A criminology PhD student who was obsessed with murder, Stephen Griffiths had been on the police’s radar for years before he began killing sex workers around Bradford, England.
Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions and/or images of violent, disturbing, or otherwise potentially distressing events.
When Stephen Griffiths was young, he attended the alma mater of John George Haigh, the “Acid Bath Murderer” who killed at least six people and was hanged in 1949. Griffiths certainly would have learned of the connection — and it likely made an impression.
Decades later, Griffiths would pursue a notoriety of his own as he killed, dismembered, and even allegedly ate part of at least three women in Bradford, England. He would fashion himself as the “Crossbow Cannibal” for the unusual weapon he used to hunt his victims — and his disturbing treatment of their bodies.
Shockingly, however, Griffiths did not appear particularly concerned about getting caught, and just under a year after his first murder, Stephen Griffiths was arrested after being captured on CCTV camera dragging the body of his final victim back into his apartment building after she’d tried to escape — a chilling and damning piece of evidence that brought his killing to an end.
The Early Signs Of Stephen Griffith’s Depravity
Born Stephen Shaun Griffiths on Dec. 24, 1969, in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, the future serial killer showed a fascination with violence from an early age.
According to research from Radford University, when Griffiths was young he would sometimes watch his mother having sex with multiple men in their backyard. He also had a disturbing habit of skinning and torturing birds. By the time he was 18 years old, Griffiths had begun regularly shoplifting, until one incident at a supermarket ended with Griffiths slashing a store manager with a knife, landing him in jail for three years.
In 1991, Griffiths was diagnosed as a “sadistic, schizoid psychopath,” according to The Telegraph. He reportedly said he believed he would one day become a killer, and a psychiatric report described him as having a “preoccupation with murder — particularly multiple murder.”
In 1992, he would return to jail after he held a knife to a girl’s throat.
Eventually, in the mid-2000s, Griffiths would attempt to turn his interest in killing into a legitimate vocation, beginning a graduate degree in homicide studies at the University of Bradford — a project that he would take disturbingly literally.
Neighbors Begin To Fear The Local ‘Lizard Man’
On social media, The Guardian reports, Stephen Griffiths was theatrical, going as “Ven Pariah” and once writing, “Humanity is not merely a biological condition, it is also a state of mind. On that basis I am a pseudo human being at best. A demon at worst.”
His neighbors in the Bradford apartment building he lived in would initially see him as a curiosity, dubbing him the “Lizard Man” after observing him regularly taking his lizards on leashed walks while sporting slicked-back hair, sunglasses, and a long coat.
But his erratic behavior and aggression toward some of the building’s female residents led to increased complaints. The property managers began collecting information to pass on to the police, and also implemented improved CCTV coverage on the property.
After Griffiths was discovered reading books on human dismemberment, Telegraph reports, the library alerted his apartment managers.
With a long record of violence and a clear interest in serial killers, Griffiths had been on the radar of local police for years, and authorities had already confiscated several weapons from him on an earlier occasion.
But they didn’t see that Griffiths was about to turn his twisted passions into reality.
The Terrifying Crimes Of The ‘Crossbow Cannibal’
Stephen Griffiths’ PhD research was focused on homicide in industrial areas — a reflection of the exact crimes he was committing, targeting women in the Bradford area’s red light district.
Griffiths’ first known victim was a 43-year-old sex worker named Susan Rushworth. Rushworth disappeared shortly after getting off a bus in Bradford in June 2009. Few other details were known about her disappearance, and no parts of Rushworth’s body have ever been found.
Almost a year passed before Griffiths struck again. In late April 2010, Shelley Armitage disappeared after heading to “go on the beat,” The Guardian reported.
Griffiths reportedly filmed Armitage’s dismemberment on his phone before taking public transit to dispose of her remains in a nearby river.
Astoundingly, he would lose the phone not long afterward, leaving it on a train, where it was found and the footage discovered before it eventually made its way to the police.
In May 2010, Griffiths found another victim, Suzanne Blamires. At some point after Griffiths kidnapped Blamires, the 36-year-old woman saw an opportunity and made a dart for freedom, escaping from Griffiths’ apartment — only to be caught again and knocked unconscious by Griffiths.
Griffiths went to retrieve his crossbow, returned, and shot her through the head, brutally killing her.
But as Griffiths dragged his final victim back to his apartment, he saw a CCTV camera in the hallway — and realized the building’s security system had recorded the whole thing. Unfazed, Griffiths raised his middle finger defiantly toward the camera as he passed before returning to his apartment.
Later, Griffiths’ apartment complex caretaker was horrified to witness the brutal scene while reviewing the weekend’s footage — and quickly alerted the authorities.
Stephen Griffiths’ Arrest And Chilling Admission
In the time between his final murder and eventual arrest, Griffiths had managed to dismember and dispose of Blamires’ remains. When police arrived at Griffiths’ apartment to arrest him soon afterward, he was reportedly calm, almost emotionless from then on.
In interviews with the police, Griffiths would say he’d killed “loads” more women than the three known victims. When he first appeared in court and was asked his identity, he responded, “the Crossbow Cannibal.” He reportedly told police he’d eaten parts of his victims, sometimes raw, sometimes cooked.
For a time, Griffiths became a suspect in the unsolved case of Rebecca Hall, a 19-year-old killed and dumped in an alleyway in 2001. But no definitive proof was found — and Griffiths wasn’t talking.
On Dec. 21, 2010, Griffiths pleaded guilty to and was convicted of the murders of Susan Rushworth, Shelley Armitage, and Suzanne Blamires.
“The circumstances of these murders are so wicked and monstrous they leave me in no doubt the defendant should be kept in prison for the rest of his life,” the judge in his case remarked according to the BBC.
Stephen Griffiths was sentenced to life in prison, where he remains to this day with no possibility of parole. But for the families of his victims, it did little to heal the suffering he’d caused.
“I wake up and think about my bright, articulate and much-loved daughter every day,” Suzanne Blamires’ mother, Nicky Blamires, said. “And I am serving a life sentence as a result of what this man has done.”
After discovering the story of “Crossbow Cannibal” Stephen Griffiths, read about the man who shared his alma mater, “Acid Bath Murderer” John George Haigh. Then, learn about another cannibal killer, West Germany’s Joachim Kroll.