Theresa Sykes
5th November 1980

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Theresa Sykes

Theresa Sykes, pictured around the time she was attacked by Peter Sutcliffe

Theresa Sykes was just 16 when Peter Sutcliffe attacked her on Bonfire Night in 1980. The young mother had walked a couple of hundred years to buy cigarettes from a grocery shop and was almost home, when Sutcliffe emerged from the shadows behind her, and struck her on the head. This was possibly the closest that Sutcliffe came to being caught in the act, as he was disturbed by the arrival of help. Dick Holland would later describe how the police were "minutes" behind Sutcliffe with tracker dogs, but once again he evaded capture.

As she fell she managed to turn and got a hand on the weapon - and later was able to tell police it was metal. She would able to provide a good description of Sutcliffe's distinctive appearance to add to the litany of descriptions provided by previous survivors in attacks dating back to the early 1970s: beard, moustache and black hair.

Sutcliffe landed second blow which hit her high on the forehead and left a half-moon-shaped despression.

Within sight of her back door, her screams alerted neighbours and Theresa's boyfriend Jim Furey. Furey - described as a fitness fanatic - was out of the house in seconds when he heard his girlfriend's screams and in time to see Sutcliffe running away into the dark. Somehow, Sutcliffe - crouched under a hedge - evaded Furey and left when he felt the coast was clear.

As was so lamentably often the case in Ripper attacks, the police discounted Sykes as a Ripper victim - probably due to her not being a prostitute. Later, they would eventually change their minds, and the attack on Sykes would later be used a key piece of evidence: this was the first case for which Sutcliffe's alibi for an attack did not match the story given to police by his wife.

Interview with Theresa Sykes

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