The pain caused by Peter Sutcliffe’s savagery in the years leading up to his imprisonment in 1981 can’t be measured just by looking at the number of lives he took and intended to take.
The Yorkshire Ripper’ murdered at least 13 women and attempted to murder at least seven others, but the impact of his brutality reverberated beyond those victims. It’s still being felt.
Those he targeted were mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, and those who survived were not immune to the gravity of what they’d encountered.
Annie Rogulskyj was never the same person after being left for dead by Sutcliffe in the early hours of Saturday, July 5, 1975, and her family hasn’t forgotten what happened.
On the day Sutcliffe died, last Friday, Kilflynn man John Brosnan received a phone call from his daughter, who told him that the man who attempted to kill his sister 45 years ago had passed away. It’s 12 years since Annie died, but she still matters, and what happened to her and her family in 1975 still matters too.
From Kilflynn to Keighley
“I’ve seen her called Anna in the news, but she was always Annie here at home,” John told The Kerryman this week.
“Our parents were Michael and Ellen, and Annie was one of 14 children. She was born in ’33 and I was born in ’34, so we were very close in age, and we were very close friends up until what happened. I suppose she just wasn’t the same person after that, it had changed her – and why wouldn’t it have?”
John and Annie grew up in Upper Tullig, Kilflynn, and John still lives there today. Annie, however, moved away at a young age, following their sister, Alice, to a West Yorkshire town. Some have reported that she was 15 when she moved, but John believes she was more likely in her 20s.
In 1955, Annie married Roman Rogulskyj in her adopted town, Keyleigh, about 10 miles northwest of Bradford. She met Roman while she was working as a playing-cards sorter in Waddington’s factory, and she became a well-liked figure in Keyleigh, earning the nickname ‘Irish Annie’ as she charmed locals with exactly the kind of bubbliness and loveliness that John had noted her for during their childhood: “I’m not surprised to hear she was popular. I couldn’t see how she’d be anything but popular.”
A chance encounter with evil
Annie and Roman’s marriage would break down almost 20 years later, and they divorced in 1973. Thereafter she met Geoffrey Hughes, a man with whom she had a torrid relationship, according to Carol Ann Lee’s acclaimed 2019 book ‘Somebody’s Mother, Somebody’s Daughter’.
On July 4, 1975, an argument with Hughes would lead to an unplanned night out and a chance encounter with a man who would ruin and almost end her life.
Apparently, a distraught Annie had intended to visit her sister, but she was not in when she arrived at her home. Instead, she had a couple of drinks at the Victoria Hotel and then caught a bus to Bradford, where she visited a West Indian nightclub. Friends accompanying her gave her a lift back to Keyleigh after the night out.
She returned home to discover that Geoff had moved out. There was no sign either of her kitten, Dumdum, and she went back into the Yorkshire night towards North Queen Street and Hughes’ house to confront him on the matter.
On her way, as she approached a local cinema, a man – Peter Sutcliffe – called out from a darkened doorway and asked her if she “fancied it”. “Not on your life,” came the response, but it wasn’t enough to perturb a man who would send chills through the north of England in the months and years ahead.
After getting to Hughes’ house and flinging her shoe through her partner’s window, Annie turned back, but while passing an alleyway, Sutcliffe emerged from the shadows and propositioned her again.
Hospital examinations, showing bruising on her hands and right forearm, suggest that Annie struggled to evade Sutcliffe, but this wasn’t to be enough. She was knocked unconscious with one blow of Sutcliffe’s hammer.
According to UK Government documents seen by The Kerryman, Annie was left with severe head injuries – these included three crescent-shaped lacerations to her skull – and Sutcliffe had inflicted a number of superficial slash wounds to her body. He would have likely delivered further, fatal injuries had he not been startled by a neighbour shouting from a nearby property, calling out to see what was causing the commotion. There was no answer, Sutcliffe fled, and Annie was left for dead. The attack happened at some time between 1am and 2am, and Annie was found by a passer-by at about 2.20am.
She was rushed to Airedale Hospital and later transferred for a 12-hour operation at Leeds General Infirmary. Though given the last rites, she did recover. She remembered nothing of the attack, and UK Government documents state that police would not link the crime to the so-called ‘Ripper’ murders until June 1978.
“Yes, that was me,” Sutcliffe confessed to police following his arrest in 1981. “I intended to kill her but I was disturbed.”
Annie attended Sutcliffe’s trial at the Old Bailey in May of 1981. He was sentenced to 20 life terms for the murders of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven women, Annie included, but like any sentence, it could not erase what had happened.
“It was a waste of time to keep him in jail, feed him, and look after him,” says John. “He was an awful type of man, and I won’t say what should have been done to him!
“We did keep an eye on the coverage of the trial, but I’ve forgotten a lot of it now. It was 45 years ago, and time changes everything. It was a miracle and marvellous that she survived – but it was so unfortunate that it happened to her at all.
“Anybody would be happy to hear he’s gone, but when your own family were affected, you’d be even happier, of course. That was my reaction on Friday when my daughter rang and after I heard it on the one o’clock news.”
A different person
Annie changed after that night. While she had been a regular visitor home, John says, that fell by the wayside following the attack.
“She was not the same woman,” he says. “I never went over to Yorkshire to see her, and I wouldn’t be certain but I don’t think she ever came back to Ireland.”
Anna died that night, and I wish I had died with her
Indeed she struggled to go out in public at all. The home she bought with the £15,000 she received from the Criminal Injuries Compensation board was fitted with tight security measures according to “Somebody’s Mother, Somebody’s Daughter,” and in a later interview she said she had even left her name behind.
“I’m not Anna,” she said. “I will never be Anna again. I’m Joanna now. Anna died that night, and I wish I had died with her. I wish I had not had that operation, that there had just been the blackness and then no more.”
A Kerryman search of a UK directory found a Joanna P Rogulskyj had lived at an address in Keighley. Her commitment to leaving her past name behind was real.
“My life is ruined,” she said. “So I’ve had £15,000 from the Criminal Compensation Board. So what? No amount of money can give me back my anonymity, can give me back my lost boyfriends. No money can remove the stigma of the Ripper.”
According to Kerry County Council burial records, Annie died of cancer at Airedale Hospital in April 4, 2008,and The Keyleigh News archives show that her Funeral took place at Oakworth Crematorium. Her brother Georgie, since deceased, travelled to the UK to bring his sister home at last.
“God, I do remember it,” says John. “We had Mass at Irremore Church, and then she was interred at the new cemetery in Kilfeighney. She was buried at a family plot.”
She is survived by many relatives, five of her siblings among them: John, Mossie, Philomena, and Kathleen – all living in Kerry – and Betty, a London resident. Her family remembers her as more than a woman attacked by a monster, and that’s how they’d like others to think of her as well.
“She was a good-living woman,” John says.
“A lovely, bubbly person.”
Sutcliffe was born on June 2, 1946, and died last Friday, November 13. Between 1975 and 1980, he murdered at least 13 women and attempted to kill seven others in Yorkshire and the north-west of England. Spectacular police errors – most notably hoodwinking of police by someone claiming to be the ripper, who sent a hoax tape and letters – allowed him to continue his spree, despite having been interviewed nine times. He was finally caught in 1981 in Sheffield when driving a car with fake number plates. He had a woman as a passenger in the car, and a hammer and knife were duly found 50 feet away. He was sentenced to 20 concurrent life sentences, and this was extended in 2010 to a whole-life term.