Granddaughter of a possible male victim of Yorkshire Ripper speaks out

Granddaughter of ‘forgotten’ male Yorkshire Ripper victim reveals her mother was left traumatised for life after cleaning her father’s blood from the crime scene

  • Sam Vidler, granddaughter of Yorkshire Killer suspected victim Fred Craven
  • Bookie Craven was attacked in 1966 in his office with a blunt object and died
  • Family are sure he was killed by Peter Sutcliffe, a.k.a the Yorkshire Ripper
  • Sutcliffe killed 13 women between 1975 and 1980 and attacked many more
  • He claimed he never attacked or killed any men, but families disagree 

The grandchildren of a man they are certain was killed by Peter Sutcliffe in the 1960s have revealed how the killing and denial of justice has blighted their lives, in a new documentary for Channel 5. 

Sam Vilder and Lee Craven, the grandchildren of Fred Craven, believe Sutcliffe, dubbed the Yorksihre Ripper, killed their grandfather Fred Craven in his office in 1966, almost a decade before his murdering spree in Yorkshire and Leeds began. 

Surtcliffe, who died in November 2020, was sentenced to twenty concurrent sentences of life imprisonment in 1981, for murdering  13 women and attacking seven others between 1975 and 1980.  

However, Sam and Lee, who are speaking in tomorrow’s The Yorkshire Ripper’s New Victims on Channel 5, are convinced Sutcliffe killed their grandfather after Fred refused to let him date his daughter, who they refer to as Auntie Jennifer. 

Speaking in the 9pm documentary, Sam explained her grandfather lived on Cornwall Road, just like the Sutcliffe family, and that Peter Sutcliffe had even come to her grandparents’ house for tea. 

Sam revealed her mother had to clean up the crime scene after the police investigation, scooping blood off the floor, which left her traumatised until her death.  

Craven was found dead in his office. Police found he had been bludgeoned to death with a blunt object by an assailant who had struck from behind 

Serial killer Peter Sutcliffe was sentenced to twenty concurrent sentences of life imprisonment in 1981, for murdering 13 women and attacking seven others between 1975 and 1980. He died in prison aged 74 from covid-19 in November 2020

‘Sutcliffe’s family lived on Cornwall Road with my family. They were a few doors down, and children woulodbe in and out of neighbours houses, neighbours gardens, and played on the streets,’ Sam said. 

‘Peter Sutcliffe had been with tea with us,’ adding her mother, Irene, described him as ‘unnerving.’

‘They found him creepy, they spent more time trying to avoid him than interact with him,’ she added.

She explained Sutcliffe grew ‘enamoured’ of her aunt Jennifer, Fred’s daughter, but that she did not reciprocate his feelings.

Peter Sutcliffe, 35, being escorted by police into the Dewsbery Court to be charged with murder of the 13th victim of the Yorkshire Ripper 

She added that Sutcliffe repeatedly asked Fred for permission to date his daughter, but that Fred refused because Jennifer had said she had no interest in dating him. 

‘Normal people would have not been happy,’ Sam explained. ‘But they would have said “ok” and gone away.

‘But his behaviour got really bad towards my granddad. He would follow him down the street, shouting things at him because he was disabled, he would make his life uncomfortable.’ 

Portraits of Sutcliffe’s victims. Top row left to right: Wilma McCann ; Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia Atkinson, Jayne McDonald and Jean Jordan. Bottom row from left to right: Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka, Vera Milward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach and Jacqueline Hill

Shortly after, Fred was attacked in his office, which was located above a shop and only had one door in.  

‘Fred was hit with a blunt instrument I think five times, which of course became a modus operandi in all future Ripper killings,’ his grandson Lee Craven said. 

‘He fell on the floor and while he was on the floor, whoever did it was jumping on him or kicking him. His ribs where broken,’ he added.  

‘There was hatred in that room, that can be the only description’ Lee said.

Professor Michael Green, a forensic pathologist who was a trainee at the time, was among the first people on the scene. 

