‘The Long Shadow’ Recap & Ending Explained: Did The Police Catch The Yorkshire Ripper?

True crime stories are always interesting to watch because they help us understand the mindset of a killer. There are plenty of reasons why a person becomes a serial killer, and true crime stories allow the viewers to understand the pattern, the MO and the motive behind such acts. Most of the time, a killer will be a his or her who lived a normal life and became a figure of some standing in his or her locality. The Long Shadow is based on the five-year-long manhunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, a serial killer who carried out multiple murders in the suburban UK. The investigation mentioned in the show takes the audience through the late 1970s in England and the kind of atmosphere people lived in.

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Spoilers Ahead


Who Was The First Victim?

The Long Shadow is set in the year 1975, when Wilma McCann’s dead body was found near a car park in the town of Chapeltown, a suburb in Leeds, England. She was found with fifteen stab wounds. Wilma had four children who were rendered orphans because she did not live with her partner. The police came across her diary, which had the names of men and her phone number. It allowed them to conclude that Wilma was a prostitute. This sets the tone for the show, and it allows the viewers to understand that this is just the first of many murders that the police will be coming across. Dennis Hoban and Jim Hobson are the investigative officers who have taken over the murder inquiry and found the clues that could lead them to the killer. Little did they know this was the start of their five-year ordeal.

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Dennis makes it clear that the killing of a prostitute is still a crime. He plans to look at it as an unlawful act, unlike some of his colleagues, who are somehow under the impression that women who solicit are not dignified, and that such a death doesn’t really need to be investigated. It stank of misogyny and the kind of mindset men had about women who may be forced into the business of selling their bodies out of desperation. The show in the beginning also presented a montage that talked about the economic crises Britain was going through. Even in that state, men talk about moral high ground instead of respecting women who make money to feed their children, as in the case of Wilma McCann.


Who Is Emily Jackson?

Emily and her husband, Sydney Jackson, are in dire need of money thanks to the dwindling state economy. They are out of options for how to bring in a steady income for the family. A man followed Emily and offered her five pounds if she slept with him, and she was quick to realize that prostitution could be the only way to save her family.

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Even though Sydney was the typical man who couldn’t get himself a decent job, he showed his distaste when she chose to do something to financially secure her family. Sydney is just like the killer himself, who feels prostitutes are beneath them, but the men wouldn’t think twice before approaching them. This hypocrisy is ignored because their male ego would be hurt if the obvious contradiction was pointed out. Emily had started soliciting and earning decent money, but unfortunately, she became the next victim of the killer.

By this time, the news of a serial killer had not spread, which is why the town was not informed about anything unusual happening. The investigation learned of a certain car that the killer drove, but that intel did not help them. Meanwhile, Emily’s murder sent her children in shock as they learned that their mother was a prostitute. Emily did not deserve to die the way she did. The police were catching up on the MO and slowly building up the case, but had no killer in sight.

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Is The Killer On A Spree From This Point On?

The police were busy gathering evidence from the scene of the crime when they came across an incident regarding a college student named Marcella being attacked on the head with a hammer. She gives her statement but is dubbed a prostitute because the police had made it clear that the killer was only targeting them, which puts her reputation at stake. This was followed by the death of Irene Richardson, who was looking for a decent job but ended up having to resort to soliciting for survival. Three murders and one attack prove that the man was not willing to stop anytime soon.

The investigators had the size of his shoe, the model of his car, and a sketch from Marcella but those did not not take them anywhere. Since the case was not heading towards a conclusive ending, Dennis was promoted by Chief Constable Ronal Gregory to set him aside and to bring on board Jim Hobson to lead the investigation. The change of power was probably done to introduce a fresh perspective to the case. 

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Do Police Find Their Suspect?

The makers tell the story of Donna DeAngelo, who was brutally beaten up by her client after she spent time with him. The police questioned her for being a prostitute; instead of finding the man who injured her without any provocation. The show is set in a decade that did not have proper protocols when it comes to arresting a female criminal. One cannot help but notice it was a bunch of white, aging men who were investigating the case, and there were no leading female investigative officers even though all the victims were women. The men were the decision-makers, and the women were only low-lying constables who were to obey the orders of the superior officers.

These police officers were willing to put their female subordinates at risk by making them pretend to be prostitutes for the sake of an investigation, which did not work. They did not realize that if the killer intended to murder someone, he or she would do it without hesitating. Meanwhile, a 16-year-old girl was killed, adding to the now growing list of murders.

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Ronald also replaced Jim Hobson with George Oldfield. This was done for the same reason as last time. George was the head of the CID, but his methods were outdated, and it did not seem he could find answers. Jim was not asked to leave the team because he was a part of this investigation right from the start. The body count had reached eight, and the police had no clue who the killer could be. The name Yorkshire Ripper came from ‘Jack the Ripper’, the infamous serial killer from the late 1800’s who was never found. Since the Leeds police were unable to track the man, he was dubbed by the said name.


Where Is The Investigation Headed?

More than two years into this investigation, a letter from the so-called Yorkshire Ripper put the police investigation team in a frenzy. While George Oldfield was willing to believe that it was the Ripper who wrote it, some police officers in the team believed the opposite. We feel the opposite faction has all the right to believe that it could be anybody who was trying to derail the investigation.

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George Oldfield probably wanted to believe the letter was real because he had created an idea in his head that maybe they were getting closer to the killer, which was why the man sent a letter. This scenario did not make sense because the killer was running away from law and order, and he would not expose himself in a way that could lead the police to him. The kill count kept increasing, and the killer now targeted young college-going girls. The police believed they’d driven him away from the red-light districts, which made him go after women who were not prostitutes.

George Oldfield again received a tape that he believed came from the Yorkshire Ripper. There is no way to prove that the voice belonged to the actual killer. George Oldfield pressured everyone to use it as a reference because the man on the tape had a distinct Geordie accent, and the police began their door-to-door investigation. The difference of opinion persisted, but they had to trust George’s orders.

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Scotland Yard also found discrepancies in the date of the letter and the murders. It proved that the one who wrote the letter was not the Yorkshire Ripper. The door-to-door investigation brought them to Peter Sutcliffe. To break the reader’s bubble, Peter Sutcliffe was the actual killer, but the police were ready to believe his alibi, and his wife claimed he was with her during all the dates of the murders. He was a truck driver who would wear a certain kind of boot that matched the prints that were found on the dead bodies. Unfortunately George Oldfield and his team were unwilling to look beyond the Geordie accent.


Why Was Marcella Scared?

Marcela was a survivor of the Yorkshire Ripper, but she was not given any compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. They insinuated that the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper were prostitutes, which makes her one as well, implying that she invited the attack on herself. This was their reason for not offering her compensation. Marcella was not keen on filing a case against the authorities, who were making excuses. Her friend Calvin hires Ruth, a young lawyer who feels that Marcella was wronged. She was under the belief that there was no justice for people like her, but Ruth helped and proved her wrong.

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The ordeal that Marcella was put through could be the case for every survivor of the Yorkshire Ripper. It was insulting to the female gender when people justify rape. It indirectly blamed the women for getting sexually molested. It puts the onus on women and not the men who commit the crime. Marcella files for the injunction, and her long struggle finally pays off. She won the compensation eventually, but she lost her health and social security benefits, unfortunately.


Did The Police Ever Catch The Yorkshire Ripper?

There was no end to the killings as the Yorkshire Ripper had managed to murder 13 women in the past five years across Leeds, Bradford, and Manchester. The Geordie accent theory was taking them nowhere. One night, Peter Sutcliffe was headed toward a secluded spot with a prostitute when they were caught by the police for engaging in soliciting.

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Peter Sutcliffe was visibly rattled, but he thought the situation was under control—not before he was taken into custody for driving a stolen car. The police were this close to getting hold of the Yorkshire Ripper, who at this point was in their custody with no means to escape. Peter could have been overconfident about the methods he used before and not realized he would not get away with the murder this time. Call it luck or fate, neither were on his side as the police were not satisfied with the answers he gave.

George Oldfield was informed about the possibility of the Yorkshire Ripper being in custody. George had all the reasons to not trust this because he and his team had been let down before. The police claimed that the guy had parked the vehicle in such a manner that would help him get away quickly. The police also found a hammer and knife near the car, which increased their suspicions. At his home, they found a knife missing from the set in the kitchen.

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Peter Sutcliffe confessed to having killed women around Leeds, Bradford, and Manchester. He probably owned up to the crime because he knew there was no way out for him from here on. The police also came to know his previous alibis were false, which made it easier for him to confess and end the cat-and-mouse game.

The police publicly announced the arrest of the Yorkshire Ripper to the media and the public, ending their five-year-long search. There was no chase involved, which made it easy for the local police to close the case and get ready for the trial. The police, the investigation team, and all the townspeople were glad to see this ordeal come to a close.

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What Is The Aftermath Of This Investigation?

The Long Shadow ended with Peter Sutcliff being given a 30-year prison sentence. However, the parents of the victims and the survivors themselves were not happy with the way the investigation was conducted. Most of the parents of the victims never trusted the police anymore because a lot of them ended up losing their kids to a man who had a screwed-up idea of what women should be and why they needed to be killed. Though Constable Chief Ronald Gregory defends his team, he probably knew that George’s theory was to blame for the long, strenuous hunt. But he didn’t throw his colleague under the bus. The police officers always stick to each other, no matter who does wrong or right. The mother of one of the victims also claimed that the police could not come to terms with calling the killer by his real name. Yorkshire Ripper was a term coined for him. The investigation team did not hide the names of victims or survivors, and there should be no reason to hide the name of the killer. It seemed the police were more concerned about the well-being of the killer than the victims and survivors, who went through a lot during this five-year-old investigation.

Thirty years later, in 2005, police officer Chris Greg visited the son of Wilma McCann, Richard, who was informed about the fact that the tape that was sent in did not belong to Peter Sutcliffe. Chris was going to every victim and survivor’s home to let them know about this development. The tape that George Oldfield received was sent by John Humble, who did it purely for notoriety. He was the same person who sent the letter as well. This broke Richard’s heart because this man’s idea of a prank derailed the investigation and kept them from closing in on the killer. Richard’s mother did not survive, but he didn’t want any other women to be victims of Sutcliffe. It turns out that Richard ended up becoming a motivational speaker who spoke of abandonment issues and about how their mother’s case was mishandled by the police. Richard claimed that his mother had male friends, but she was never a prostitute, as the police dubbed her. We understand that Richard refuses to believe that his mother ever solicited, and probably a lot of the victims were not actually prostitutes, as the police declared. Some students were victims as well, but the police were quick to judge the profession of the women without asking many questions. The police might have mishandled the whole case, but this probably paved the way for them to not make the same mistake in the future. The Yorkshire Ripper was arrested, and people could sleep in peace ever since.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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