Tim Hicks writes on a deeply disturbing set of correspondence from the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police (NYP) concerning her refusal to investigate Scarborough’s greatest murder mystery, because the victim is thought to be a prostitute.
*Tim is originally from London. “Tom” is cockney rhyming slang for a prostitute, from Thomas More = Whore.
Police Misogyny: Tom’s* Lives Matter 1: “Hope”
by TIM HICKS
Introduction: The Murder of “Hope” and Misogyny in the Police
Regular readers will know that for some time the North Yorks Enquirer has been conducting an investigation into what must be the greatest murder mystery in the history of policing in North Yorkshire. The 1981 discovery of the naked body of a woman, who remains unidentified to this day and is known as the “Nude in the Nettles” murder.
For reasons of decency and to engage public interest, the NYE has named her “Hope”.
The NYE investigation concluded that “Hope” had been murdered by the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. Many of Sutcliffe’s victims were prostitutes. A key aspect of the failure of the Yorkshire Ripper investigation was institutionalised misogyny in the Police – by both male and female Police Officers – who regarded sex workers as pursuing a lifestyle choice which involved acceptance of violence from their clients. This resulted in a refusal to investigate prostitute murders effectively.
I was therefore pleased to see the following statement from Chief Constable John Robins of West Yorkshire Police (pictured above) following Sutcliffe’s death in November 2020:
Response to the death of Peter Sutcliffe
Peter Sutcliffe was convicted at court in 1981 for the murder of thirteen women and the attempted murder of seven other victims, in crimes which created a climate of fear across the country.
I am sure the news of his death will bring back a range of mixed emotions and trauma for surviving victims and relatives of those whose lives he cruelly took away.
Those who died and were assaulted, as well as those relatives who are still suffering today, are at the forefront of our thoughts and our condolences.
The investigation into offences committed by Peter Sutcliffe was, at the time, the largest ever conducted by a UK Police force and was subject to two exhaustive reviews in the immediate aftermath.
The 1981 report by Sir Lawrence Byford and a subsequent review conducted by former West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Colin Sampson identified the extensive efforts made by the enquiry team, as well as what clearly went wrong.
Failings and mistakes that were made are fully acknowledged and documented. We can say without doubt that the lessons learned from the Peter Sutcliffe enquiry have proved formative in shaping the investigation of serious and complex crime within modern day policing.
West Yorkshire Police is committed to ensuring that those harmed by crime are at the heart of what we do.
Apology to surviving victims and relatives
On behalf of West Yorkshire Police, I apologise for the additional distress and anxiety caused to all relatives by the language, tone and terminology used by senior Officers at the time in relation to Peter Sutcliffe’s victims.
Such language and attitudes may have reflected wider societal attitudes of the day, but it was as wrong then as it is now.
A huge number of Officers worked to identify and bring Peter Sutcliffe to justice and it is a shame that their hard work was overshadowed by the language of senior Officers used at the time, the effect of which is still felt today by surviving relatives.
Thankfully those attitudes are consigned to history and our approach today is wholly victim focused, putting them at the centre of everything we do.
The well-documented Byford and Sampson reviews fully explored many issues. However, the reports did not fully address the issue of how victims were portrayed and described, which impacted on families, friends and wider public perception.
I offer this heartfelt apology today as the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police.
John Robins QPM
West Yorkshire Police
I felt this was an impressive and highly commendable statement by Chief Constable Robins.
It indicates a sea change in Police attitudes towards crimes against women, particularly against prostitutes in most forces. I say “most”, because misogyny still affects policing in the UK article here and there are still at least two forces that will not investigate prostitute murders effectively.
One of them is NYP.
