Wicked Beyond Belief
Taking its title from a remark made during the judge's summary at the end of Sutcliffe's trial, Bilton's book tackles the case of the Yorkshire Ripper by viewing it through the lens of the police investigation. It is a gripping, twisting story that illuminates both the crimes and the era in which they occurred.
Very little of the book is given over to an examination of Sutcliffe's character, but instead focuses on the detectives, ordinary beat coppers and backroom staff who worked so tirelessly to bring him to justice. In some ways, this makes it almost read like a work of detective fiction in places.
Bilton skillfully evokes the tension of the time and the unprecedented lengths the police went to in order to find The Yorkshire Ripper. In view of the relentless criticism that the investigation attracted (and continues to) it is interesting to reflect on both the difficulties faced by the police as well as the huge volumes of work they undertook.
That said, it could be argued that Bilton is in some ways too close to the investigation. Officers such as Dick Holland and George Oldfield are routinely praised for their character, but in a slew of other cases - such as that of Stefan Kiszko and the M62 bomber Judy Murphy - it was precisely these men who oversaw catastrophic miscarriages of justice in search of quick convictions.
This minor quibble aside, this is the definitive account of the hunt for Ripper, and should be read by anyone seriously interested in the case.
Paul Carpenter: 2014-09-06