A report on the death of serial killer Peter Sutcliffe – known as the Yorkshire Ripper – has revealed he was unable to call his wife before he died with Covid-19.
Sutcliffe died at North Durham University Hospital on November 13, 2020, aged 74, having been restrained with chains many hours earlier, according to a report by the Ombudsman for Prisons and Probation.
Sutcliffe, who later changed his name to Peter Coonan, was sentenced to life in prison for murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others in Yorkshire and North West England between 1975 and 1980.
He has been an inmate at HMP Frankland maximum security prison in Durham since 2016, having previously spent much of his sentence at Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital.
According to the report, he suffered from several long-term physical health problems, including type 2 diabetes, vision problems, angina and paranoid schizophrenia. When asked if he wanted to “shield” on another wing due to his health issues, Sutcliffe declined.
On October 20, 2020, Sutcliffe went to the hospital for an urgent pacemaker fitting for heart block and days later, on November 5, he tested positive for Covid-19. He is said to have contracted the virus in the hospital.
His condition deteriorated within a few days, he was hospitalized on November 9, and again on November 10. On both visits, Sutcliffe was held with an escort chain.
When it became clear that Sutcliffe was dying, it was four hours before officers were allowed to remove his restraints and another hour before they were finally removed.
Sutcliffe was also unable to speak directly to his wife as he lay dying due to prison staff acting as messengers between them.
Sue McAllister, who wrote the report, said the care Sutcliffe received in prison was equivalent to that he would have received in the community, but there were some concerns about how long it took the inmate to get to prison after a hospital visit returned delay in uncuffing and lack of contact with his next of kin.
Ms McAllister said: “I am concerned that a local hospital once released Mr Coonan to Frankland, but it took almost eight hours to get a safe vehicle and he arrived at the jail at 1.45am.
“I am also concerned that managers on the Category A team have made decisions about the use of restraints based on limited input from health workers on Mr Coonan’s current condition and mobility.
“Furthermore, it took too long for the escorting officers to remove the shackles after a manager gave permission to do so.”
Ms McAllister added: “The Prison Service has a duty to protect the public when escorting prisoners outside of prison, for example to hospital. It also has a responsibility to make up for this by treating prisoners with humanity.”
The report recommended better liaison between hospital administrators and prison staff to ensure that decisions to lift restraints are communicated and made quickly, and that staff formally consider whether a terminally ill prisoner should be allowed direct contact with his or her next of kin.