Griffiths: life will mean life

THERE was none of the ambiguity that has become such a regrettable hallmark of the criminal justice system as a remorseless Stephen Griffiths, the self-styled 'crossbow cannibal' who murdered three prostitutes, was led to the cells to begin his life sentence.

His crimes were so "wicked", said Mr Justice Openshaw, that the serial killer should be left to die in prison. There is no mitigation and, if the issue of the murderer's possible release ever arises at some later date, the powers-that-be should be reminded of the Judge's stern comments.

Such high-profile cases normally coincide with the publication of an official report which exposes a litany of failings on the part of the authorities.

That this did not happen, in this instance, is testament to the effective response of West Yorkshire Police – a force haunted by the failings that allowed the Yorkshire Ripper to remain at large for so long – once it became clear these murders were the work of a barbaric killer.

Their professionalism should be acknowledged in an era when it is often convenient to criticise the police, sometimes unfairly.

For, while Griffiths was known to the police, it was difficult to foresee from his previous convictions, though serious, anything to suggest that he would become a multiple killer who hoped that his calculating depravity would remain undetected while Bradford, Shipley and the surrounding area became paralysed by fear. While Griffiths did, indeed, tell a probation officer 20 years ago that he would become a 'murderer', it is virtually impossible for the police to legislate against such twisted assertions. Very rarely do they come to pass.

Yet, while yesterday's judicial proceedings brought about an element of closure, the pain will never go away for the families of three women that Griffiths murdered. Their ordeal is only just beginning. The same also applies to the loved ones of those young women who remain missing. They, too, continue to be haunted by the uncertainty – especially as Griffiths has boasted about killing others.

No one, not even highly-trained police psychologists, can tell whether this was bravado on the murderer's part – or whether he was speaking the truth. Griffiths is so depraved, and so sick, that he is unlikely to be of any substantive use to the authorities. The only consolation is that such an evil man has been caught, and that life will mean life in this instance.