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With a slow start and an eventful ending, this series makes clear the botched events leading up to the final conviction.

With a killer on the loose in the streets of Yorkshire, England, panicked citizens attempt to live their lives freely as police struggle to identify a suspect in the “ultimate crime against women.” The new Netflix limited series, “The Ripper,” follows the U.K. police through a long and exhausting investigation of vicious murders in the 1970s. 

The series serves to uncover the team’s biases, mistakes in it’s investigation and how it fueled a need for change in a generation of women all while slowly unraveling the mystery of who was to blame for mutilating a total of at least 13 women. Following “the biggest crime investigation that had ever been in the United Kingdom,” the series works to show how these crimes changed the nation forever. 

The series begins

The first episode, “Once Upon a Time in Yorkshire,” begins in 1975 when the first murder occurred. The son of this first murder victim recalls the events of his mother’s death. After realizing his mother hadn’t returned home, he and his siblings were comforted by police and moved to a children’s home. He describes realizing he was never going to see his mother again. This scene is moving for the viewer and gives a glimpse into how many more lives were going to be affected by this killer.

The police investigated, and with little evidence at the scene, they concluded that the victim was a prostitute and almost immediately claimed it seemed to be a “one-off murder,” and business went back to normal. Throughout this series, police using prostitution as an excuse appears to be a trend, and it already shows the team’s lack of empathy for these women because of their alleged status.

The episode then describes more murders in a close region with similar circumstances and how police soon began to realize they had a serial killer on their hands. It seemed to be a man who despised prostitutes and sought out to kill them. The police’s consensus to give the killer the name of “The Yorkshire Ripper” was because the killings were very similar to the 1800s serial killer, “Jack the Ripper.” 

At this point in the episode, an interviewee describes “the moment everything changed.” This was because for the first time as far as the public knew, a non-prostitute had been killed, and every woman was thought to be in danger. “The Ripper” then became a first-page story because the women killed were only now seen as victims.

While this discrimination of women by the police force wasn’t immediately apparent, it’s revisited a few times throughout and focused on in the last episode. It’s important that the series focuses on this side of the case because the detectives' bias against women directly affected how long it took to catch the killer and the mistakes leading up to the arrest. 

Women take to the streets

The second and third episodes titled “Between Now and Dawn” and “Reclaim the Night” continue to describe each new murder taking place. There’s now a large police force begging for the public's help and for the ripper to come forward. 

A reward of 30,000 pounds for turning in the killer was raised due to the lack of the public's help at a time of great industrial strain. After watching the series, it seems the team put out such a great reward because they were embarrassed at their attempts to catch the killer and needed an answer.

In 1980 after more ripper murders, a “curfew on women” was placed to keep women from being on the streets alone at night. Women began protesting for men to be taken off the streets rather than they be punished for what was happening. It was at this moment the series made the misogyny of the case apparent.  

An arrest is finally made

In the final episode, “Out of the Shadows,” an arrest is finally made. Described as caught “purely by chance” in a traffic stop, a police officer recognized similarities in the driver to a drawing of the possible killer put together by a survivor of one of his attacks. 

The episode follows how Peter Sutcliffe was taken in for questioning, and without hesitation, he admitted to and described each murder. A member of the police force being interviewed in the series now lets out a big piece of information: this man had already been questioned by police nine times, and they failed to catch him.

It’s frightening to hear that this man had managed to dodge police suspicions nine separate times when he was murdering innocent women. This shows how poor of a job the members of this detective team were doing. With no main lead up to this point, the team was brushing over each interview rather than diving into each series of questions to cover all of their bases.

Look back on the series

The final episode of the series focuses on the mistakes of the investigation. With the head police team being men of similar ages and backgrounds, bias was brought into the case from the start. It’s revealed many of the victims described as “prostitutes” were no such thing. It’s also revealed numerous other ripper attacks had occurred, but the women were laughed at and turned away because they didn’t fit the prostitute image the case had built up. 

This series shows a team of people working to arrest “Jack the Ripper” rather than the killer they actually had on their hands. These victims were guessed to be prostitutes, and an image of the case was built, but they were all victims in the end.

This time in the U.K. made women realize they had to “take care of things for themselves” and changed the way they began to live in this culture. 

With a slow start and an eventful ending, this series makes clear the botched events leading up to the final conviction.

Contact Lauren Kuhno at kuhnolm@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.