‘Fred Craven was lying on the floor. He had injuries to the back of his head, and there was heavy bleeding, a pool of blood round him. He had no defence injuries on hands or forearms. He was struck without warning from behind,’ he said. 

The Craven family are adamant Sutcliffe, pictured, murdered their grandfather Fred because he wouldn’t let him date his daughter

For the family, there was no doubt as to who had committed the murder, but the police didn’t share their belief.  

‘My mum was adamant it was Peter Sutcliffe,’ Sam said. ‘When the police had finished with the scene she had to clean the bookmaker’s. 

‘She had to scoop the floor and clean up the blood and she found that really traumatic. It just stayed with her throughout her life.’ 

According to eyewitness reports, the murderer was wearing a certain type of hat that the family knew Sutcliffe owned.  

‘I don’t think the police ever interviewed him for it,’ Sam said. 

In a letter written in 2017, Sutcliffe wrote from prison: ‘I can tell you with 100 honesty I didn’t murder Mr Craven. I never spoke to Mr Craven on a personal level, and I couldn’t even tell you where his betting shop is.

‘So I’m telling you 100 per cent it has nothing to do with me. And never have I ever attacked a male.

‘Lies, he knew where my granddad worked,’ Sam said. 

Lee also said that Sutcliffe lived only a few yard from Fred and would have been passing by his office all the time.  

‘It’d completely undermine the theory he was a mad man instructed to kill prostitutes,’ he said.

Lee said the police made ‘wrong assumptions’ about Sutcliffe’s motive, which “threw” the investigation completely.  

Sutcliffe died in prison in 2020. In 2017, he denied ever having met Fred Craven and said he didn’t know where his office was (pictured in 2015)

‘Sutcliffe wasn’t motivated by his uncontrollable hatred of women – he was attacking anyone who was vulnerable, like my grandfather.

‘They should have taken a broader approach from the beginning,’ he added. 

It is believed Sutcliffe’s victim count is higher than previously believed,  due to the fact several of his victims were not listened to by police at the time of the investigation into the murders.

Tracey Browne, who was attacked by Sutcliffe when she was only 14, has claimed in recent TV appearances – including the Channel 5 programme – that the police didn’t think she was one of his victims because she was not a prostitute. 

Born in Bingley, West Yorkshire, in 1946, Sutcliffe left school at the age of 15 and worked in menial jobs before becoming a grave digger.

He began his killing spree in 1975, by murdering 28-year-old sex worker Wilma McCann on October 30, 1975, which followed three non-fatal attacks on women earlier in the year.

Lee Craven, who appears on the show, said the police threw the investigation by focusing on prostitutes 

Sutcliffe avoided detection for years due to a series of missed opportunities by police to snare him, and eventually confessed in 1981 when he was brought in due to a police check discovering stolen number plates on his car.

Despite his 24-hour-long confession to the killings, Sutcliffe denied the murders when indicted at court.

In May 1981, he was jailed for 20 life terms at the Old Bailey, with the judge recommending a minimum sentence of 30 years.

He was transferred from Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight to Broadmoor secure hospital in Berkshire in 1984 after he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

More than two decades later, a secret report revealed that Sutcliffe probably committed more crimes than the 13 murders and seven attempted murders for which he was convicted.

West Yorkshire Police reviewed historical cases linked to Sutcliffe in the 1982 Byford Report and confirmed in 2016 that officers had visited a small number of people named in the report, but later announced they had no plans to charge him with further matters.

The report, written by Sir Lawrence Byford about the flawed Ripper investigation, was completed in 1982 but only made public in 2006.

It said there was an ‘unexplained lull’ in Sutcliffe’s criminal activities between 1969, when he first came to the police’s attention, and the first officially recognised Ripper assault in 1975.

Sutcliffe was jailed for murdering and attacking women between 1976 and 1981.

The report said: ‘We feel it is highly improbable that the crimes in respect of which Sutcliffe has been charged and convicted are the only ones attributable to him.

‘This feeling is reinforced by examining the details of a number of assaults on women since 1969 which, in some ways, clearly fall into the established pattern of Sutcliffe’s overall modus operandi.’

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