he murders of two Derbyshire women have been shrouded in mystery for over 40 years - but now a retired detective claims notorious serial killer Peter Sutcliffe could be responsible.
Chris Clark says he has unearthed new evidence linking the Yorkshire Ripper to a series of grisly killings over a 12-year period - including the deaths of Barbara Mayo in 1970 and Wendy Sewell in 1973.
School teacher Barbara, 24, was brutally raped, battered and strangled and her body dumped in woods near Glapwell.
She had been hitch-hiking to Catterick, North Yorkshire, to fetch her boyfriend’s car.
Following an investigation into numerous leads the murder hunt was scaled down but never stopped and in 2008 Derbyshire police promised the search for her killer would not end until someone was convicted.
In 1973 Wendy Sewell - cruelly dubbed ‘the Bakewell Tart’ by the tabloids after a court heard she kept a diary of her lovers - was beaten with a pickaxe handle and sexually assaulted in Bakewell Cemetery.
Stephen Downing, a 17-year-old with learning difficulties, was convicted of her murder but cleared after 27 years in jail. Nobody else has been charged with the killing.
Mr Clark, 67, a former intelligence officer, said as many as 17 unsolved killings bore hallmarks of the Ripper.
Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering 13 women and attempting to murder seven others in 1981 but at the time, detectives believed the lorry driver must have committed more attacks.
Mr Clark, who served with Norfolk Police, told the Derbyshire Times: “I began researching unsolved crimes about three years ago. This year I started looking at Peter Sutcliffe and saw many murders seemed to have a common thread running through them.”
Mr Clark believes Sutcliffe’s work as a driver could have given him the opportunity to kill all around the country and in 1973 his work would have brought him close to Bakewell.
He said the frenzied and sexual nature of Wendy Sewell’s murder was similar to other Ripper killings.
He added: “Take the pickaxe handle out of the equation and the murder is almost identical to later Ripper victims including the removal of the clothing.”
Mr Clark said significantly, in Matlock Mercury editor Don Hale’s findings, Wendy Sewell was heard talking to a man with a “high pitched voice” on the day she was killed.
He said: “A man in an adjacent office heard her talking to a man with a high pitched voice and it is common knowledge that Peter Sutcliffe had a high pitched voice.”
In the case of Barbara Mayo, Mr Clark is researching her death and the unsolved murder of hitch-hiker Jackie Ansell-Lamb separately but believes their deaths could be linked to the Ripper.
He said: “In view of the negative DNA sample from Sutcliffe, I am exploring the possibility that he may have had some involvement, together with as yet an unknown accomplice.”
Mr Clark is putting together a dossier of evidence which he will present to the Home Office in the hope they will reopen the cases. He said he was motivated by a desire to bring closure to the families of victims.
He added: “I have spoken to one of the families who said after 40 years it’s nice that someone is still interested in getting closure.
“These people are no less important than somebody who is murdered today, time has no meaning.”
“Back in the 70s how many people were going round attacking unaccompanied young women?,” he said.
“There are so many unanswered questions and to get apathy from the authorities is very disappointing.
“The police have been dismissive of the whole thing and seem to take the view that if they can’t solve it, they won’t allow anyone else to.”
A spokesman for Derbyshire Police said they were not looking in to links between Miss Mayo’s death and Sutcliffe.
He added a re-investigation of Wendy Sewell’s murder was carried out by Derbyshire constabulary and overseen by an independent advisory group.
“There is no evidence to connect Peter Sutcliffe with the murder of Wendy Sewell and speculation about the case will no doubt cause Mrs Sewell’s surviving relations more heartache.
“The murder was thoroughly reinvestigated in 2002 after the conviction of Stephen Downing was quashed following an appeal.
“That appeal found that the conviction was unsafe as a result of procedural mistakes during the original investigation in 1973. From a police perspective the case is now closed. All possible lines of enquiry were exhausted during the re-investigation. Twenty two people were ruled out of the enquiry but officers were unable to eliminate Stephen Downing as a suspect,” he said.
Campaigning former editor says both killings are linked
Don Hale, former editor of DT’s sister title the Matlock Mercury, campaigned for the release of Stephen Downing after he was jailed for the murder of Wendy Sewell. He took an interest in the case and later published best-selling book, Town Without Pity which revealed vital evidence that helped clear Stephen. Speaking to the Derbyshire Times this week Don, 61, who now lives in North Wales, said he believed whoever killed Mrs Sewell also killed hitchhiker Barbara Mayo. He added: “Peter Sutcliffe had attended the Pav in Matlock Bath on a number of occasions and there was also evidence that he liked walking in the Derbyshire Dales. “He was driving around and regularly delivering in that area.” Mr Hale said the case should be reopened. He added: “I appreciate it’s very difficult for the families of the people concerned to keep dragging things up but I think it’s also important to try and get answers and clear Downing’s name once and for all. “There is an air of uncertainty about policing in the 70s and we now know many things were not done properly. “This is a chance to set the record straight, working with one of their own.”