Broadmoor sources have denied that twisted serial killer the Yorkshire Ripper has had a heart attack but admit he has been in “poor health”.

Peter Sutcliffe was reported to be “close to death” following a series of problems with his health that had left the killer struggling to survive.

The Sun today claimed that the serial killer, who murdered 13 women and tried to kill seven more, was suffering a severe cough and had trouble eating and sleeping at Broadmoor.

However, a source flatly denied that Sutcliffe had suffered a heart attack, but admitted he had been struggling with health problems for a while.

The source told the Mirror: “It’s been quite extensively reported that he has been ill for some time now and in and out of hospital.”

Serial killer Sutcliffe, 68, was given 20 life sentences in 1981 for his reign of terror that had families racing home with fear in the late 1970s.

He used a hammer, knives and a screwdriver to brutally murder women across the north of England between 1975 and 1980.

Huddersfield detective John Stainthorpe who served with the police from 1952 until retiring as a Det Supt in 1992 worked on the case and was involved in the investigation into Helen Rytka’s murder.

Helen Rytka, 18, victim of Peter Sutcliffe, ' The Yorkshire Ripper'. February 1978.
 

He said: “Sutcliffe is one of the most evil men I have ever come across and the only way he should ever be released is through dying.

“He would probably have been caught earlier if the case hadn’t been sidetracked by the hoax letters and tape sent to the murder squad.”

Now retired, detective John Stainthorpe worked on the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry
Now retired, detective John Stainthorpe worked on the Yorkshire Ripper inquiry
 

The hoaxer, John Humble, was behind the so-called Wearside Jack tape was caught by advances in DNA in 2005 and jailed for eight years in 2006.

Humble’s accent was the vital – and tragic – clue for detectives transfixed by the Wearside Jack tape.

And with politicians and the media clamouring for a breakthrough, they took the decision to go public with the letters and recording in 1979.

In total 40,000 men were quizzed but the real culprit, Peter Sutcliffe, was from Bradford and did not sound like the man on the tape.

While West Yorkshire Police were chasing a Wearside suspect, the real Ripper was free to murder three more women.

It had been reported that Sutcliffe, who suffers from diabetes, had seen his health rapidly deteriorate after a hernia operation last year.

A friend of his has alleged that he later suffered a heart attack brought on by the stress of the operation, and that the murderer was demanding better support from staff at Broadmoor.

A spokeswoman for West London Mental health said: “Broadmoor Hospital will not comment on matters relating to individual patients as we have a duty to protect patient confidentiality.”