Ex-police chief behind Yorkshire Ripper study dies at 92

Sir Lawrence Lawry Byford
Sir Lawrence Lawry Byford

A leading police officer who wrote a groundbreaking report into the failings of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper has died.

Sir Lawrence ‘Lawry’ Byford died on Saturday at his home in Pannal near Harrogate, aged 92.

His 1982 report on the Yorkshire Ripper case led to fundamental changes to the way investigations into serial killers would be carried out across the world.

It was just one of the significant achievements made by a miner’s son from West Yorkshire who eventually rose to the top of the police service.

Sir Lawrence also became president and chairman of Yorkshire County Cricket Club in his retirement, persuading the committee to abandon its rules barring overseas players.

It paved the way for the committee to sign a 19-year-old Indian cricketer, the now-legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar.

Born in Normanton in 1925 to coal miner George and wife Monica, he left school in his early teens with no qualifications and became an apprentice electrician working at a local pit.

After being drafted during the Second World War and serving with the Royal Signals, he joined the West Riding Constabulary in 1947 and worked as a detective before advancing through the ranks.

During the 1960s he lived and worked in Halifax, and was said to be very fond of the town.

He was appointed Divisional Commander of Huddersfield in 1966 and then Chief Constable of Lincolnshire in 1973.

Throughout his early career, he also studied part time for qualifications to offset what he perceived as his lack of education in his childhood years.

He graduated from the University of Leeds in 1956 with a law degree and two years later was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn.

In 1977, he was appointed an Inspector of Constabulary and in 1983 became Chief Inspector of Constabulary, the principal professional adviser on police matters to the Home Secretary.

In 1978/79, he also led a Foreign and Commonwealth Office consultancy team to Turkey, advising the government on terrorism and internal disorder.

A knighthood followed in 1984, the year he was appointed by the Home Secretary to head a Working Group into the IRA bombing at the Grand Hotel in Brighton.

Sir Lawrence’s passion for cricket led to his involvement at Headingley and membership of Marylebone Cricket Club, but he was also a life-long Leeds United supporter and rugby league fan.

In 1987, he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Lincolnshire and in 1992 a Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire.

He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Leeds for his outstanding contribution to public service and criminal justice in Britain.

But he never forgot his roots, naming his home ‘Dalefield’ in recognition of the council estate where he grew up in Normanton.

And of all the accolades he received, being named a Diamond Jubilee Honorary Citizen by Normanton Town Council in 2012 was something he described as “the greatest honour of them all”.

Council leader Carol Moran was among the first to pay tribute last night, recounting his continued links to his hometown.

“The event where he received the award, he brought his family along and was so delighted,” she said. “He was a wonderful ambassador for Normanton. He always told stories about the town and how much he loved the place.

“All the council’s sympathies go to his family.”

A devoted family man, Sir Lawrence declared his maxim in life to be “faith, family and happiness”. He spent 67 years married to his local sweetheart, Muriel (née Massey).

The pair went on to have three children – Bill, Mark and Jill; eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.