Wilma McCann
30th October 1975

The first known victim of Peter Sutcliffe. Her death marked the point at which the shy, ordinary Bradfordian began on the road to becoming Britain's most feared and hated man - and still casts a shadow over her family today.

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Wilma McCann

Wilma McCann

Wilma McCann was the first known victim of Peter Sutcliffe. He had attacked before, but his victims had lived. From this day forward, he was a murderer.

The poverty of her life can be judged by her working pattern. Leaving her children in the doubtful care of her eldest daughter - herself just 7 years old - she left for the pubs and clubs at 7:30pm, as she did most nights. Blood samples taken later would indicate that she drank as much as 14 measures of spirits as she flitted from pub to pub, ending in the Room At The Top club. Finally leaving to head home at 1:00am, carrying curry and chips she embarked on the tragic last half hour of her life, staggering recklessly and trying to flag down a lift home, despite the fact that the walk was short. At least one lorry driver, attempting to help her, drove off when greeted by a fusillade of abuse from the drunken McCann.

That moment represented her last chance.

Sutcliffe was passing through the area and he too stopped to offer her a lift. It wasn't long before she asked him if he wanted "business." Sutcliffe, business of entirely more sinister kind on his mind, agreed and drove her to the Prince Phillip playing fields - just 100 yards from her house and family.

Sutcliffe would later say that McCann turned abusive when he expressed surprise at her £5 fee and asked for something more "romantic". His suggestion that they do it on the grass outside was met with sneering agreement. As she sat on the grass, unbuttoning her trousers, Sutcliffe pulled out his hidden hammer and bludgeoned her to death.

Her body was found 6 hours later by the milkman. Her hair matted with blood, her breasts exposed and stab wounds all over her torso.

Sutcliffe's career as one of the most notorious and feared serial killers in British history had begun. He would later say of the murder during questioning:

"What a damn stupid thing to do just to keep somebody quiet. If I was thinking logical at the time, I would have stopped and told someone I'd hit her with the hammer. That was the turning point. I realise I over-reacted at the time, nothing I have done since then affected me like this."


Wilma McCann's son Richard is now a motivational speaker who uses his experience of overcoming the trauma to help others. He has revealed that Wilma escaped to Leeds from her abusive husband Gerry. Following her murder, Richard and his siblings were sent back into his care and faced a horrific ordeal of beatings and abuse both physical and mental. Mention of Wilma was forbidden in the house and the children had to face both constant taunts about her occupation and renewed horror with every subsequent victim that Sutcliffe claimed.

In 2010 he told the Northern Echo:

"Unfortunately, my dad wasnít what I had hoped. He used to drink whisky out of the bottle and they donít call it the demon drink for nothing. He drowned our dog in the bath, he used to beat us with sticks and one day I thought he was going to drown me."

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