23 Dec 2010

‘Crossbow Cannibal’ only killed three women, says expert

A leading criminologist tells Channel 4 News that “Crossbow Cannibal” Stephen Griffiths is likely to have only murdered three women, despite claims that he may have killed several more.

Stephen Griffiths (Reuters)

Griffiths’ former girlfriend Amanda Judson told The Sun newspaper that he had once boasted to her that he wanted to be more infamous than Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, who killed 13 women.

On Tuesday, Griffiths was jailed for life for murdering three prostitutes, and West Yorkshire Police are following up other leads.

But David Wilson, who has worked with serial killers and is Professor of Criminology at the University of Central England, said he did not believe the self-styled “Crossbow Cannibal” was responsible for other murders. “I think we can rule that out pretty categorically by applying criminological theory.”

Professor Wilson said the time lags between the three murders at Griffiths’ Bradford flat implied that Susan Rushworth, Shelley Armitage and Suzanne Blamires were his only victims.

Stephen Griffiths' victims, Suzanne Blamires, Shelley Armitage and Susan Rushworth (police stills)

Ms Rushworth (right) went missing in June 2009, Ms Armitage (centre) in April 2010 and Ms Blamires (left) in May 2010.

Prof Wilson said: “The evidence from within the three cases we definitely know about would suggest his first victim was definitely his first victim because he was disorganised and lacked skill and there was a significant time gap between that victim and who we know as his second victim. That suggests he hadn’t killed before.”

He was a serial killer by numbers. Professor David Wilson, criminologist

Prof Wilson said serial killers usually left a long gap between their first two murders and a shorter gap or gaps between subsequent killings. “He set out to become a serial killer as a way of gaining 15 minutes of infamy . He was a serial killer by numbers.”

Griffiths had been influenced by the old FBI definition of a serial killer. “He knew he had to kill three or more people in a period greater than 30 days.”

Knew the game was up

Griffiths was captured on CCTV footage from his flat firing a crossbow at Ms Blamires and gesturing at the camera, a sign that “he knew the game was up”.

Prof Wilson added: “He showed the crossbow to the CCTV cameras because he wanted to be caught so the (serial killer) label would apply to him.”

Influenced by Yorkshire Ripper

He had been influenced by the Yorkshire Ripper, who had also murdered prostitutes. “Prostitutes are one of the most common targets of serial killers. Between 1994-2004, there were 60 women working in the sex industry who were murdered; there were arrests in 16 cases. Lots of women working as prostitutes are murdered and their murderers are not caught.”

It was right for West Yorkshire Police to study unsolved murders in the area, but it was unlikely Griffiths was responsible for any of them, despite being a “narcissistic misogynist, desperate for attention and infamy”.