Top forensic scientist relives chilling moment she came face-to-face with Yorkshire Ripper after working to catch him

LOOKING at the 5 ft 8 in man with black hair sitting in front of her, Professor Angela Gallop was surprised.

The forensic scientist had been part of a huge team of detectives and experts desperately trying to find this man for years and now, there he was.


And after everything, she was struck by just how small the Yorkshire Ripper actually was as he sat at the Old Bailey in 1981 – tried and found guilty of the murders of 13 women and the attempted murders of another seven.

Now, almost 40 years on from that day in court, Peter Sutcliffe is dead – but the ramifications of his cold-blooded murders still live on today.

Just one of the people who worked to catch the heartless killer was Prof Angela Gallop, then a young forensic scientist determined to do her best to help bring the person responsible for the reign of terror to justice.

And speaking to the Sun Online, Prof Gallop revealed how she had ultimately been shocked to finally see Sutcliffe after years of toil to find him.

Prof Gallop said: “I didn’t usually go unless required to give evidence of course but because we had been putting in so much effort, as a matter of interest, I wanted to see him.

“I have to say, you build up in your mind, inevitably, someone who is fit and strong-looking, but that’s not always the case.

“I remember when we saw him, we just thought he was so much more insignificant looking than we might have imagined.

“He was smaller and didn’t look as powerful. I was surprised by that.”

Prof Gallop is now a world renowned forensic scientist with more than four decades of experience behind her, now the current Director of Forensic Science for Forensic Access, and Chief Executive of Axiom International Ltd.

But in 1978, the crime scene where 18-year-old Helen Rytka in Huddersfield was the first she had attended in person after four years in the lab.



And she recounted how she was nervous – worried how she would cope the first time she saw body, worried that the oversized gear she had to wear at the scene would make her look unprofessional.

But most of all, she wanted to do a good job to help find the person responsible for the string of horrific crimes.

His heinous spree saw him target women alone at night, often bludgeoning them from behind with a hammer and stabbing them with a screwdriver.

Recounting arriving at the crime scene, Prof Gallop said: “It was a wood yard in Huddersfield, the place where you had one or two sheds there with lots of piles of rough, sawn wood.

“There was a lot to think about – as a forensic scientist I was looking for things like blood, hairs and textile fibres, cigarette butts, condoms and footwear and tyre marks.

“Every case you work on is the most important case you’ve ever had at the time, that’s how it feels.

“But having said that, it’s only human to want to want to go an extra mile because this man was so dangerous and continuing to kill people.”

During the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, the forensic science team devoted hours to their investigation, pouring over fibres they had found at each scene, comparing them with evidence found at other scenes – hours quickly mounted up in the painstaking search.

Prof Gallop, who has since gone on to work on cases including the murder of Stephen Lawrence, Rachel Nickell and the Coastal Path murders in Pembrokeshire in the 1980s, explained: “We were trying desperately hard – we were able to make these cross comparisons between different scenes in a way that you don’t normally have the opportunity to.

“We were doing everything we could – everyone was desperate to find him.”


But at the time, science still hadn’t unlocked DNA, with databases still yet to fully catch up.

Prof Gallop said: “It was really difficult – we were hampered in what we could do simply because of the state of technology at that time.

“We did an awful lot of work, looking from victim to victim, cross checking hundreds of thousands of surface fibres to see if we could find anything that matched and might have come from the offender. It was absolutely painstaking.

“We were absolutely in the throes of that when they arrested him.

“These days, it would be really different – you don’t need as much material to get a result for DNA as blood grouping.

“We probably would have got results all over the place if we had that.

“I think they would get to him pretty quickly if we were doing it today.”

Who was the Yorkshire Ripper?

PETER Sutcliffe is one of the UK’s most notorious serial killers after murdering at least 13 women in the late 1970s.

But catalogue of mistakes on the part of West Yorkshire Police ultimately meant Sutcliffe, who died earlier this year, managed to evade justice for years, even after being spoken to by cops nine times.

And it was only incredible good luck that finally led to his arrest in January 1981.

By that time, Sutcliffe had claimed the lives of 13 women and injured at least nine more, with authorities interviewing 40,000 men in a bid to unmask the notorious serial killer.

His heinous spree saw him target women alone at night, often bludgeoning them from behind with a hammer and stabbing them with a screwdriver.

Towns and cities were left deserted at night as women were terrified to go out alone.

Sutcliffe was eventually caught in January 1981 when he was pulled over for driving with false number plates.

He was in the car with sex worker Olivia Reivers – his intended fourteenth victim.

Cops later found he'd discarded a knife, hammer and rope at the site of his arrest.

Sutcliffe blamed voices from God which instructed him to clear the streets of prostitutes.

But detectives, lawyers and the Old Bailey jury which convicted him of murder were convinced he was a cold-hearted sex killer.

But the case was the beginning of a shift in science, which in the early 80s was moving at a rapid pace.

She said: “We all knew that there was this DNA, the blueprint for life, and we knew that if we were eventually able to analyse that, it would unlock something very powerful.

“In the 80s, it was a little bit early for that but we started keeping samples – we knew it would be useful.”

The Ripper was eventually sentenced to twenty concurrent sentences of life imprisonment, which were converted to a whole life order in 2010.

This year, after more than 40 years behind bars, Peter Sutcliffe died aged 74.

But it was his case that proved the importance of the need for forensic science to keep developing into what it is today.

She said: “We had started to use databases for different kinds of evidence so we could judge the significance of what we found – technology was really shifting at the time and it hasn’t stopped.”

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