Griffiths specifically requested the law firm Lumb and MacGill solicitors to represent him because he knew the name from his studies of the case of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.

Police linked the three cases after 36-year-old Miss Blamires’s severed head and other mutilated body parts were found in a canal in nearby Shipley earlier this week.

It later emerged that they were studying CCTV footage of a woman being shot with a crossbow in the street in the city’s Thornton Road area in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Police are also investigating suggestions that the killer may have eaten parts of his victims but have not corroborated the claims.

A small group of friends and relatives of Miss Rushworth and Miss Armitage sat a few feet away from Griffiths at the front of court number three at the city’s magistrates’ court.

With every seat in the tiny courtroom taken, spectators and reporters lined the back wall for the brief four-minute appearance, while others queued outside.

The murmur of conversation stopped abruptly at 10.02am at the sound of keys jangling and door to the cells below being unlocked.

Some of the relatives wiped away tears as Griffiths walked up the steps into the dock, dressed in a black military style shirt and black trousers, with his hair dyed black, swinging his arms by his side.

Briefly turning the in wrong direction at the top of the steps, he was directed into the centre of the glass fronted dock by three security guards.

One young man remained standing in the public gallery, about 20ft from the defendant, staring at him until he was gently persuaded to sit by a gesture from a police officer.

He momentarily paused, holding his hands together as if in prayer before bowing his head and standing in silence.

When the clerk, Amarjit Soor, asked him to confirm his name for the court, there was a brief pause as Griffiths looked up, scratched the back of his head and answered: “The crossbow cannibal.”

One young woman sitting with the family members gasped loudly as others cast stunned expressions around the room.

The clerk quickly moved on, asking Griffiths, of Thornton Road, Bradford, to confirm his address to the court.

Glancing around the formal surroundings, he replied: “Erm…here, I guess.”

Griffiths then stood silently as the three charges of murder were read out.

In an unusual move, he was remanded in custody to appear at the city’s crown court just over four hours later.

He appeared in the wood panelled dock at Number Two Court at Bradford Crown Court nearby accused of the three killings in the space of 11 months.

When asked, “Are you Stephen Shaun Grifiths?”, this time he replied simply: “I am.”

Eighteen members of the dead women’s families craned their necks in the public gallery to get a glimpse of him through the smoked glass screen.

During the six-minute hearing he sat with his hands clasped together and his head bowed but nodded in agreement when his barrister, Ian Howard, said that there was no application for bail.

When the judge asked him if he understood that his next appearance would be via a television link from prison on June 7, he again nodded in agreement before striding ramrod straight to the cell door flanked by three guards.

There were ugly scenes outside the court with a small crowd shouting abuse as he was driven away to the maximum security Wakefield Prison.

It is just a short distance from fee-paying Queen Elizabeth Grammar School where he studied in his teens.

The son of a frozen food salesman and receptionist, it is understood he was given an assisted place.

Having taken a degree in psychology he has spent the past six years studying for a PhD in criminology at Bradford University.

Two years ago he placed an advertisement on The Guardian newspaper’s “Soulmates” lonely hearts page describing himself as having “self discipline and emotional detachment”.

The search continues for the bodies of Miss Rushworth, and Miss Armitage who disappeared from the red light district – the same streets once stalked by the Yorkshire Ripper.

Forensic teams expect the search at his one bedroom flat to take up to three weeks and on Friday were examining drains around the converted mill.