Criminology student Stephen Griffiths, who dubbed himself the “crossbow cannibal”, pleads guilty to the murder of three women in west Yorkshire. Andy Davies examines a man obsessed by crime.
It was a Monday morning in May. The caretaker of a block of flats in a converted mill in the centre of Bradford had decided to view the internal CCTV system from over the weekend.
What he saw would lead him immediately to call the police. It was “quite graphic, quite horrific” one detective told Channel 4 News, referring to a scene in which Stephen Griffiths is seen assaulting Suzanne Blamires, his third victim, in a corridor outside his flat.
He is then seen dragging her into his flat where, it’s understood, he then discharged a crossbow bolt into her skull.
The police arrested Griffiths, a 40-year-old bachelor and PhD student, the same day.
In subsequent police interviews he admitted killing Suzanne Blamires, Shelley Armitage and Susan Rushworth (pictured below). All had been sex workers from Bradford who had been reported missing between June 2009 and May 2010.
He would later identify himself in a court hearing as the “Crossbow Cannibal”. Prosecuting, Robert Smith QC, told the court Griffiths claimed to have eaten raw parts of flesh of Ms Blamires.
He said he told officers he had “eaten some of her” adding: “That’s part of the magic”.
Family members sobbed in court today as the prosecutor revealed gruesome details of the murders. Many details revealed are too horrific to report.
Body parts of Suzanne Blamires were found three days after she was reported missing. A member of the public saw her remains floating in the River Aire in Shipley, several miles outside the centre of Bradford.
Mr Smith told the court 81 different pieces of Ms Blamires were found. He said a broken knife and a crossbow bolt were embedded in her severed head.
The police would later retrieve a holdall from the river containing the tools Griffiths had used to dismember her. They would also discover spinal tissue belonging to Shelley Armitage in the Aire, but nothing more.
Tragically for the families involved, Griffiths has never disclosed what he did with the bodies of Ms Armitage and Susan Rushworth.
“We tried to put further questions to him”, said one police source, “but he wouldn’t entertain it….he is a fella who wants to be in control”.
The court was told Griffiths possessed a number of “disturbing video recordings and images”.
One showed Ms Armitage lying dead in the bath. Another, unidentified victim, was lying bound on the living room floor.
The prosecutor said furniture and the walls in Griffiths’ flat were splattered with the victims’ blood. There was evidence that Ms Rushworth and Ms Armitage had bled in the flat, he said.
Griffiths was jailed at Leeds Crown Court for life for the “wicked and monstrous” murders. Judge Mr Justice Openshaw told Griffiths he would be kept in prison for the rest of his life. Griffiths showed no emotion as the judge imposed the whole life tariff.
Griffiths was, by all accounts, a loner who spent much of his time engrossed in his academic studies and the bizarre online world of his alter ego Ven Pariah.
This is the name he used on a social website where he styled himself as a “misanthrope…who brought hate into heaven”.
He had grown up in Wakefield and attended the prestigious independent Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. He took a degree in psychology at the University of Leeds, it’s reported, and then moved to Bradford to begin a PhD in criminology, researching patterns of crime in the city during the nineteenth century.
His fascination with crime is all too evident from his old website profiles. His Amazon “wishlist” includes 25 books and DVDs, many of which focus on serial killers. Among the box sets listed are titles such as “Notorious Killers”, “Mass Murderers”, and “Britain’s Bloodiest Serial Killers”.
In another web posting he writes: “Humanity is not merely a biological condition. It is also a state of mind. On that basis I am a pseudo human at best. A demon at worst”.
Griffiths lived alone in a district of Bradford bordering the red light district. One neighbour Glyn Tucker said that other residents called him “Lizard Man” because he reportedly owned two large monitor lizards.
He is said to have joined online groups calling for independence for Yorkshire and to have had a keen interest in the local music scene. He also had a history of mental health problems and was said to have been assessed at one stage in the high security Rampton Hospital.
So why did he kill these women? Again, compounding the misery of the bereaved families, according to the police, he has failed to fully explain his motives.
In one police interview he is said to describe himself as someone who “does not have much regard for the human race”. There is, apparently, no explanation beyond that.
The families of the women killed by Griffiths condemned him as a coward today as they spoke of their loss.
Nicky Blamires said she thought of her daughter Suzanne every day while calling Griffiths a “coward”.
“This will be the first Christmas we have spent without Suzanne in 36 years and I know I will never get over her loss,” she said.
A statement from Christine Thompson, Susan Rushworth’s mother, on behalf of her family, said: “Susan went missing more than 12 months ago and as a family we still don’t know where she is.
“As a family we have not been able to put our daughter to rest because she has not been found, so we want to appeal to this man to tell us what he has done with Susan.”
The statement added: “We hope that other women will see what has happened and move away from drugs and prostitution.
“We never want to see another family go through the horror we have and still are enduring.”
Gill Armitage, Shelley’s mother, said in a statement on behalf of her family: “Our daughter Shelley was very much loved and will be very sadly missed by us all.
“Unfortunately she took the wrong path at the young age of 16-years-old when she became a victim of heroin.
“Her death will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”