A doctoral student who studied famous murderers proclaimed himself to be the "Crossbow Cannibal" today when arraigned in a British court for the murder of three prostitutes.
So far the police have found only body parts of one of Stephen Griffiths alleged victims and are searching his home for evidence of the other two women.
Griffiths, a 40 year-old graduate student of criminology, is accused of killing Suzanne Blamires, 36, Shelley Armitage, 31, and Susan Rushworth, 43, in Bradford, a city in northern England.
Griffiths drew gasps today when the judge asked his name in court today. "The crossbow cannibal," Griffiths replied. He sported a black shirt and dark jeans, showed little emotion, and stared silently at the floor.
The hearing lasted 10 minutes after which Griffiths was led away, handcuffed, through the court's back door.
Britain's tabloid newspapers, which have devoted front page attention to the case, have suggested that Griffiths used a crossbow in slaying one of his victims.
Police said the body parts of Blamires, who was last seen last Friday, were found Tuesday dumped in a nearby river.
The eerie case has riveted Britain and reports evoked a sinister picture of a man. Griffiths studied psychology before beginning a PhD program in criminology that specialized in 19th century homicides. He kept pet lizards and bred mice to feed them with, went out with sunglasses, no matter the weather, and his viewing tastes veered towards the gory on his publicly posted wish list on the Amazon website.
He had also cultivated an online alter-ego known as Ven Parieh. "The scary image I generally project to the world," was how he described his virtual-self.
The case is adjourned until June 7. The judge told Griffiths that his next appearance would be via video link from the prison.
The area where the women disappeared is in the same region where another serial killer had been active in the 1970s. The so-called "Yorkshire Ripper" murdered 13 women.
Blamires was training to be a nurse. Her mother, Nicky Blamires, described her as a "bright, articulate girl." "Unfortunately my daughter went down the wrong path and she did not have the life she was meant to have," Nicky Blamires said.
Rushworth was a grandmother who had been fighting a heroin addiction before her disappearance last year. She had sought treatment to break her drug habit, and had begun to get to know her grandchildren. She was also an epileptic.
Armitage had also been battling problems with drugs and alcohol. She was last seen on CCTV in Bradford city center on the evening of April 26, shortly before her disappearance.
The case has once again highlighted the dangers that surround sex workers and the precarious circumstances that they find themselves in.
"Clearly it's not the first time that sex-workers have been targeted as a group," James Treadwell, a criminologist from the University of Leicester told ABC News. "In a number of recent cases where people have gone on to kill and kill again, they've targeted sex-workers, a large part of that is due to their vulnerability, their anonymity, the problems that they have as group interacting with the police."