A poignant quest for a long lost mother led to serial killer Peter Sutcliffe – but now a son’s search has turned back to Blackpool.
GEOFF Beattie knows little to nothing about his mother’s life.
He knows almost more than he can bear about her death.
Irene Richardson (nee Osborne) – sometimes known as Eileen – was the third victim of the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe.
Geoff, whose birth name Alan Osborne, is desperate to piece together the broken fragments of his mother’s happier years in Blackpool – and those of his father too.
Geoff, now 42, was born in Glenroyd Hospital, Blackpool, on October 30, 1969 and put up for adoption almost immediately. When he started trying to find his birth mother in 2005, he learned she had died in February 1977.
“I would have been seven and she was 28. I was about 11 before I found out I had been adopted. It was no big deal at the time as my adopted parents were great, but as the years went on I wanted to learn more about my birth parents.”
He hit a dead end. A year after learning of her death, he dug deeper. “I found her photo, the same photo the children’s agency had given to me, and to my shock learned she had been murdered by Sutcliffe. It was one hell of a shock.”
Sutcliffe murdered 13 women between 1976 and 1980.
While Geoff can’t take the anguish of that discovery, or the pain of his own loss away, he wants to learn more about his mother.
“Initially, I wanted to learn more about my family’s medical history for me and my wife Helen’s sake. But it got bigger than that.
“Because she spent so many years in Blackpool – from the 1960s through to just before she was killed – I hope some people are still around who may remember her or worked with her to help me piece things together.”
Irene Osborne was born on March 28, 1948, in Glasgow. Twenty years later she was living in Blackpool and working as a chambermaid and, possibly, later as a nanny for most of the time.
Local addresses include several hotels (Glenshee and the Clyde) and three private residences on Osbourne Road, Grasmere Road, and Exchange Street in 1968. Next year she was living at Kirby Road, Blackpool, in 1970 at Raikes Parade, and in the early 1970s on Central Drive.
A woman with a flat at the same house contacted Geoff after seeing a documentary about the Ripper’s victims and recognising her neighbour.
By the mid-1970s, Irene was living at Burlington Road. She had also married barman George Richardson, father of her two youngest daughters, and they lived at Balmer Grove, but later split up – the two girls aged two and four taken into care of foster parents.
Prior to moving to Leeds, where she had several addresses, Irene worked at Grosvenor House Hotel. In May 1976 – less than a year before her death in February 1977 – she earned £20 for a 40-hour week as a chambermaid, her wage slip signed by manager RJ Bramble.
Geoff has managed to locate all three of his sisters via a BBC programme (linked to the Ripper deaths) and a national newspaper appeal.
“My older sister Lorraine was born in 1966 and put up for adoption. A lady called Mrs Phillips, based at the municipal buildings, on Sefton Street, Blackpool, was a case worker or social worker for mum and helped with our adoptions. I’m also looking for my dad.
“All I have to go on is a name, Jim Brown, a Blackpool mechanic. It’s not on my birth certificate, but in my file notes from the social worker at the time. It would be like hitting the jackpot if I could find him. He’s probably in his 60s now.”
Contemporary Yorkshire newspaper coverage of Irene’s death records: “This victim was another 28-year-old mother of two. She was called Irene Richardson and was a former chambermaid and nanny. She was found stabbed and with her throat cut on Roundhay Park.
“She lived at Chapeltown, it was not a salubrious address, the bedsits rundown and many tenants lived anonymous lives, but others knew Irene and were shocked to learn the latest body was their neighbour’s.
“Irene was estranged from her husband George in Blackpool, who denied she was a prostitute.”
There is no reference to the term Yorkshire Ripper in this, or the Gazette, coverage of the day. The Blackpool paper revealed police were keeping an open mind on whether Irene’s death was linked to the murder of two prostitutes in 1975 and 1976. She had last been alive heading for the Mecca in Leeds.
Geoff has enlisted Blackpool Central Library’s archivist Tony Sharke’s help in his quest.
He has also been assisted by Richard McCann, son of Sutcliffe’s first victim Wilma McCann. Richard gave a talk at Central Library earlier this year.
Geoff concludes: “Sutcliffe stole our mothers’ lives. My mum’s immediate extended family runs to 100, her kids, her grandchildren and others. We’ve all missed out on her because of his actions. Now my greatest wish is to find my father and learn more about my mother – so I can break the news in a better way to my own three children.”