The son of Peter Sutcliffe’s first murder victim has praised ITV bosses for dropping ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ from the title of an upcoming drama about the serial killer. Richard McCann, whose mum was murdered by Sutcliffe, urged The Long Shadow’s producers to change its name so it didn’t include the moniker.
The keynote speaker said the name only served to “traumatise” victim’s families as it signified the wicked methods Sutcliffe used to kill and injure them. And screenwriter George Kay said he’d agreed to change the title after criticism from the relatives who those who had been killed by the murderer.
Richard said he was “pleased” the production team had withdrawn the phrase, saying the series showed the killer’s casualties as “human beings” and “not just numbers” He said: “I urged them (ITV) not to use that word – it begins with R – in the title and I’m pleased they’ve listened.
“The word serves to traumatise us families left behind because it’s a description of how our loved ones were maimed, how their injuries were inflicted. Speaking about the production, he added: “It shows the women as women, human beings, and not just victims of Sutcliffe, not just numbers.”
“For example, it shows my mum as a mum, someone who loved her children.” Richard was just five in October 1975 when his mum Wilma McCann, 28, was violently killed by Sutcliffe after being hit with a hammer and stabbed 15 times.
He was raised in poverty by his often drunk and violent dad on a council estate in Leeds, West Yorks – and was even jailed in the same prison as Sutcliffe. And although he refused to celebrate the murders death on November 13, 2020, he had said it had offered him some “closure”.
He said at the time: “It is not my family member, I don’t feel that I have lost a family member but it is an almost unique situation. The person that killed your mum has just died – how do you prepare for that, how are you meant to feel? It is just surreal.
“In some people’s eyes he is some kind of cult hero and there are a number of murderers who have been inspired by Peter Sutcliffe. It is a time for reflection, closure to some degree. I don’t need a reminder of what has taken place. I understand some people will celebrate but I won’t be one of those people. It does not bring my mum back, it does not change anything at all.”
Victims were angered in 2020 when Netflix released a documentary about the crimes called The Ripper, despite giving it a working title of Once Upon A Time in Yorkshire. The Long Shadow, which will air on ITV on September 25 and is made up of seven episodes, will explore the five-year hunt for Sutcliffe.
It focuses on the victims and the police investigation and Sutcliffe’s character appears only briefly in later episodes. Line of Duty star Mark Stobbart will take on the role of Sutcliffe, while Toby Jones, David Morrissey, Katherine Kelly and Daniel Mays also star in the production.
Councillors in Sutcliffe’s hometown of Bradford refused to grant permission for production crews to use its public areas for filming. Emails showed officials feared The Long Shadow, starring Stephen Tompkinson and David Morrissey, risked ‘perpetuating the memory’ of the sadistic serial killer.
One email, understood to be from Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe, said: “I’m not keen on us participating in anything that perpetuates the memory of the man, so the answer’s no from me I’m afraid.” The house chosen to double up as Sutcliffe’s home is a residential property in the Roundhay area of Leeds, around 15 miles away from the real life house in Bradford.