Series tracks ‘The Long Shadow’ of a killer

In the annals of crime, the “Yorkshire Ripper” far exceeded his namesake Jake the Ripper in victims killed and years active.

London’s infamous 1888 serial killer had five victims, all female prostitutes who were murdered and then mutilated. He was never caught.

The Yorkshire Ripper, aka Peter Sutcliffe, led the police on a five year chase, beginning in 1975, with 13 victims and another seven who got away.

“The Long Shadow,” a new 7-part British series, examines this sordid history with an emphasis on the victims, women who left behind husbands, children, loved ones.

“There’s various documentaries made. What was interesting about this one is,” said David Morrissey, 59, who stars as the Yorkshire Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield who was in charge of the investigation, “it’s very much not about him. It’s about the effect that he had on the community. The effect that it was having on the women of Yorkshire in the north of England, and how the police investigated it.

“So it is very much a take that isn’t lionizing him or in any way adding to his renown. It is all about the victims and the victims’ families and how it devastated so many people over such a long time.”

What the series is meant to do, he added in a Zoom interview from London, “was really show you the fear and the circumstances that people were living in at that time because of what this one man did and how he slipped through the net of this major police force.”

“Long Shadow” also emphasizes the era’s widely held prejudicial attitudes against the women who were murdered or attacked because, while most of them were prostitutes, they were also mothers supporting their families, wives, daughters.

“Like all the policemen,” Morrissey allowed, “George Oldfield has a very damning opinion of these women — as the press did and the public. And even if they were prostitutes, they’re still people who are living lives — and their life is of value.

“They need to be protected and investigated in the law like everybody else. That is something, sadly, very much in our in our lives today: The condemnation of people because of the life choices they make. When we have no idea why they make those choices. Because we are never in their position.”

We see Oldfield age and the terrible toll years of investigating take.

“George and all the police worked really hard. They were in at five and left at midnight.

“So they were very incompetent, misogynistic, blind to the evidence — but they weren’t corrupt officers. They were just deeply flawed and incompetent men of the time.”

“The Long Shadow” premieres with two episodes March 21 on Sundance Now and AMC+, with additional episodes dropping weekly on both platforms. 


Serial killer Peter Sutcliffe murdered 13 women between 1975 and 1980. (Photo AMC Networks)
Serial killer Peter Sutcliffe murdered 13 women between 1975 and 1980. (Photo AMC Networks)



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