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Life of Yorkshire Ripper's supportive ex-wife Sonia who stood by him until his death

JUST like her future husband, the young Sonia Szurma was different.

She spoke English with an east European accent and wore home-made clothes knocked up by her thrifty mother who still had her old-country ways.

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Sonia’s parents were Ukrainian and Polish–born refugees who had fled Czechoslovakia for Britain after the war.

They were given a council house in Bradford, where Sonia and elder sister Marianne grew up, seven miles from Sutcliffe’s home in Bingley.

English was rarely spoken at home, so Sonia developed the accent that sounded strange to her Yorkshire school classmates.

Her father Bohdan was an educated, cultured man, the kind of dad who wanted his daughters to learn the piano rather than watch TV.

So the only way Sonia and Marianne could get to the Royal Standard pub on Valentine’s Day 1966 was by fibbing to him.

Sonia was only 15 at the time but she was about to fall in love.

Sutcliffe recalled: “I said to Sonia, ‘How come you were in a place like that when you’re underage?’

“She said they should have gone to the ballet or the opera, and they showed the dad the tickets to go, so he let them go out. They went round the pubs and discotheque instead.”


He and Sonia hit it off on that first night and began dating regularly.

Sutcliffe said: “The time I met Sonia was around the best time of my life.

“I know what makes her tick and we have a similar humour. I loved her from the start, more or less.”

They introduced each other to their families and although she never really clicked with his, they became regular visitors to each other’s homes.

Sutcliffe said: “We used to watch The Golden Shot with Bob Monkhouse and Anne Aston on TV at my mum’s before I took her home. Those were the days.

“We use to go all over the place. We met every few days. We went for walks — there was a good place with a very large reservoir where we’d go up, past Clayton Heights.

“We’d drive there, then go for a long walk between Queensbury and Halifax. Other times we’d walk over the tops from Queensbury to Haworth — Bronte land.”

In 1968 Sutcliffe proposed to Sonia in the Midland Hotel in Bingley and they married on her 24th birthday in August 1974 in the Baptist Church in the nearby village of Clayton.

They chose a foot-tapping rock ’n’ roll number for their first dance, Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home), by The Royal Showband.

But the occasion failed to develop into the kind of knees-up the raucous Sutcliffe family enjoyed, as they had still not warmed to Sonia.


After their honeymoon in Paris, the newlyweds returned to live with her parents as they saved for their own home.

Sonia hoped to become a teacher but was struggling to overcome a breakdown she had suffered a couple of years earlier while at college in London.

She had exhibited aggressive and restless behaviour, undressed at inappropriate times, heard voices and suffered delusions that she was the second Christ.

Doctors said she was suffering from schizophrenia — the same diagnosis that later formed a central part of Sutcliffe’s murder trial.

He helped to care for her and by summer 1977 they had saved enough to buy their own home, a four-bedroom house in Garden Lane in the leafy Bradford suburb of Heaton.

Timeline of terror

June 1946: Peter Sutcliffe is born in Bingley, West Yorks

August 1974: Sutcliffe marries Sonia Szurma

October 1975: Sutcliffe kills Wilma McCann in Leeds – his first murder.

January 1981: Sutcliffe is arrested by police in Sheffield. He confesses to being The Ripper.

May 1981: He is given 20 life sentences at The Old Bailey over 13 murders and seven attempted murders. He starts sentence at HMP Parkhurst, Isle of Wight.

March 1984: Sent to Broadmoor High-security Hospital after being declared paranoid schizophrenic

August 2016: Sutcliffe moved from Broadmoor to Category A Frankland Prison, County Durham

November 13, 2020 – Sutcliffe dies.

The house needed work but they soon had it spotless — thanks in part to Sonia’s obsession with cleanliness.

She made Sutcliffe take off his boots at the door and she put plastic sheets on the chairs.

They were deeply in love, but she nagged. He was banned from making a snack from the fridge and at times she would unplug the TV while he was watching it.

He said: “I was feeling very depressed. I was fed up with her constant nagging.”

Sonia also suffered three miscarriages though they weren’t planning to have children.

By the time the couple had moved into Garden Lane, Sutcliffe had already murdered five women and left four others for dead.

Innocent Sonia inadvertently gave him an alibi when questioned by police hunting the Yorkshire Ripper.

She confirmed her husband rarely went out in the evening and if he did, it was with her.

In reality he would vanish for hours at a time, but the “naïve and self-centred” young wife accepted his excuses.

When Sutcliffe was finally arrested and confessed to police he expressed little thought or sympathy for his victims — his only concern was Sonia.

He pleaded with officers to let him break the news to her, and they agreed.

She was taken to see him at Dewsbury police station and he told her: “It’s me. I’m the Yorkshire Ripper.”

Sonia was shocked into silence, then replied: “What on earth did you do that for, Peter? Even a sparrow has a right to live.”

He said later: “She looked really stunned, poor lass. I really felt sorry for her.”

Sonia remained loyal after he was jailed for life, travelling thousands of miles over the years, visiting him at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight, then at Broadmoor in Berkshire.


They divorced in 1994, at his insistence, and Sonia — who was still living in their Bradford home as recently as last year — remarried in 1997, but still supported him.

He said: “She stuck with me for many, many years, before she even thought of a separation, and all credit to her. Then even after that, when I suggested she find somebody else, she still keeps coming to see me.

“She really must have loved me a lot. Most women would have just washed their hands of somebody but she knew me so well, my personality and that, she couldn’t let go.

“No one could have asked for a more loyal wife than Sonia and as a friend she still is as loyal and I’m very proud of her. She’s an angel.”

One visit reminded him of how infatuated he still was with her.

He said: “I had two lovely visits from Sonia on Friday. She looked well, she looked beautiful I’d say.

"She’s got a nice figure and she was dressed nicely and she looked lovely. I told her she looked beautiful.”

At times, he remarked on the length of time they had been apart and said: “Sometimes I think it’s all that time ago since I made love to Sonia and all that, it dulls your memory, say, 32 years without having sex, without making love to your wife, or anybody, nobody at all, that’s a long time in that respect.”

Despite the passage of time, they still expressed their love for each other.

He said: “She’s a good lass. Tells me she still loves me, even though she’s married again. We send birthday cards, Christmas cards.”

Sonia struggled to escape the accusation that “she must have known”.

In fact there is no evidence or suggestion that she had any knowledge of his attacks.

As for Sutcliffe, he said: “I was never covered in blood, people used to say Sonia must know something because of all the blood, but there wasn’t any, what a load of rubbish.

“She’s perfectly as white as snow.”

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