How Celia’s bid to catch Yorkshire Ripper set her up for key crime role
Last updated at 12:28, Friday, 08 February 2013
“I am not sure people understood how scary it was in West Yorkshire – especially for women”, says Celia Tibble, who was a policewoman on the Yorkshire Ripper case.
Celia, 57, of Greengate, Seaton, was assigned to the Ripper incident room in the mid-1970s, where her role was to process information and cross-reference everyone mentioned within the case.
The nation had its eye on Yorkshire between 1975 and 1980 as Peter Sutcliffe murdered 13 women and attempted to murder seven others.
He is still serving 20 life sentences in Broadmoor High Security Hospital.
Celia says: “The Yorkshire Ripper could have been anybody. He could have been sitting next to you on the bus.
“People didn’t go out at night. It did change the way that people lived. It changed their social habits.”
West Yorkshire Police were heavily criticised for not being prepared for such a large-scale investigation.
But Celia doesn’t agree with such criticism as the case predated computers and the police had to use paper index cards.
The incident room was so crammed full of cabinets with documents on the Ripper case that engineers told police that the floor was at risk of collapsing.
Celia was born in Workington and moved to Seaton when she was seven. Her father Geordie was a miner at the Solway Colliery, and her mum May worked in the kitchen at the Workington technology college.
Her decision to join the police force came out of the blue, when she was 16 and working as a volunteer for St John Ambulance at a Workington Reds game.
She saw a policewoman for the first time in her life and her interest in becoming an officer was sparked.
At 17 she moved from her home town to become a police cadet in West Yorkshire and while there, met her future husband Philip, now 62, who was a nurse.
Officers weren’t allowed to marry until they were 19 and Celia had to get permission from the chief constable.
They married at Northside Church, where Celia’s parents were also married, and she became the first woman in West Yorkshire to be given a police house under the Equal Opportunities Act.
There was huge media attention focused on the police during the Ripper case and the press focus and long hours had a massive effect on officers’ lives.
Celia says: “The pressure to find this man was enormous.
“We didn’t get much time at home. Sometimes me and Philip didn’t see each other for days and days on end. It was a very isolated existence.”
She left the police in 1980 before Sutcliffe was caught.
She then worked as a psychiatric nurse for West Cumbria Partnership for 20 years and now works as a staff nurse at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital.
But her police work hasn’t ended as she is also the chairman of the Cumbria Police and Crime Panel, which scrutinises the actions of crime commissioner Richard Rhodes.
Celia’s main duty is to chair meetings of the panel, made up of elected councillors from the county and district councils.
She says: “The whole thing is very new.
“When you have connection with something it’s much easier to get some understanding of what they are talking about.”
But Celia feels that her role as a psychiatric nurse has also helped her understand the issues of crime in society.
She says: “It gives me a much better understanding of what is needed out there and how the community view the police and the social and environmental problems, and health in relation to crime.”
She has been an Allerdale councillor for 10 years and a Seaton parish councillor for around 18 years.
Her role as a Seaton parish councillor is something close to her heart.
She says: “A lot of people still live here that I went to school with and have lived in the village longer than I have.
“The parish council doesn’t have a lot of teeth but it will get more with the Localism Bill. The parish council will have more opportunities to do things on a local level, but we are not sure of the full impact of localism.”
Celia is also the president of Seaton Carnival, the co-ordinator of West Cumbria Friends of Chernobyl Children and was up until recently the chairman of governors for Stainburn School in Workington.
She says: “I was cursed with a social conscience. I have got to stop myself getting involved in too many things. I can’t do everything.”
Celia is family-oriented. Her 18th century terraced home has been taken over by her grandchildren, Molly, eight, Josh, five, Amy, two and 14-week-old Poppy.
In every room there is a pile of toys waiting for her grandchildren’s next visit and their pictures are proudly out on display.
She has three children, Matthew, 32, Daniel, 31, and Beth 28, all of whom live in the Workington area.
First published at 12:26, Friday, 08 February 2013
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk