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Stephen Griffiths calls himself 'the crossbow cannibal' in court

Stephen Griffiths, the PhD student charged with the murders of three prostitutes in Bradford, has told a court he is "the crossbow cannibal".

The 40-year-old appeared at Bradford Magistrates' Court accused of killing of Suzanne Blamires, Susan Rushworth and Shelley Armitage within the city's red light district in the past 11 months.

Asked to confirm his name, there was a brief pause before the former grammar school pupil said "the crossbow cannibal".

The comment drew a gasp from a relative of one victim sitting in court.

Mr Griffiths, who was dressed all in black, was then asked to confirm his address and he responded: "Here I guess".

Relatives of some of the victims stared intently at Griffiths, who was flanked by guards in the dock of the court. Others watched on tearfully.

Mr Griffiths is being represented by Lumb and MacGill solicitors - the same firm used by Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.

He stood to give his name at the beginning of the brief hearing and at other times he sat, fidgeting and touching his head, or staring silently at the floor with his head bowed.

District judge Susan Bouche remanded him to appear at the city's crown court later today.

Police confirmed yesterday that body parts of Miss Blamires were found in a river in nearby Shipley.

The search continues for the bodies of Miss Rushworth, 43, and Miss Armitage, 31, who disappeared from Bradford's red light district – the same streets once stalked by Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.

Forensic searches at Mr Griffiths's one-bedroom flat in Holmfield Court are expected to continue for up to three weeks.

Last night, Ms Blamires's mother, Nicky Blamires, 55, described her daughter as a "bright and articulate" woman, who went to college and was training to be a nurse.

"Unfortunately my daughter went down the wrong path and she did not have the life she was meant to have.

"She was a much-loved daughter, sister and niece and what has happened to her will haunt me to the day I die," she said.

Ms Blamires's home in Barkston Walk, in the Allerton area of Bradford, is just a few streets from that of Ms Armitage, who was last seen on CCTV footage walking in Rebecca Street, in the red-light district.

People who knew Ms Armitage said she was a "bubbly, lovely" girl.

The third woman, grandmother and mother-of-three Ms Rushworth, was last seen on June 22 last year, after getting off a single-decker bus near her flat at Oak Villas, in the Manningham area of Bradford.

Her daughter, Kirsty, said: "Even though she used to take drugs and stuff, my friends always used to have a laugh with her and she'd give her right arm to anybody.

"She wasn't like all these other druggies. She was just completely different. She was like a sister more than a mum."

Mr Griffiths lived in a third-floor flat in Thornton Road, just a short distance from Bradford city centre. He attended the private Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield in his teens.

© Telegraph.co.uk