Legal process: Judge blocked Griffiths's bid to plead guilty more than five months ago

Griffiths tried to plead guilty to the three murders more than five months ago – but a judge refused to accept his pleas because of concerns about his mental health.

More reports and background on Stephen Griffiths

A routine review of the case at Sheffield Crown Court on July 16 took a dramatic twist when, unprompted, the mature student admitted responsibility for the killings.

Griffiths was not in the courtroom but was following the proceedings via video link from Wakefield Prison, where a camera showed him sat hunched over a wooden desk and wearing a grey sweatshirt.

Asked whether he could hear what was being said in court, he looked up and said: "Yes. I want to plead guilty. I want to be rearraigned and plead guilty."

The judge hearing the case, Mr Justice Openshaw, told Griffiths he could not plead to the murders at that stage, to which the defendant replied "guilty" and lowered his head to stare at the desk again.

Prosecutor Robert Smith QC told the court he thought it would be "inappropriate" to put the charges to Griffiths because of questions over the student's mental state.

Griffiths fidgeted in frustration as he listened to the submissions, putting his head in his hands, covering his face and folding his arms.

He had looked similarly restless during his first appearance on May 28, when he gave his name as "The Crossbow Cannibal" to gasps of astonishment from the public gallery at Bradford Magistrates' Court.

As his victims' grieving relatives sobbed in disbelief, Griffiths was asked by the court clerk to confirm his address.

He looked about the courtroom from the reinforced glass-panelled dock, scratched his head and replied: "Erm... here I guess."

The case was heard in court again on October 15 – almost five months after Griffiths's arrest – when his mental health had still not been properly assessed.

Mr Justice Openshaw, sitting at Bradford Crown Court, heard submissions from defence counsel David Waters QC, who explained that a psychiatrist would visit Griffiths within six weeks.

The delay surprised the judge, who said it was "quite incredible" that, in the five months since Griffiths was arrested, doctors for the defence had not "applied their minds" to the question of whether he was fit to plead.

He adjourned the case to be heard at Leeds Crown Court, where the victims' families' wait for justice ended yesterday.

Griffiths also went to court to seek a judicial review of his treatment in Wakefield, where he has been under constant watch and kept segregated from other inmates.

Lawyers argued that he was in a "vicious circle" – the more intensive his supervision, the more depressed he became. The more depressed he became, the more he required supervision to prevent him from harming himself.

But Mr Justice Simon, sitting in the High Court in Leeds, threw out the application and said he was satisfied that prison authorities were keeping Griffiths's situation under "careful review".