Sir Lawrence Byford, who wrote the hard-hitting report into the failings of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, has died. He was 92.
Born the son of a coal miner in Normanton, he rose from humble beginnings to reach the very top of the Police Service. His report into the Ripper case led to fundamental changes in the way serial killer investigations would be carried out in future across the world.
Sir Lawrence, who was knighted in 1984, left school in his early teens without any qualifications and became an apprentice electrician at a local pit.
He was called up in 1944 and during the latter months of World War II served with the Royal Signals in France, Belgium and Germany. After being demobbed he joined the-then West Riding Constabulary in 1947. He worked primarily as a detective but rose through the ranks to become Divisional Commander in Huddersfield in 1966.
Throughout his early career, he studied part-time and in 1956 graduated from the University of Leeds with a law degree. Two years later he was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn.
He was appointed Chief Constable of Lincolnshire in 1973, an Inspector of Constabulary in 1977 and became Chief Inspector of Constabulary in 1983.
Following the conviction of Peter Sutcliffe in 1981 in connection with the Yorkshire Ripper murders and attacks, and having regard to the widespread public concern about the limitations of the police investigation, Sir Lawrence was appointed by the Home Secretary, William Whitelaw, to conduct an inquiry into all aspects of the case.
The major findings in his report were presented to Parliament in January 1982 and the recommended changes in investigative procedures, including the establishment of the pioneering HOLMES computer system, have been adopted both in the UK and around the world.
Sutcliffe’s killing spree between 1975 and 1980 included two attacks in Huddersfield. His 13 victims included Helen Rytka, an 18-year-old prostitute who was murdered near Great Northern Street in Huddersfield in January 1978. In 1980 he also attacked Theresa Sykes in Oakes. She survived.
Sir Lawrence was also appointed to head a working group of experts charged with the task of ensuring dramatic improvements in security at future political conferences. This followed the IRA bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, during the 1984 Conservative Party conference.
In retirement Sir Lawrence became President and Chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. Under his leadership the rule on overseas players being unable to play for the club was abandoned leading to the signing of 19-year-old Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.
Sir Lawrence ‘Lawry’ Byford died peacefully last Saturday (10 February) at his home near Harrogate. He is survived by Muriel, his wife of 67 years, children Bill, Mark and Jill, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.