Feature on Ripper case led to hardback

Patrick Lavelle of the Sunderland Echo has had a book published and has been promoted – all in the space of two weeks.

Lavelle, the newspaper’s new assistant editor and head of content, has spent five years following up leads and writing Shadow of the Ripper, an investigation into the hoaxer whose letters to police and a newspaper threw police off the scent of the real Yorkshire Ripper.

The hardback was published last week not long after Lavelle was moved up from news editor.

The hoaxer, nicknamed “Wearside Jack”, sent three letters and an audiotape, all posted in Sunderland, in 1978/79 claiming to be the serial killer.

The information helped convince the head of the Ripper squad that the writer was genuine, along with saliva on an envelope which came from a rare blood group found at the scene of one of the murders in Preston.

Lavelle was crime correspondent of the Northern Echo nine years ago when he heard of a woman from North Shields, who claimed to know the identity of Wearside Jack. When he began at the Sunderland Echo as news editor four years later, he decided to put together a feature on the case.

“I put a couple of paragraphs in the Echo as a come-on, asking if people had any memories of this time and I was flooded with replies,” says Lavelle.

The response led to a locally published book, two regional documentary programmes by Tyne-Tees, an hour-long Granada documentary to which Lavelle contributed, and finally to his book.

He has spent his spare time researching it and has set out all the evidence he has of who Wearside Jack might be. There are nine men in the book whom he has investigated and he believes he has identified the prime suspects, both for the hoaxes and for the link to the Preston murder, but that the reader must decide.

Lavelle has been 15 years in journalism beginning at the Hexham Courant. He has a degree in criminology.

lShadow of the Ripper by Patrick Lavelle is available from John Blake Publishing, priced £16.99.

By Jean Morgan

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