British serial killer jailed for three prostitute murders

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A crossbow being fired.
Image: Wilfried Wittkowsky.

A British serial killer has yesterday entered guilty pleas to all three counts of murder he faced. Stephen Griffiths, 40, who attracted tabloid attention by calling himself the "Crossbow Cannibal", killed the prostitutes in his flat in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England and will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Griffiths, a former van driver with a degree in psychology and studying for a PhD in criminology, was caught when police were alerted to a murder caught on CCTV. A caretaker, reviewing footage from the building where Griffiths's flat is, saw Suzanne Blamires, 36, and Griffiths enter the flat. Two minutes later, she ran out and he followed, beating her to the ground and shooting her in the head with a crossbow. He raised his crossbow above his head for the CCTV, then dragged the body away. Returning with a drink, he raised the can and one finger to the camera.

Over the course of a weekend, he was seen several times with bin bags and a rucksack. After Griffiths was arrested by armed police on May 24, her dismembered remains were found floating the the River Ayre near Shipley; her head was in a rucksack and it was yesterday revealed a crossbow bolt and broken knife were embedded in it. Robert Smith QC, prosecuting, said she was in 81 pieces.

Smith added that Griffiths confessed to killing her and cutting her up by hand; he had previously used power tools on his victims. Shelley Armitage, 31, had been missing since April when police charged Griffiths; a piece of spine in the River Ayre was later identified as hers. Also found by the river was a suitcase containing knives and saws.

Missing persons photo of Shelley Armitage.
Image: West Yorkshire Police.

It was yesterday revealed her murder was also on video. Griffiths recorded the act on his mobile, which he then lost on a train. Its finder sold it on twice before police retrieved it, but the footage remained. Armitage is seen hogtied on cushions, the words "My Sex Slave" spray-painted in black on her back. She is also seen dead and naked in his bathtub. "I am Ven Pariah, I am the Bloodbath Artist," Griffiths said as part of a commentary to the video. "Here’s a model who is assisting me."

The third murder - that of Susan Rushworth, 43 - dates back to June last year, when she vanished. Although police believe she was killed with a hammer and Griffiths has spoken of the death, no remains were ever found and the only physical evidence was one bloodstain in her killer's flat. Police found evidence he tried to clean up, with bathroom tiles removed and carpets lifted.

"It was just a slaughterhouse in the bathtub," he told police at interview. He later confessed to police that "I, or part of me, is responsible for killing Susan Rushworth, Shelley Armitage and Suzanne Blamires, who I know as Amber." Two crossbows, crossbow bolts, and serial killer literature were seized from his flat.

The day before the final murder, Griffiths wrote on MySpace, using the Ven Pariah pseudonym, he had "finally emerged into the world." He continued: "What will this pseudo-human do, one wonders. Poor Stephen, pretended to be me, but he was only the wrapping. He knew towards the end, that I supplied the inner core of iron. Hatred Bound Tightly In Flesh. At very long last, the time has come to act out." He would later tell officers he was having a mental "civil war".

River Aire in West Yorkshire
Image: Daniel Morgan.

He told the magistrates' court on his first appearance his name was "The Crossbow Cannibal." Yesterday, he was asked at Leeds Crown Court merely to confirm his name, answering "yes". Each murder charge was read to him, and he answered "guilty" to each. Five security guards flanked him. He has also called himself the SF killer. Although he claimed to have boiled and eaten flesh from the first two victims and eaten the third raw, police could not verify this. The Telegraph says the suspect he invented it to increase his fame, but News Limited quotes Sky News as claiming police believed his cannibalistic claims.

Cquote1.svg Nobody deserves this. All these girls were human beings and people's daughters. Cquote2.svg

—Victim's mother

Mr Justice Openshaw, the judge, yesterday called Griffiths "wicked and monstrous." He told the court the killer's mental health had been investigated and there is "no question that he [i]s fit to plead." He gave Griffiths the whole life tariff, meaning he will never be released.

Griffiths has attempted suicide while in prison awaiting trial, and police have not yet established if he killed three more women, as he told officers his count stood at six.

At the time Griffiths was charged, Nicky Blamires, 54, has told the press her daughter Suzanne was a "much-loved" family member even though she "went down the wrong path and did not have the life she was meant to have." "Nobody deserves this," she said. "All these girls were human beings and people's daughters."

Griffiths was known as "the lizard man" in his block of flats owing to his habit of walking his two pet monitor lizards in the area. One neighbour is reported to have quoted him as saying he was studying for "a PhD in murder and Jack the Ripper," and he has spent time in a high-security psychiatric hospital.

British media was quick to compare the case to Peter Sutcliffe, dubbed the "Yorkshire Ripper". Sutcliffe was a Bradford killer responsible for thirteen murders and seven attempted murders, including several prostitutes. Since his 1981 conviction he has spent most of the last three decades in Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital near London.


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