'Sutcliffe was a small man with a very bad attitude. He wasn't a good looking guy but got bags and bags of mail'

A criminal psychologist who spent 40 years working in England’s top category prisons with murderers including the Yorkshire Ripper is bringing her true crime show to Yorkshire this summer.

Linda Sage has worked with some of the UK’s most notorious criminals including the Kray twins, Myra Hindley and Peter Sutcliffe.

In August she is bringing her show, Serial Killers: Up close and personal to Sheffield in the hopes of giving the audience a “deeper understanding of the inner workings of criminal minds”.

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Linda began working as a criminal psychologist in the 1970s, after graduating from the University of Kent. She says she never planned on specialising in crime, but it was something which felt “much easier” once she’d stepped through the doors of her first Category A (the most high security) prison.

She explained what it was like working directly with some of the country’s most dangerous criminals. “They’re people. The general public tend to think that these people are very different - but they’re not,” Linda said.

“You walk into a room with them and they are just like you and me. They haven’t grown horns or tails - because if they did it would be a lot easier for the police to catch them. They are so plausible with what they do.

“The likes of Myra Hindley, Ian Brady, Peter Sutcliffe - they were all just normal people. They went to work, they were somebody’s son, daughter, brother and sister. They were workmates, they were people’s neighbours - the actual person on the outside is no different to anybody else, but the way that they justify themselves, that’s what is different.”

She explained that her role involved working with prisoners from the point of arrest or charge, right through to the trial, as well as creating care plans once a criminal is sentenced.

She continued: “Society has a range of people and criminals and prisoners are the same. There’s no sweeping thing that defines a murderer. There are hundreds of thousands of people every year who are being abused, but not all of them choose to go on to become a murderer, or criminally harm others.

“Very often they have an addictive personality, low self esteem or they’ll self harm, things like this, but the choice to step over that line to criminally affect other people, not everybody does it. It comes down to personal choice whether or not you step over that line, because it’s not easy to take somebody else's life.”

And while the thought of being up close and personal with a murderer may be daunting for people at home, Linda said there wasn’t a single occasion when she found herself fearing for her life. “They’d kick off and they’d insult you sometimes, but most of that was out of frustration. Once they’re behind bars, they’re not the same kind of person that they are when they’re out,” she explained.

“Ian Brady was very cut off, he’d refuse to interact with people because he knew that once he was caught - that was it, he wasn’t going anywhere. Myra Hindley believed until the very end that she would get out. She would manipulate - she would say what she needed to say to influence getting out.”

For some time, Linda met regularly with the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’, Peter Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe murdered six women in Leeds and seven others in Manchester, Bradford , Huddersfield and Halifax over his evil, five-year killing spree. Between 1975 and 1980 Sutcliffe used hammers, knives and screwdrivers in a series of brutal, sexually-motivated murders that shocked the country and made women across the north afraid to walk the streets at night.

Linda said: “Sutcliffe was a small man with a very bad attitude. If you look at his victims, they were all small females - even though he debilitated them with a hammer, he did not go for victims who were large females because he was very aware of his size.

“He loved to write. He got so much mail - some of the more infamous prisoners do. It’s mainly a female trait to write to males. He wasn’t a particularly good looking guy but he got bags and bags of mail.

“He would spend hours sitting and writing. He still thought that he was a ladies man because he’d get them to come in and visit him. No matter how you worked with him, if he hadn’t been caught then he would have carried on killing.”

Linda’s two hour show, which will be arriving in Sheffield on August 29, will cover topics including her own personal interactions with notorious murderers and criminals, what life is really like in Cat A prisons and further details on crime scene evidence and how psychiatric evaluations are conductions.

Linda, who is now a write as well as a radio host and podcaster, added: “We’ve had such success in the other show’s that we’ve done and the interest we get from the audience is what really makes it. We get such a mix - youngsters who are studying crime or psychology at university and people training to be detectives, right through to very elderly people who are just inquisitive about the topic.”

Serial Killers: Up close and personal will be in Sheffield on Thursday, August 29 at 7pm at Sheffield United, Bramhall Lane. Tickets are available to buy online here.

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