British police quiz man over prostitute murders

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British police were questioning a 40-year-old man Thursday over the murders of three prostitutes in northern England, which has 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.

Officers have 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 found a woman's remains near the River Aire in Shipley, west Yorkshire, on Tuesday and were expected to identify her Thursday.

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

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

There was heavy police presence in the area where the body parts were found while officers with sniffer dogs searched Bradford's nearby red-light district.

People living and working in the area said officers had examined a number of derelict buildings in the past few weeks and had been searching the area for days.

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 a 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 close-circuit television (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.

© 2010 AFP

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