Olive Smelt
15th July 1975

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Olive Smelt

Olive Smelt

Timeline

Olive Smelt began the 15th July 1975 as an office cleaner. By 11:45 that evening she would find herself name eternally bound to that of the Yorkshire Ripper - and left forever changed by her chance encounter with Peter Sutcliffe.

That evening, she was drinking in a pub in the centre of Halifax. Many of her Friday nights were spent in this ordinary way - a few drinks with friends, followed by a late night fish supper with her husband at home.

But also drinking in the pub that night was Peter Sutcliffe with his friend Trevor Birdsall. As he had done on previous occasions, he was decrying womanhood to Birdsall and picking out the various women in the pub who he claimed to know or suspect to be prostitutes.

Having indicated to Birdsall that he thought that Olive was "on the game" he made a remark to that effect to her in person as he passed her on the way to the toilet. Not one to take such a slight lightly, Smelt loudly put Sutcliffe in his place, a humiliation that left him seething.

By purest chance, his route with Birdsall took him past Olive as she made her own way home. Telling Birdsall "look - there's that prostitute we saw earlier", Sutcliffe asked him to stop and got out of the car as he wanted to see someone, appearing to head in the opposite direction to the woman. In fact, he cut down a path parallel to the one Olive was taking and ambushed her with his hammer on an alleyway off Woodside Lane.

He struck her two savage blows from behind and had slashed her buttocks twice when the headlights of an oncoming car swept over him. He fled back to Birdsall's still waiting car, unaware that Olive had survived his attack. She was discovered and whisked to Halifax Royal Infirmary and then to Leeds where she underwent a brain operation followed by 10 days of recuperation. 

Despite the suddenness of the onslaught, she was able to provide a vague description of her attacker to police - noting his slight build and dark hair and facial hair.

She went on to survive until 2011, when she died aged 82, her life indelibly marked by that night in a dark alleyway in Halifax.

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