In his 2012 memoir, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, Peter Hook tells the tale of how he and Joy Division drummer Steve Morris were questioned in 1979 by police investigating the then-unsolved Yorkshire Ripper murder case. That year, Peter Sutcliffe’s reign of terror was at its height and Joy Division’s touring itinerary took them to some of the very same neighborhoods where the serial killer had killed his victims. With their touring schedule not dissimilar to the murderer’s movements, they were questioned about their activities around the North West of England that year.
Interviewed on Xfm radio, Hook explained:
“What happened was that every club we played in was run by a dodgy promoter in some dodgy part of town. We managed to play in the red light districts of Halifax, Huddersfield, Leeds, Manchester and probably London as well. The police had asked the public to note down the license plate numbers of any strange cars in the area, so they could investigate them later. Somehow mine and Steve’s cars had gone in the system a couple of times and basically we got picked out!”
“Steve was very very nervous in those days and when the police questioned him, he lost it. He got taken to the police station and his mum had to come and rescue him. It was very frightening – they basically asked you straight out if you were the Ripper.”
Sutcliffe, who was questioned and released an incredible ten times, was pulled over by police for driving with false license plates in January 1981, and he ultimately confessed to being the Yorkshire Ripper. Now 72, he is serving 20 concurrent sentences of life imprisonment for murdering thirteen women and attempting to murder seven more.
This anecdote begs the question: Was Peter Sutcliffe was a devoted Joy Division fan? Perhaps he followed them around? Has anyone ever asked him?
Joy Division play “She’s Lost Control” live at Bowdon Vale Youth Club, Altrincham. Video by Malcolm Whitehead.