While I am currently following the trial of England's suspected "Crossbow Cannibal" Stephen Griffiths, I don't feel ready to post a complete opinion on the case. Like Dennis Rader and Missouri serial killer Timothy Krajcir, captured in 2007, Griffiths was a student of criminology, which is interesting since many factors of his case recall previous killers. The Crossbow Cannibal's hunting ground was the same area plagued by Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe in the 1970s. Also, the law firm that represented Sutcliffe is now representing Griffiths. Griffiths' lawyers are also petitioning for Griffiths to be moved to a mental health facility, and Sutcliffe's attorneys pursued an insanity defense, which succeeded. The only difference between Griffiths (if he is the Crossbow Cannibal) and Sutcliffe is that Sutcliffe's victims were not dismembered. Last week, Griffiths attempted suicide in the same prison where Harold Shipman, possibly the most prolific serial killer in history, killed himself. As I said, my examination of Griffiths here is extremely preliminary. Knowing little about how the victims were killed, or Griffiths' upbringing, except that he reportedly hadn't spoken to his mother in several years, I don't have much to say in the way of psychological examination.
That the Crossbow Cannibal targeted prostitutes is hardly unusual. From Jack the Ripper onward, prostitutes are frequent victims of serial killers. While some psychologists suggest that prostitutes represent the depravity and evil of women that the killers loathe, criminal profilers say that prostitutes are merely available targets. Most women will not get into a stranger's car, but a prostitute's livelihood depends on doing just that. Also, to a woman-hating serial killer, all women are whores, regardless of occupation. All the killer wants is a woman to destroy. Prostitutes are simply the most convenient.
One question I've been asking myself lately is: Why do we focus our fear on serial killers when there are so many other dangers facing us, like car crashes, domestic disputes, on the job accidents, war, and other random dangers. As crime writer Harold Schecter wrote, a person is far more likely to be killed driving home than by a serial killer. Those dangers are scattered, and a serial killer on the loose in a community gives a face and, later, a name to the general fear we feel in an often scary world. The apprehension of a serial killer, although only making us marginally safer, because all the other ills of the world are still out there, is still considered a major victory in the fight for public safety. We feel powerless against all the dangers that face us, because we never know when or how, or which one, will strike. Our own bodies could develop disease and kill us, as could family members and the morning commute. Bringing a serial killer to justice is a symbolic control over these ills, since the killer has become the personification of all that is bad in our world. Locking up, or killing, the killer is a minor victory. But in a world full of uncertainty, it's still a victory, a triumph over the evils that haunt us.