REVIEW: Murderers and Their Mothers S2E4 takes on the twisted tale of the Yorkshire Ripper
There are few serial killers in modern British memory as notorious as Peter Sutcliffe, dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper. During a six-year reign of terror, Sutcliffe murdered thirteen women in the North of England. There have been many documentaries trying to trace the reasons as to why he did what he did, so CBS Reality’s Murderers and Their Mothers takes a risk including him in their series examining the maternal relationships of famous killers. It’s a risk, however, that pays off – offering an entrancing and valid angle on the actions of the unfathomable serial killer.
The story of Peter Sutcliffe is well-documented, so Murderers and Their Mothers does well to not overpack the episode with information on his exact actions. It instead pins its focus to Sutcliffe’s younger life, where he was overly cossetted by his mother and witnessed the abusive, adulterous behaviour of his father. The documentary argues that these skewed relationships with his parents created Sutcliffe’s tendency to divide all women into black and white terms: those who were inferior and unworthy of attention, and those who were good and wholesome like his mother.
It’s difficult to isolate the problem with Sutcliffe to his familial background, a problem that admitted within the documentary. However, it makes a strong argument that Sutcliffe’s actions were influenced by his mother, his father and the wife who cheated on him. We can see evidence for this in the way his killing sprees were affected by the women in his life – notably the one-year ceasefire that took place after the death of his mother Kathleen.
Murderers and Their Mothers does an excellent job of providing a new angle on a case oversaturated within the documentary sphere. It makes a lot of sense to examine the relationships a murderer who targeted women had with women within his own life. The result is fascinating and engaging to watch.