Student accused of murdering Bradford prostitutes
There is only one reason why women in Bradford's city centre sell sex for £20 a go — to buy the drugs on which most have been dependent since they were teenagers.
The urgent need for heroin — either smoked or injected — and crack, normally topped up with a prescription of methadone and further fuelled with strong, cheap alcohol, is what drives them out to take risks by climbing into a stranger's car.
And at least three paid the ultimate price. Susan Blamires (36), Shelley Armitage (31) and Susan Rushworth, a 43-year-old grandmother were murdered in the last year.
Today Stephen Griffiths (40) a PhD student in criminology, will appear before magistrates in the city charged with the murders.
The case has, unsurprisingly, been compared to that of the Yorkshire Ripper who terrorised these streets more than 30 years ago. It has also highlighted a world that is often overlooked until those that inhabit it meet with tragedy such as the 2006 Ipswich murders of five prostitutes by Steve Wright.
In the mid 1990s, Bradford's prostitution problem was physically moved on by Asian elders from its traditional home on Lumb Lane. At busy times on a Friday and Saturday night up to 20 women line the streets off Thornton Road where Griffiths lived in a converted mill.
Griffiths, who was studying serial killers as part of a criminology course at the University of Bradford, was arrested after police were called to the block of flats where he lived.
The building's caretaker had found CCTV images of a woman, believed to be Susan Blamires, being attacked and knocked unconscious by a man before being finished off with a crossbow. Her dismembered remains were later found in the north of the city in the River Aire.
She was friends and a close neighbour of Shelley Armitage, who had not been seen since last month. Griffiths was also charged last night with killing Susan Rushworth who disappeared nearly a year ago.
Peter Mann from the Crown Prosecution Service said he had brought charges after carefully considering all of the evidence in the case. He said he had met the families of the three victims and explained the legal process.
Neighbours described yesterday how Griffiths spoke of his solitary existence. They said he was rarely seen in the company of others, instead preferring to communicate through social networking sites on the internet where he styled himself ‘Ven Pariah’ and posted bare-chested pictures of himself.
Sex workers said yesterday that the latest murders were tragedies waiting to happen claiming that a series of laws passed by the previous government had made the business more dangerous than it used to be.
‘He suffered from depression. He said he was doing a PhD in murder and Jack the Ripper’
By Katie Hodge
Since Stephen Griffiths' arrest over the murder of three prostitutes a picture of an introvert and a misfit has come to light.
A criminology student who was researching serial killers, he would reportedly stroll around in a long black leather coat and boast he was doing a PhD in Jack the Ripper.
The 40-year-old bachelor and mature student at Bradford University was apparently nicknamed “the weirdo”. While neighbours referred to him as an “oddball”, a “loner” and a “Goth”, reports alluded to a series of bizarre habits.
Under the alleged alter ego of ‘Ven Pariah’, he is said to have visited a website featuring pictures of more than 50 serial killers including Ian Brady, Myra Hindley and Fred and Rose West.
Other web pages set up by the suspected murderer apparently detailed dozens of notorious killings.
Griffiths, who is believed to have a psychology degree, lived alone close to Bradford's red light district.
He had apparently been renting a shabby third-floor flat in a converted mill for a number of years.
And a former neighbour said: “He suffered from depression. He said he was doing a PhD in murder and Jack the Ripper. He also said he had a girlfriend in Shipley.”
Others said he had few friends and rarely went out.
“He would go out and make friends with some of the prostitutes and streetwalkers that ply their trade at the bottom of the road and they seemed to like him and he was always in conversation with them,” one neighbour said.
New laws have left call girls vulnerable
By Jerome Taylor
When Jacqui Smith unveiled new legislation in 2008 overhauling the way Britain polices sex work, she was adamant that the safety of prostitutes was foremost in her mind.
“I want to do everything we can to protect the thousands of vulnerable women coerced, exploited or trafficked into prostitution in our country and to bring those who take advantage of them to justice,” she said.
But things might not be working quite as well as the former Home Secretary hoped. A year after the Policing and Crime Act was passed in the Lords, three sex workers in Bradford have been murdered, prompting concerns that the new legislation may be forcing women out of the comparative safety of brothels and onto the streets.
The final draft of the Act was a watered-down version of what Ms Smith and her allies had planned. They had hoped for strict kerb-crawling bans based on similar legislation in Sweden and the Netherlands, while Harriet Harman wanted an outright ban on any payment for sex.
Instead, the emphasis was on criminalising people who had sex with trafficked women — and increasing police powers to arrest sex workers and close down brothels. For those who wanted a clampdown on prostitution, it was a welcome piece of legislation. But sex workers themselves will tell you a very different story.
Brothels may not be the most salubrious places in the world to work. But compared with the street, a well-run massage parlour provides a much greater level of safety and security for the women (or men) who work there.
Yet sex workers say raids against brothels are increasing, forcing women onto the streets.
Police, meanwhile, have a financial incentive to raid brothels as they can now keep much of the money they find there.
And some believe the new laws also leave prostitutes less likely to report any violence meted out to them.