The murder of “Hope”, Scarborough’s greatest murder mystery
An appeal for information by NYP as part of a 2011 cold case review gives the facts of “Hope’s” murder:
“An anonymous male caller telephoned North Yorkshire Police providing the exact location for Police Officers to search. On Friday 28th August 1981 Police Officers attended the described location, a lay by on the unclassified road leading from Sutton Bank to the villages of Scawton and Rievaulx. The location is a quiet road used by local people and occasional caravaners heading to a nearby site. The rural area consists mainly of arable and pasture farmland with occasional conifer plantations. It was to the side of this road and between two small plantations that Officers found the skeletal remains of an unknown female laid in undergrowth.
A forensic examination of the naked body revealed no jewellery or personal effects laid nearby that may assist in establishing who she was. A Home Office pathologist estimated she may have laid at that place situ for up to two years due to plant growth and state of the body. The post mortem did not establish a cause of death.
Thirty years later the same questions remain. The anonymous male caller that started this 30 years Police investigation may have the answer to the other questions – who is this lady left undiscovered at the top of Sutton Bank?, what was she doing there? and how did she die.
North Yorkshire Police’s commitment to finding the answers to these questions remains the same, so that her family can have the answers they deserve. For this reason if you know the identity of the lady or the male caller please make contact.”
(My emphasis in bold)
At the time, it was speculated that the victim was a prostitute. The “mystery caller” was designated as the prime suspect in both the 1981 and 2011 investigations.
The NYE investigation included repeated appeals for information and identified:
- A key witness, Alderman Norman Murphy of Scarborough, who believes he knew “Hope” and another witness that has supported Alderman Murphy’s information.
- A name for the mystery caller, explanations of how the body was discovered and why the “mystery caller” could not come forward to the Police.
- Credible evidence that Peter Sutcliffe should be designated as a suspect in the murder.
In accordance with the above appeal for information, the NYE has been trying to pass this evidence on to NYP, however NYP has resolutely refused to meet, or interview Alderman Murphy, to identify “Hope” – “so that her family can have the answers they deserve”.
Based on a letter I received from Chief Constable Winward in April 2018 covered in this NYE article ‘A Letter from the Chief‘, this is obviously a deliberate policy decision not to engage with the NYE. I believe this is because:
a) She is retaliating against the NYE for exposing scandals in North Yorkshire Police. The most famous of which is NYP’s inexcusable failure to arrest Peter Jaconelli and Jimmy Savile. The NYE’s investigation revealed thirty sexual offences and revealed allegations of Police corruption resulting in wide ranging criticism of the force.
b) “Hope” is believed to be a prostitute and she is not interested in resolving prostitute murders. Interestingly, following the publication of the above article by the Yorkshire Post, which also included an appeal for information, NYP did not bother contacting the Yorkshire Post either. This demonstrates NYPs complete lack of interest in doing anything to progress this murder, because the victim was probably an alcoholic prostitute, and that misogynistic policing is alive and well in NYP.
c) She is passionately loyal to the reputation of her force and does not want to admit that it bungled the Yorkshire Ripper investigation and both investigations into “Hope’s” murder. NYE analysis of the 1981 and 2011 investigations here.
I have now had a letter which appears to have been written by a Ms Xanthe Tait. It is written on behalf of Chief Constable Winward and the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel (PCP). The letter deals with the two issues I was corresponding with Chief Constable Winward about at the time; the murder of “Hope” and breaches of the Coronavirus Regulations by Chief Constable Winward and other Police Officers from NYP. The letter is reproduced below:
In her letter, Ms Tait uses the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to justify:
- Ignoring complaints about Police Officers breaching the Coronavirus Lockdown Regulations.
- Refusing to respond to any correspondence from the NYE, even though it is the leading media outlet for the Scarborough area. (NYE article covering these first two aspects of the letter here: Sleeping Beauties: The Chief Bites Back, here.)
- Ignoring the evidence and witnesses generated by the NYE in the murder of “Hope”. Which is the issue covered in this article.
Chief Constable Winward and “Hope”
In her letter Ms Tait makes a number of allegations against me:
- I am withholding information from the Police on the murder of “Hope”. This is a falsehood. I have run a successful media campaign which has generated fresh witness evidence, but Chief Constable Winward is refusing to interview the witnesses.
