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Medals of policeman that caught Yorkshire Ripper hoaxer going to auction in Sheffield

Det Sgt Stuart Smith's medals, which are going to auction
Det Sgt Stuart Smith's medals, which are going to auction

When the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe was snared in Sheffield more than 35 years ago, it brought to an end a killing spree that resulted in 13 brutal murders and put one of the most notorious criminals in history behind bars.

But the capture of Wearside Jack, the mysterious hoaxer who claimed to be the Ripper and massively sidetracked the investigation by taunting police with bogus letters and a tape, did not come until 2005, when DNA from an original envelope matched the profile of John Humble, in Sunderland.

Peter Sutcliffe

Peter Sutcliffe

One of the leading officers in the search and conviction of Humble was Det Sgt Stuart Smith, of West Yorkshire Police. He arrested the conman at his home in the North East, and also helmed the interviews that brought about his confession, an achievement for which he received a commendation.

And this Friday, a buyer will have the chance to purchase a piece of Ripper-related history when DS Smith's police medals go under the hammer at the Sheffield Auction Gallery in Heeley.

John Morgan, the gallery's specialist valuer, said interest in the sale had been high.

"Any subject that has the word 'ripper' in it creates both emotion and collectibility. It's of historic interest and I think that will only increase. It will always be one of those textbook cases that will be referred to in history."

The full batch of items connected with the Wearside Jack case that are up for sale

The full batch of items connected with the Wearside Jack case that are up for sale

The medals include DS Smith's long service and good conduct medals, and his honours from the Queen's last two Jubilees in 2002 and 2012. Newspaper cuttings, a letter of thanks, a Crimewatch DVD and a signed copy of the Ripper book Wicked Beyond Belief, by Michael Bilton, are also part of the auction lot.

John said 'two types of collector' would be prepared to bid.

"There are collectors of police history that have an interest, obviously with it being an enormous case, and there are those that have an interest in the macabre."

The hunt for Sutcliffe was directed by assistant chief constable George Oldfield, who suffered health problems as the inquiry progressed and he was hoodwinked into pursuing Humble's missives as a genuine lead, leaving the real murderer free to carry on killing.

Valuer John Morgan with medals from a previous sale at Sheffield Auction Gallery

Valuer John Morgan with medals from a previous sale at Sheffield Auction Gallery

The Ripper was arrested in Broomhill in 1981. Humble's DNA match came courtesy of a sample he gave police in 2000, when he was cautioned for being drunk and disorderly in an unrelated incident.

John has put an estimated price of £200 to £400 on the medals, but said this was 'just a speculative number'.

"The price will be very interesting because there's no comparative data at all. As a group of three medals they have no significant value. Their value is in the story. I don't know what anybody is willing to pay to hold a piece of history against the future.

"Every set of medals is unique. Modern medals, by default, are rarer than older ones. In terms of police medal sets to do with the Yorkshire Ripper, there aren't many with such a close link to the case."

He said the tale of Wearside Jack demonstrated the advances in policing in recent years.

"The John Humble case proves what a huge step forward DNA testing was."

Visit www.sheffieldauctiongallery.com for details. Friday's sale starts at 10am.