's home town of Sunderland.

When Humble was eventually prosecuted, Leeds Crown Court heard claims that delays caused by the hoax allowed Peter Sutcliffe to murder three more women.

Sutcliffe was jailed in 1981 and given 20 life sentences for killing 13 women and attempting to kill seven more.

image captionJohn Humble admitted perverting the course of justice
image copyrightRex Features
image captionSutcliffe was jailed in 1981 for the murder of 13 women

Humble, 63, died at his home in South Shields, where he had lived since being released from prison in 2009.

A force spokesman said his death was not being treated as suspicious and would not be investigated.

The former labourer later admitted writing two letters and recording the audio tape and sending them to police between 1 March 1978 and 30 June 1979.

He also sent a third letter to the Daily Mirror newspaper.

image captionGeorge Oldfield, centre, with detectives who initially believed the hoax tape was genuine
image captionThe letters sent by Humble had Sunderland postmarks

Humble was said to have had a fascination with the original Jack the Ripper, who terrorised the streets of east London in 1888.

A spokeswoman for South Tyneside coroners office said no inquest had been held into Humble's death, which was reported to the borough's registrar by a member of his family.

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West Yorkshire Police declined to comment, but former Det Supt Bob Bridgestock, who was part of the Ripper squad, said lives "could have been saved" were it not for the hoax.

He said: "We don't know what Humble's reasons were for doing what he did.

"But he really frustrated, hindered and distracted the inquiry.

"After the tape there were another three women killed. Perhaps lives could have been saved if it hadn't been for him."

Sutcliffe, from Bradford, is currently serving life at Frankland Prison, in County Durham.

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