Forensic tests are being carried out on a black suitcase containing tools discovered in the river close to where the dismembered body parts of one of three murdered Bradford prostitutes were found.
Further remains were removed from the river Aire in Shipley over the weekend as West Yorkshire Police continued to search more than 100 different sites within half a mile of the flat on the edge of the red-light district belonging to the mature student Stephen Griffiths. Officers are also looking at nearly 30 locations in other parts of the city including several in Shipley, which is four miles from the centre.
A police spokeswoman said it was too early to tell whether the latest discovery would go some way towards ending the anguish of the families of the two women whose bodies have yet to be recovered. "At this stage it is unclear whether they are human or animal," the spokeswoman said. "The suitcase which was found yesterday contained tools which are to undergo a full forensic examination," she added.
Searches are expected to continue for at least the rest of this week, with 45 detectives hunting for the missing bodies still "proactively following several lines of inquiry", police said.
It is now a week since the criminology PhD student was arrested by police investigating the disappearance of sex workers Suzanne Blamires, Shelley Armitage and Susan Rushworth. Griffiths appeared in court on Friday charged with all three murders. He was driven away amid ugly scenes at the end of his two brief court appearances after being remanded in custody to Wakefield Prison. The next hearing is scheduled for 7 June, when Griffiths is due to appear via video link.
There is mounting concern over the level of media interest in the case, which has seen dozens of journalists descend on the city, and prosecutors are alarmed over the relentless reporting of the details of the case. Yesterday, the News of the World published an interview with Griffiths' former girlfriend Kathy Hancock in which she described the breakdown of their relationship.
The latest remains and the tools were found in the same stretch of river where body parts belonging to Ms Blamires were recovered last week. The 36-year-old was last seen the previous Friday, while Ms Armitage, 31, has been missing since 26 April, and grandmother Ms Rushworth, 43, disappeared on 22 June last year.
On the river banks yesterday, two police tents and a police van were sectioned off from the road by police tape. Floral tributes tied to railings next to the fast-moving river could also be seen. A lorry with digger arms was carrying out excavations around the former private-school boy's flat. The streets around the converted mill flat have been painstakingly searched by the 70 uniformed officers working on the case. Wasteland has been cleared and searched and drains examined.
The deaths of the women have prompted fresh concerns over the safety of sex workers, many of whom have drug problems, and are forced to work the streets. Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, called for brothels to be legalised and said he would be canvassing support from fellow MPs. Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated the decriminalisation of prostitution would be considered in light of the tragedies.
Ms Blamires' partner, Ifty Hussein, said she used the money gained from prostitution to pay for heroin. "I wish it was me who was dead. We were planning to get clean in the next month, make a fresh start and get on with our lives together," he said.
It was reported that Griffiths, a psychology graduate from Leeds University, was writing a doctorate thesis at Bradford University called Homicide in Bradford, examining murders in the city between 1847 and 1899. A source was quoted by The Mail on Sunday as saying it consisted of a review of literature, including newspapers and periodicals from the time.Reuse content