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The Crossbow Cannibal and the Crime That Shook Britain

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I am not normally interested in writing about brutal and sadistic crimes, but one specific case, the case of the Crossbow Cannibal in 2010 has persuaded me to delve deeper into the case in order to discover what provoked Stephen Griffiths, to murder and dismember the bodies of three women.

This piece shall focus on the TV documentary http://www.crimeandinvestigation.co.uk/shows/crimes-that-shook-britain-2/episodes.html#bottomOfHeader?ps=1&utm_source=crimeinvestigation&utm_medium=hyperlink&utm_campaign=crimesthatshookbritain, shown on the Crime and Investigation Network that will focus on the murders carried out by Griffiths. The programme uses witness accounts from the people who were close to the victims including the family and friends in the shocking case.

Between 2009 The laws around prostitution in England and Wales are far from straight-forward. The act of prostitution is not in itself illegal - but a string of laws criminalises activities around it. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, it is an offence to cause or incite prostitution or control it for personal gain.

The 1956 Sexual Offences Act bans running a brothel and it's against the law to loiter or solicit sex on the street. Kerb-crawling is also banned, providing it can be shown the individual was causing a persistent annoyance.

2010 the town of Bradford became part of a crime so horrific; it sent shock waves around the world. Griffiths, from Bradford, had murdered Suzanne Blamires 36, Shelley Armitage 31 and 43-year-old Susan Rushworth and became known by the alias he created himself: The Crossbow Cannibal. The Crossbow Cannibal was fuelled by the notoriety and fame he claimed having murdered and dismembered these three women. In other words, Griffiths was a wannabe serial killer.

Griffiths was arrested on 24 May by West Yorkshire Police after CCTV footage of him attacking Ms Blamires at his block of flats was discovered by a caretaker at the complex. Footage which showed Ms Blamires running out of Griffiths' flat followed by the defendant was used to catch the killer.

Ms Blamires was later seen being dragged on the floor by her leg by Griffiths, who was seen to have something in his hand. The woman was shot with a crossbow, before Griffiths "gestured" by holding a finger up to the CCTV camera.

Now we need to examine the mind and character of a man who would be driven to commit these brutal and horrific crimes. At the very start of the documentary we see Griffiths on camera, saying he is "misanthropic" and does not have much time for the human race. To be misanthropic implies Griffith had a general dislike, distrust and hatred of the human species or human nature.

The documentary takes time to delve deep into the life of Griffiths, a loaner and sociopath whose main aim in life was to gain notoriety through killing vulnerable women. Griffiths used these crimes to become famous, as he saw himself as part of a celebrity culture. In this case prostitutes who would be lured by their need for money to buy drugs and so were easy targets for Griffiths to strike.

Griffiths was also a PhD student studying criminology and had a rather sinister interest in serial killing. It was as if Griffiths was studying different types of murder and how to dispose of bodies and to learn how to kill and dispose of bodies in real life. His fascination with crime developed into a reality with him acting out his sick dream.

The crimes carried out by Griffiths echoed those of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe who stalked and murdered 13 women, the majority of whom were prostitutes.

An article in the Guardian by Cathy Scott Clark and Adrian Levy investigates a similar spate of attacks in Ipswich where five prostitutes were murdered in a baron industrial zone in the City. "Griffiths and Wright consciously zeroed in on these voids and the invisible women society had pushed between the cracks, they knew they could do whatever they pleased. They killed because it was easy." This comment by David Wilson Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University makes clear the one aspect that may have led the two killers to pray on these vulnerable women.

But what Wilson does not go into with the Griffith case is how meticulous his plans seemed to be prior to murdering these three women. For over 10 years, Griffith frequented Bradford's underworld using the area's sex workers. He also moved to a top floor converted Victorian textile factory which happened to place Griffiths at the centre of the area he would become the monster of. There in his flat Griffith started to plan his crimes that were made easy for him, especially given the number of desperate drug addled women who were working the streets right below him.

The murders have opened up a debate on the laws of prostitution that put women at risk of being prayed on by violent psychopaths. The laws around prostitution in England and Wales are far from straight-forward. The act of prostitution is not in itself illegal - but a string of laws criminalises activities around it. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, it is an offence to cause or incite prostitution or control it for personal gain.

The 1956 Sexual Offences Act bans running a brothel and it's against the law to loiter or solicit sex on the street. Kerb-crawling is also banned, providing it can be shown the individual was causing a persistent annoyance. If prostitution was legalised and women selling sex were able to legally adopt a tenancy, it would protect the most vulnerable people in society.

Crimes that shook Britain is on Crime & Investigation Network (Sky 553 and Virgin 237) every Sunday at 9pm from 11th March and also includes programmes on other headline grabbing cases such as Rachel Nickell, Victoria Climbie, Sally Anne Bowman, the omagh Bombing and James Bulger.