- “your frequent correspondence on matters relating to investigations distracts from the investigations themselves, wastes Police time” This is a falsehood. My correspondence is obviously intended to assist the North Yorkshire Police investigate “Hope’s” murder.
- I should ask the person I believe is the “mystery caller” to contact NYP. Unfortunately I do not have contact with him. I only have his surname and rank in 1983. I have never suggested that I have any contact with this man. Ms Tait’s request for me to ask him to contact the Police demonstrates at best, an inadequate review of my correspondence, or deliberate obfuscation and falsehood. Further, it would be very wrong for me as a journalist to contact the prime suspect in a murder enquiry, because if he is the murderer this would alert him and could result in him destroying evidence, leading to allegations that I had undermined a murder investigation.
- I am requesting immunity from prosecution on behalf of the prime suspect in “Hope’s” murder. This is ridiculous; the “mystery caller” is unknown to me. The information I have indicates that he is an innocent witness who could not come forward at the time because he was a serviceman acting under orders to withhold information on an exercise that was taking place from the Police, for reasons of national security. The investigations into this crime in 1981 and 2011 wrongly designated this witness as the prime suspect. This ensured the “mystery caller” would not contact NYP because he risked being arrested for a murder he did not commit. I am also concerned that if his identity is revealed, that as an ex-serviceman he would be prosecuted for misconduct in public office, which would be unfair and contrary to the public interest. I asked for assurances that -provided he is not the murderer- he will not be prosecuted, so I can disclose his details in good conscience.
- “your frequent correspondence on matters relating to investigations…… is an interference with live matters”. Officially murder investigations are never closed and “Hope’s” murder is a live investigation. This comment shows that de facto Chief Constable Winward has closed the investigation, even though this is contrary to standard Police and Home Office policy. Hence the reason Chief Constable Winward has stonewalled for three years to prevent investigation of the witness evidence generated by the NYE. Ms Tait’s remarks are even more bizarre, given that the NYE has been a source of assistance to the Police since its inception and regularly runs NYP appeals for information. NYE journalists have been formally thanked by NYP for their work on the Claudia Lawrence enquiry (Operation Essence) and the Jimmy Savile/Peter Jaconelli paedophile investigation (Operations Yewtree and Hibiscus).
- “the volume of your correspondence is excessive, unreasonably persistent and that (whilst some correspondence is appropriately raised with the force or the complaints team) the nature of your correspondence is often unreasonable” Ms Tait does not provide any examples of the same, so this is yet another unsubstantiated allegation. I have been corresponding with Chief Constable Winward on the murder of “Hope” for nearly three years and it has been impossible to get her to interview a witness that believes he knew the deceased, so she can be identified, or another witness that may be able to identify the “mystery caller”. Hence the need for me to be persistent, which is not unreasonable under the circumstances.
- My correspondence is “derogatory”. Predictably Ms Tait does not provide any examples to support this allegation. Derogatory has a wide range of meanings, including “showing a critical or disrespectful attitude”, or “challenging”. It is entirely right and proper for a journalist in a democratic society to criticise and challenge the Police. I have no doubt that the Chief Constable is angry and offended at the criticisms I have issued against her and her force. However, facts do not have feelings; this does not justify her retaliating against the NYE by refusing to progress a murder investigation.
- My correspondence contains “unsubstantiated allegations/assertions”. NYP has yet to interview Alderman Murphy or myself, so cannot assess if my assertions are substantiated or not. Her remarks therefore constitute derogatory, unsubstantiated falsehood and Ms Tait therefore is indulging in the same unprofessional conduct she falsely accuses me of.
