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Peter Sutcliffe met the love of his life Sonia in a Bradford pub in 1966 when he was working as a gravedigger.
They wed in 1974, and he remained obsessed with her to his dying day, still naming her as his next of kin.
And even although she divorced the serial killer in 1994 and remarried in 1997, her former brother-in-law, Carl Sutcliffe, expects it will be Sonia who arranges the funeral. She is also expected to inherit her former husband’s possessions.
Carl told how his older brother remained totally obsessed and “in love” with Sonia, even after he was locked up and she had moved on and remarried.
When Sonia’s mother died, Sutcliffe asked Carl to attend the funeral as his representative. Carl tells how when he went back to Sonia and Sutcliffe’s former marital home for the wake, he was shown a room full of bizarre artwork.
Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe's brother Carl (pictured)
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He told the Mirror: “Sonia said to me, ‘Oooh, come and see this room’. She took me upstairs and there’s a room full of paintings Peter had done. One with their heads on.
“Peter’s head was on top of a soldier and she was a woman in full dress. They were battle scenes some of them, Battle of Waterloo, that sort of period.
“If you looked Sonia’s head was on one of them and Peter’s on the other.
“He used to love to paint.”
Sonia never sold their marital home in Manningham, Bradford, despite not living there. The house they bought in 1977 for £16,000 is now worth around £250,000 but, should Sonia sell it, Sutcliffe’s share could go to benefit the victims’ families.
Sonia returns to the semi-detached house to quietly tend the garden.
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The daughter of Ukrainian and Polish refugees, Sonia Szurma first met Sutcliffe at a pub disco in the Royal Standard in Bradford’s red light district in 1966. A year later they were engaged. They married on August 10, 1974, and Carl said his brother was totally smitten by his new wife.
But less than a year later, lorry driver Sutcliffe picked up a hammer and began attacking women, two in Keighley and one in Halifax.
A year later he murdered his first victim Wilma McCann, a 28-year-old mother-of-four.
When Sutcliffe was finally arrested and unmasked as the serial killer in 1981, Sonia stood by him. When she first saw him at Dewsbury police station after he was arrested, Sonia asked: “What on earth is going on Peter?” He replied: “It’s me, luv. I’m the Yorkshire Ripper. I killed all those women.” To which she apparently replied: “What on earth did you do that for, Peter?”
Journalist Sheron Boyle yesterday told of Sonia’s words on learning her husband was the killer, tweeting that she had said: “Oh Peter, how could you. Even a sparrow has a right to life.”
Sonia has never given an interview, but she was quoted in the Sheffield Star by a reporter who had chatted with her during the trial.
Sonia Sutcliffe leaving the Old Bailey in May 1981
She allegedly told him: “Of course I am standing by him. I wouldn’t have attended the trial otherwise.”
As she arrived at the Old Bailey, Sonia would crouch on the floor of a taxi, but said: “It was worth it all just to see him and let him know I was there. It was really worth it.”
The Sheffield Star report went on, quoting her as saying: “I know he’s going away for a long time. I don’t know where he will be held… but I will certainly not be able to visit him every week.” Sonia, a pottery teacher, said: “Someone might try and get at me. If it happens it happens. I wish I was a starling and could fly away from it all.
“I’ve thought about a new identity, but I don’t know about changing my name because I have never used my married name much.”
She said: “I never suspected a thing – not even when the police first took me to Dewsbury Police Station to see him after his arrest. I thought nothing of it and was even laughing and joking.
“I thought it would soon be cleared up and we would both go back home.
Sonia on a rainy day in Leeds in 2018
“Peter had been questioned before, but every one was being questioned in the Bradford area. It was nothing unusual. Then Pete broke the news to me at Dewsbury Police Station. He nodded his head and said, ‘It’s me love’. I couldn’t believe it of him… he had behaved so normally at home. At home we’d mentioned the murders once or twice, only in passing.”
She told how going to London for the trial brought back memories of a visit with Sutcliffe 10 years earlier.
She added: “I was a dreamer in love. We were so happy.”
Sonia also spoke of a 20-minute visit with Sutcliffe at Brixton prison a week before the end of the trial.
The killer died from Covid-19 at the age of 74
She said: “He seems to be bearing up quite well. But I can’t see inside his head. I can’t say what state he is in.” He had told her to make “a new life” for herself. But she said: “I stand by him. I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t have visited him if I didn’t care. I shall go on seeing him wherever he is. I know he is going away for a long time but I don’t want to look too far ahead”
After he was jailed, Sonia visited Sutcliffe at Broadmoor every month. , but it is believed her visits ceased after she remarried in 1997. She now lives with her husband, hairdresser Michael Woodward, in a converted mill.
Sonia lost 2st in four months after Sutcliffe’s arrest.
Her dad Bodhan Szurma said at the time: “She has been through absolute hell. Her health has suffered and she cannot sleep at night.What matters to my daughter most is what she feels in her heart inside her. She has to face people when this is all over.”
Savile, seen at Broadmoor in 1991, as Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe meets boxer Frank Bruno, who was on a visit to open a new gym.