I knew Patricia was buried in this cemetery and had to doggedly walk up and down many graves to find her. I thought the photograph of a wooden cross would reduce searching time but I was dismayed to see lots of graves had them. Unfortunately graves dug in the seventies seemed to be spread over three different parts of the large cemetery but sometimes you get lucky. Later in the day I found the deserted flats where she’d been murdered.
Patricia Atkinson was a 32-year-old prostitute who was the fourth murder victim of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. I also found her unkempt grave after doggedly pacing up and down lines of graves until I found her. It was neglected and unloved.
Patricia "Tina" Atkinson lived in a flat in Bradford. On Saturday 23rd April 1977 she was drinking in the Perseverance pub. She moved onto the Carlisle pub where the manager considered her too drunk and at about 10:30pm she staggered out to probably go to another pub. Other prostitutes saw her walking unsteadily at about 11:00pm (a toxicology report later showed she’d drank about twenty measures of spirits.) At this time Sutcliffe had murdered three prostitute in Leeds so they hadn’t started going around in small groups in Bradford.
He was cruising around in his Ford Corsair having killed Irene Richardson in Leeds seventy-six days before. He spotted Patricia who was banging on the roof of a parked car, shouting obscenities. The driver - probably a potential punter - sped off. Sutcliffe saw an opportunity to pick up a vulnerable prostitute, pulled in and stopped. Patricia got into the car without prompting and may have well as got in her coffin. She said she had a flat nearby and they drove there within minutes. Getting out of the car Sutcliffe retrieved a claw-hammer from underneath his seat and hid it under his coat. Within minutes of entering the flat Patricia closed the curtains and got on the bed. Sutcliffe struck her on the back of the head with four hard blows. After she fell off the bed he hit her again and then dragged her back onto the bed. He pulled down her jeans and pants and exposed her breasts before hitting her repeatedly with the nose end of the hammer and then clawing her with the other end. He stabbed her six times in the stomach with a knife and slashed her back. He noticed how red her blood was compared with that from previous attacks where the night time made it appear black.
He threw the bed linen over top of Patricia and left her making gurgling noises. On the drive home he tossed the hammer into the grounds of Harrison's Printers in Cottingley Bridge (which they found and used for the next three years.) Back at home at the kitchen sink he rinsed blood of his jeans and boots. The next day a friend of Patricia’s called at her flat at teatime. With no answer he found the door open and went in to see blood on the floor. In the bedroom he saw his friend’s still white face and knew she was dead.
The grave is overgrown although Patricia's sister must have visited as there's a clean white stone with "Special Sister" on it. The wood cross is in good condition if it’s been there since 1977. The plaque says “Patricia Mitra” on it - an alias she used (also McGee.) It’s about 100m away from the grave of Helen Rytka’s, another victim (again....a simple cross, no headstone.)
Later that day I drove to the block of flats at 9 Oak Avenue where she’d been hammered to death. They’re still there but derelict and protected by a high board wall. The building was a little eerie even on a sunny autumn afternoon. The quiet avenue was on a hill and hardly any traffic passed by. Everyone who walked passed me was Asian and they looked away when I tried to make eye contact and hopefully glean some information. As the wall was high I had to search the ground for a length of wood, bind the camera’s tripod onto it and then hold it up high while standing on the tips of my toes. Will the flats be there in another ten years? They were there in 1977 so they probably will be.
I was going to climb in but a moat of thick brambles bushes guarded the front of the building. Have other geeks forced their way in and got into flat 3? I had a coffee from the flask in the car and debated a climb over the wall but I’d been there thirty minutes and had received enough attention. I did a salute and left.