- “Your behaviour in corresponding in this manner is unacceptable due to the substantial impact that responding to you alone has on public resources”. In other words, it is too expensive to interview two witnesses in a murder enquiry. I would point out that Chief Constable Winward was quite willing to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers money prosecuting NYE journalists for criticising NYP (report below), so that she could personally gain financially from damages. It therefore appears somewhat hypocritical to refuse to investigate a prostitute murder, on the basis she is saving public money.
I received a similar letter from Mrs Julia Mulligan Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire (PFCC), supporting the Chief Constable’s decision not to investigate “Hope’s” murder.
Presumably the response of both ladies would be very different if “Hope” victim had been the daughter of a Policeman, or a Conservative politician.
Open Letter to Chief Constable Winward
Chief Constable Winward, PFCC Mulligan, Ms Tait and the PCP have all had sight of an initial draft of this article and the opportunity to comment.
From: Timothy Hicks
Sent: 19 March 2021 15:50
Subject: Open letter re: Murder of “Hope” in Scarborough in 1979.
Dear Chief Constable Winward,
Dear PFCC Mulligan,
Dear Ms Tait,
Open letter re: Murder of “Hope” in Scarborough in 1979.
Please find attached an initial draft of an article commenting on your letters of the 3rd of March 2021. It will change before publication.
I would welcome any comment you would wish to make for publication. I have copied Councillor Les in on this e mail so that the PCP has the opportunity to comment if it wishes to.
Please can I repeat my request that North Yorkshire Police make arrangements to interview myself and Alderman Murphy, so we can pass over our evidence to your Officers and can progress the investigation.
NUJ Membership Number WO 15306
Needless to say, none of them would comment or offer any refutation of my remarks above.
Why the NYE is taking an “unreasonably persistent” (.e. determined) line on “Hope’s” murder
“Hope’s” Case raises a number of important issues:
- When a murder occurs, the Police have a duty to investigate it, and obtain justice for the victim. Because “Hope” was a prostitute and from a lower social economic class does not justify the Police denying her right to justice.
- The Police must investigate all crime impartially. It is unacceptable for the Chief Constable to discriminate against victims by picking and choosing which crimes her force will investigate based on her personal prejudices around misogyny, racism, religion, nationality, politics, lifestyle, or socio economic class.
- Each time an attack on a woman goes unpunished, it encourages other crimes against women. Although I genuinely believe that that “Hope” was murdered by Peter Sutcliffe, I could be wrong. If so, her murderer could still be living in Scarborough, because Chief Constable Winward refuses to investigate a prostitute murder.
- “Hope’s” family have the right to know what happened to her and “Hope” has the right to have her name on her gravestone. The Chief Constable’s decision to ignore new evidence on her identity potentially denies this to them and is inhumane.
- For a public servant to lie to pervert the course of a murder enquiry and allegations of misconduct by Police Officers is a deeply corrupt act. This raises other issues. The Crown Prosecution Service has to investigate all cases impartially, including those brought against Police Officers. Ms Tait was formerly Chief Crown Prosecutor for North Yorkshire, and is now working for NYP. This must cast doubt on her impartiality when considering cases brought against the Police, when she was a crown prosecutor. There also appears to me to be a potential conflict of interest when a lawyer leaves the CPS for a job with the Police.
- The Policing and Crime Act 2017 was never intended to authorise the Police to ignore evidence in a murder investigation, or to supress legitimate concerns about the quality of policing. Its use for these purposes is perverse and an abuse of the Chief Constable’s powers.
- “Hope” was obviously murdered, yet her death is officially recorded as a suspicious death. Manipulating the crime figures by refusing to progress evidence that will transform a suspicious death into an unsolved murder is a corrupt practice.
- It is an abuse of the public trust and purse for the PFCC and the PCP to take the taxpayers money to hold the Police and PFCC to account, then rubber stamp all of their decisions.
