Crossbow Cannibal pleads guilty to 3 murders
1:13pm 21st December 2010
(Updated 1:23pm 21st December 2010)
A Yorkshireman's has been given three life sentences for murdering three Bradford prostitutes.
40 year old Stephen Griffiths called himself the "Crossbow Cannibal".
Mike McCarthy looks back over the case:
Speaking after the sentencing Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent Sukbir Singh said:
“I am extremely pleased that Griffiths has been convicted of what can only be described as a series of horrifying crimes.
“He is a heartless and controlling man, who took advantage of vulnerable women.
“What he did can never be forgotten by the families of his victims. Suzanne, Susan and Shelley all came from families who cared for and supported their daughters.
“We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in society as seen in the work of the Bradford vice team and partners. We are also determined to bring to justice those who seek to harm them.
"With the continued confidence of the families, officers involved in this case worked tirelessly, with the utmost professionalism to ensure Griffiths was brought to justice.
“The key elements of this investigation centred on traditional policing, supported by developments in science and technology.
“I hope the knowledge that Griffiths is now behind bars will bring some comfort to all those lives he has affected.
"I would like to thank the people of Bradford for their support and patience."
During the investigation, West Yorkshire Police utilised their specialist victim identification team for the first time.
Senior Identification Manager, Detective Superintendent Colin Prime said:
"After responding to the report of human remains in the River Aire, it was deemed appropriate to use the specialist team to retrieve, identify and repatriate the remains.
"Supported by the Under Water Search Unit, The team's sole aim was to recover them with dignity and integrity whilst securing key evidence.
"This involved a high level of professionalism and of course a sympathetic approach. This whole process is about care and respect and is what loved ones are entitled to expect.
"As a result of the specialist team being deployed, it provided the Senior Investigating Officer with more time to direct and lead the investigation."
Members of the victim’s families have also made the following statements.
A statement from Mrs Christine Thompson, Susan Rushworth’s mother, on behalf of her family:
Susan went missing more than 12 months ago and as a family we still don’t know where she is.
We know that Griffiths has admitted to killing our daughter and there is evidence to confirm that. 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.
She was a loving mother, daughter and sister and our family have been affected at every level by her murder. Our lives will never be the same without her and we are sure the stress and strain of the last 12 months contributed to the death of Susan's father, Barry who died on 18 July 2010.
His final words were to ask for Susan and what grieves the family most of all is that Griffiths took away the opportunity for him to speak to her before he died.
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.
We would encourage all women to avoid drugs and prostitution.
A statement from Gill Armitage, Shelley's mother, on behalf of her family:
As a family we would like to take this opportunity to thank the Police for their work from the start of this terrible tragedy to hunt for our daughter Shelley-Marie Armitage.
They worked endlessly for the five weeks from her first disappearance and we want to say a special thank you to Mr Singh and Mr Ridley who lead the investigation and kept it together.
We also want to thank our family liaison officers, DC Jackie Starkie and DC Dave Fullalove as we really don't know how we would have got through this without them. They have been marvellous as have our family and friends who have been so supportive.
We also want to thank the caretaker who saw Griffiths on CCTV and contacted the Police.
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.
A statement from Nicky Blamires, Suzanne's mother, on behalf of their family:
Stephen Griffiths is a coward and we are shocked he pleaded guilty as it is not something I thought he would have the courage to do.
I would like to thank the Police, especially our family liaison officer Andy Hollingworth, as for us he has been a tower of strength.
We could not have asked for any more and I would like to thank every Police officer who worked to find Suzanne for their help.
Our daughter was deeply loved and her death has left a huge hole in our lives.
This will be the first Christmas we have spent without Suzanne in 36 years and I know I will never get over her loss.
I wake up and think about my bright, articulate and much loved daughter every day and I am serving a life sentence as a result of what that man has done.
Quite simply no family deserves what we have gone through, all of these girls were people's daughters and much loved human beings.
Assistant Chief Constable Jawaid Akhtar, who addressed the media at the time of the river searches in May, paid tribute to the families.
"Uppermost in my thoughts are the families of Suzanne, Shelley and Susan, who have acted with dignity and understanding throughout what must have been a very difficult time for them. Nothing can compensate the relatives of the three women whose lives were cut short, but hopefully, seeing Griffiths convicted and sentenced today has brought them some comfort. We will of course offer them continued support in the weeks ahead.
"Throughout the lengthy investigation, the cooperation of our partner agencies and the understanding of businesses and residents, whose lives and livelihoods were disrupted by the extensive searches, made our job much easier.
"This was a complex and painstaking enquiry and I pay tribute to all those involved in the investigation. Det Supt Singh and his enquiry team worked tirelessly on this case, often in stressful circumstances, given the nature of the searches and the evidence we had to recover.
"This was a high profile case, attracting national media attention, but amidst all that, we were committed to ensuring the day to day needs of our communities were met and I am grateful to those officers who ensured that happened."
Peter Mann, Head of CPS West Yorkshire's Complex Casework Unit, said:
"Faced with the overwhelming evidence presented against him, and after he was confronted with the horror of what he had done, Stephen Griffiths today pleaded guilty to the murder of Suzanne Blamires, the murder of Shelley Armitage, and the murder of Susan Rushworth.
"Few people in Bradford are likely to forget the horrific events which led to Griffiths being arrested and charged with these murders in May this year. It was the start of a complex process by my team at the Crown Prosecution Service to build a robust prosecution case. The case, based on the evidence painstakingly gathered by West Yorkshire Police, overwhelmingly proved Griffiths' guilt.
"We cannot begin to understand what drove this cold-hearted and manipulative individual to take three lives in such a brutal and senseless way. The sentence handed down today reflects the truly appalling nature of his crimes. We hope that this result has brought some small measure of comfort to the families of Suzanne, Shelley and Susan, who have suffered a harrowing ordeal as a result of Griffiths' crimes. They are at the forefront of all our minds today."
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