In a grisly case that British newspapers have compared to the Yorkshire Ripper murders of the 1970s, the police on Thursday charged a 40-year-old man pursuing a doctorate in 19th-century homicides with the murders of three women identified by the police as prostitutes.
One victim was caught on closed-circuit television last week being killed with a crossbow shot to the head before her dismembered body was dumped in a nearby river.
The man charged with the killings, Stephen Griffiths, is a former van driver with a psychology degree who was enrolled in a postgraduate course in criminology, the Times of London reported.
In a case that terrorized much of northern England and led to years of inquiries about police investigative failures, Peter Sutcliffe, the so-called Yorkshire Ripper, was convicted in 1981 of murdering 13 women, including several prostitutes, and of attempting to murder seven others.
He was given 20 concurrent life sentences and has been held for nearly 30 years in the Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital west of London. After a legal battle to be considered for parole, he was told by officials this year that he would never be released.
With the country’s voracious tabloid papers competing in a frenzy over the latest killings, the police sealed off the third-floor walk-up on the edge of Bradford’s red-light district where Griffiths lived alone for more than a decade.
Griffiths was arrested after the police investigating the disappearance of the three women he is accused of killing reviewed closed-circuit video footage from security cameras outside his apartment. The Times of London quoted officers as saying the video showed one of the missing women, Suzanne Blamires, 36, a former nursing trainee who friends said had taken up prostitution to pay for an addiction to drugs and alcohol, being chased down a corridor by a man who knocked her to the ground. Moments later, the officers said, the man returned with a crossbow and shot Blamires in the head.
These accounts said the video later showed the same man taking several plastic garbage bags away from the property. After Griffiths was arrested on Monday, parts of Blamires’ body were found floating in the River Aire near Shipley, a town a few miles north of Bradford, and a woman’s head was found in a rucksack by the riverbank. The bodies of the two other women Griffiths is charged with murdering, Shelley Armitage, 31, and Susan Rushworth, 43, both said to be friends of Blamires, have not been found.
The Times said that according to neighbors, Griffiths was hauled from his apartment by the police and made to lie facedown at gunpoint before being led away, showing no emotion.