- In a democratic society, the media must be free to criticise public bodies and particularly to expose Police misconduct, without fear of retaliation or intimidation by the Police. Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Morgan, the National Police Chiefs Council Lead for Media Relations said: “The media play a vital role in holding the Police service to account and in connecting us with the public – this includes highlighting when things may have gone wrong or where policing is under legitimate scrutiny. The relationship should also therefore be challenging and we need to recognise the role the media discharge on behalf of the public in ensuring that we are accountable. The responsibility to be open, transparent and accountable is part of the Code of Ethics and sits with everybody in policing. In recent years there has been a perception, rightly or wrongly, that the Police have withdrawn and communicate less openly with the media. This does policing a disservice and I am determined that we need to reset the relationship with the media – an appropriate and professional relationship between the Police and the media is in the public interest.” The Chief Constable’s policy of disengagement from and retaliation against the NYE is an attack on freedom of the press, aimed at preventing legitimate media scrutiny of bungled investigations and Police misconduct. This is unacceptable in a democratic society.
- NYP has a very good cold case unit which has had some notable successes recently. The Chief Constable’s media policy makes it impossible for it to progress “Hope’s” murder. A classic case of failure of leadership. They deserve better.
In England and Wales, we do not have a national Police Force and each Chief Constable cannot have his or her operational decisions questioned by anyone. In real terms, it is practically impossible to remove a Chief Constable. These are constitutional safeguards to prevent political interference in the Police.
However, the down side of this is that Chief Constables’ are effectively able to do what they want. Particularly -as in this case- if they are blindly supported by the PFCC and the PCP.
Chief Constable Winward’s conduct is a disgrace and is typical of the attitudes so properly condemned by Chief Constable Robins and Deputy Chief Constable Morgan above. It represents a style of policing that I should have become extinct long ago and which has no place in twenty first century policing.
Toms’ Lives Matter 2, investigating another case of another prostitute murder the Police are refusing to investigate.
NYE Appeal for information
Do you recognise “Hope”?
Three-dimensional wax reconstruction of “Hope’s” head and face
- “Hope” was 5’ 2” in height, aged between thirty five and forty.
- She had a slender build and wore her natural dark brown hair in a page-boy style.
- She had given birth to two or three children and had a displaced septum between her nostrils.
- Her toenails were painted pink – the varnish coming from the Max Factor Maxi range.
- She would have worn a size four shoe.
- She was a heavy smoker who did not look after herself.
- She had a Yorkshire or Lancashire accent, but may not be originally from Scarborough.
- All her upper teeth were missing, she had an upper dental plate fitted, and she had only six lower teeth.
- She had an old fracture to her right ankle and an abnormality to her neck vertebrae which would have caused backache.
Please ask yourself:
- Do you remember someone like this from the bus shelter in Victoria Street?
- Were you one of “Hope’s” clients?
- Were you a Police Officer in Scarborough in 1977 – 1979? Did “Hope” come into custody for being drunk and disorderly, soliciting, theft, burglary or vagrancy, or did you see her at the shelter?
- Were you a social worker, Salvation Army worker or health worker, who came into contact with “Hope” or other alcoholics from Victoria Road Scarborough?
- Did you find a dark blue quilted body warmer, blouse, jumper, dark mini skirt discarded along the A170?
- Did you serve in the RAF at RAF Linton on Ouse, or RAF Fylingdales in the period 1978 – 1985?
- Were you a taxi driver for Boro Taxis next to the café on Victoria Road, or did you use taxis from there?
- Did you see Peter Sutcliffe or his distinctive lorry (pictured above in 1976) in Scarborough?
- Did you see Peter Sutcliffe at Victoria Road, Roscoe Street, Andrews of Scarborough (motorcycle dealers), Deardens builder’s merchants, North Sea Winches, D Wray and Sons, Scarborough Ignition Co Ltd or Pickups or the old goods yard which is now Sainsbury’s?
- Did you frequent the café in Victoria Road and see Peter Sutcliffe there?
If you have any information that you want to pass on confidentially, you can talk to a journalist by contacting the North Yorks Enquirer using our firstname.lastname@example.org address. All responses will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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