Briton quizzed over 'ripper' prostitute murders

27th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

British police were questioning a 40-year-old man Thursday over the murders of three prostitutes in northern England which have sparked feverish speculation about a new "Yorkshire Ripper".

The man, who was arrested on Monday, is reportedly undertaking postgraduate research in criminology with a particular interest in serial killers. One report suggested he had studied Jack the Ripper, the 19th century slasher.

Officers had until Thursday evening to quiz him over the murder of three missing women from the Bradford area of Yorkshire, where infamous "Yorkshire Ripper" Peter Sutcliffe killed 13 women in the 1970s.

Suzanne Blamires, 36, went missing last Friday, Shelley Armitage, 31, has been missing since last month, and Susan Rushworth, 43, disappeared last June.

Police confirmed Thursday that a woman's remains found near the River Aire in Shipley, West Yorkshire, on Tuesday were those of Blamires.

"An examination of human remains recovered from the River Aire have confirmed a positive match to Suzanne Blamires," said a spokesman for West Yorkshire Police.

"Inquiries into the incident remain ongoing and a 40-year-old man remains under arrest in custody. He is being questioned on suspicion of the murder of Suzanne Blamires, Shelley Armitage and Susan Rushworth."

Detectives arrested him after CCTV security footage showed a man shooting Blamires through the head with a crossbow, the Times reported.

The footage, taken in a block of flats, shows Blamires being chased down a corridor by a man who attacks and knocks her to the ground. Moments later he returns with a crossbow, shoots her in the head, and drags her from view.

Video later showed the same person taking several bin bags away from the property, the Times said.

The suspect's home on the edge of Bradford's red-light district was sealed off by police. Locals described him as "a bit weird" and others who knew him said he was an oddball and a "loner".

One former neighbour quoted by the Times newspaper said the man had told her he was "doing a PhD in murder and Jack the Ripper."

A neighbour said he was known locally as the "Lizard Man" because he kept reptiles and took them for walks on leads in communal areas.

"He had an air of dangerousness about him. It was just the way he was," said security guard Glyn Tucker, adding: "He said 'I'm studying people that have done killing', which I found a bit disturbing."

Amid feverish media speculation, a police spokeswoman said there was "no suggestion" that the murders were linked to any previous unsolved crimes.

Rushworth was last seen on June 22 last year after getting off a bus near her home in Bradford. The grandmother and mother-of-three suffered from epilepsy and was receiving help for heroin addiction when she disappeared.

Armitage also had drug and alcohol problems. She was last seen on April 26 in Bradford city centre when she was caught on CCTV.

She lived only a few streets away from Blamires, who went missing on Friday.

Sutcliffe, jailed for life in 1981 for killing 13 women and the attempted murder of seven, began a bid to be freed in March. The 63-year-old is being held at the high-security Broadmoor Hospital, west of London.

In 2008 a forklift truck driver, Steve Wright, was convicted of the murders of five prostitutes in Ipswich, eastern England, two years earlier.

Jack the Ripper was the pseudonym for an infamous serial killer who attacked and mutilated prostitutes in London in the 1880s. He has never been positively identified.

© 2010 AFP

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