‘Crossbow cannibal’ in court over U.K. prostitute murders

LONDON — A 40-year-old man accused of murdering three women who worked as prostitutes in Bradford told a court on Friday his name was “the crossbow cannibal”.

Stephen Griffiths, a mature student studying criminology at Bradford University according to media reports, was charged on Thursday with killing sex workers Suzanne Blamires, 36, Shelley Armitage, 31, and Susan Rushworth, 43.

The remains of Ms. Blamires, who had been missing since last Friday, were discovered in a river in West Yorkshire on Tuesday, while Ms. Armitage has been missing since April 26, and Ms. Rushworth disappeared on June 22 last year.

Mr. Griffiths appeared at Bradford Magistrates’ Court on Friday morning for a brief hearing and when asked to confirm his name, he said: “The crossbow cannibal”.

At other times he sat fidgeting and touching his head or staring silently at the floor. He was remanded in custody to appear at Bradford Crown Court later in the day, the Press Association reported.

Mr. Griffiths, a former public schoolboy, was arrested on Monday and the head of West Yorkshire’s Crown Prosecution Service said there was sufficient evidence to charge him with all three murders.

“Mr. Griffiths now stands charged with three extremely serious criminal offences and has the right to a fair trial,” Peter Mann said on Thursday.

The killings have rekindled memories of the “Yorkshire Ripper” Peter Sutcliffe, named after the notorious Victorian murderer “Jack the Ripper,” who was blamed for killing five women in east London in 1888 but was never found.

Bradford lorry driver Sutcliffe, 63, was jailed for life in 1981 for the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven others during a five-year killing spree in the 1970s and 80s when he mainly targeted prostitutes around northern England.

After confirmation that her daughter had been killed, Ms. Blamires’s mother Nicky paid tribute to her daughter.

“Unfortunately my daughter went down the wrong path and she did not have the life she was meant to have,” she said in a statement.

“She was a much loved daughter, sister and niece and what has happened to her will haunt me to the day I die. At the end of the day nobody deserves this. All these girls were human beings and people’s daughters.”

The English Collective of Prostitutes said the deaths, coming just a few years after the murder of five sex workers by Steve Wright in Ipswich, showed there needed to be a change in the law.

The group said prostitutes in Bradford had been complaining about increased arrests and prosecutions.

“Sex workers continue to pay the price for decades of criminalization and, more recently, for a government-led moral crusade against prostitution,” it said.

“If women were able to come forward to report attacks and these were vigorously investigated, violent men could be stopped, maybe even before they kill.”

© Thomson Reuters 2010


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