Ted Bundy, the notorious American serial killer, abductor and rapist, was responsible for the slaying of at least 30 women across the US. This month’s Zac Efron film, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”, which comes hot on the heels of Netflix documentary “The Ted Bundy Tapes”, has reignited interest around one of the most prolific killers the the world has seen. Bundy was arrested for the final time in 1978, after astonishingly breaking out of jail twice.
He did not meet his fate in the electric chair until 1989, as investigators tried to coax information about the true number of his victims out of the killer.
It is widely accepted that Bundy began his reign of terror in 1973, when a spate of missing young women in the Seattle area came to the attention of police, although it is unclear if his first killing could have happened much earlier.
His killing spree therefore lasted five years – but women reported their suspicions about Bundy to police as far back as 1973, meaning the majority of his slayings could have been prevented.
Girlfriend Elizabeth Koepfer, whose memoirs inspired the new Zac Efron film, repeatedly told police about her suspicions.
ted Bundy in court, left, and his FBI wanted poster
Her fears were provoked on numerous occasions, for example when she reached under Bundy’s car seat when she dropped something and discovered a hatchet.
She also noticed Bundy’s pair of crutches, which he used as part of his ruse to fool victims into thinking he needed help.
Although she spoke to police several times, beginning in 1974, authorities at the time believed that the killer responsible for the spate of abductions and murders was a crazed hardened criminal and dismissed Bundy as he had no previous record.
Added to this, true crime author Ann Rule, who by a twist of fate was friends with Bundy and worked closely alongside him at a suicide prevention hotline, also phoned in her hunch to police.
Ted Bundy at his 1978 trial
In her 1980 book “The Stranger Beside Me”, which is widely considered to be the authoritative work on Bundy, she wrote how she was suspicions about Bundy as far back as 1973.
When Bundy began killing, Ms Rule, an ex-policewoman, quickly began to piece together the evidence.
She wrote: “I kept on trying to find the answer to the awful puzzle, believing that the killer, when he was found, would prove to be a man with a record of violence, a man who should never have been allowed to walk the streets, someone who must surely have shown signs of a deranged mind.”
Police soon discovered Bundy had given his true first name to women he’d attempted to kidnap.
Bundy talks to his defence team at trial in 1978
Ms Rule phoned the homicide unit, saying: “I don’t really think this is anything, but it’s bugging me. His name is Ted Bundy. B-U-N-D-Y. Call me back. OK?”
One of the key leads police had at the time was that the suspect drove a Volkswagen Beetle that was an unusual bronze colour.
The officer Ms Rule spoke to reported back to her: “Would you believe he drives a 1968 bronze Volkswagen Bug (Beetle)?”
She wrote: “I thought he was teasing me.”
Bundy forged a friendship with true crime author Ann Rule
The information was correct, but Ms Rule said: “I forgot about it. I didn’t lend much weight to the fact that Ted had acquired a Volkswagen.”
Then, when Ms Rule saw a composite picture of the suspect, she said: “I saw a resemblance to someone I knew. I put it in the back of my mind, told myself that I too was being caught up in the hysteria of that long, terrible summer.
“The head of the Search and Rescue group for Washington State also teased Ted about his being a ‘look-alike’ for the ‘Ted’ the police were looking for. But nobody meant it seriously.”
She added: “The last time I’d seen him, I knew that he’d lived at 4123 12th Avenue NE, only blocks from so many of the missing girls.”
The police did not recognise Ms Rule’s tip and Bundy went on to rape and kill scores of women.
However, it was another young woman who managed to help change police’s thinking about who could be responsible for Bundy’s horrific crimes.
Kathleen McChesney was only 24 when she was assigned to the squad investigating the brutal slayings, and she can be seen speaking on the Netflix documentary series.
Going against the prevailing police theory of a deranged madman, which had led them to dismiss Kloepfer and Rule’s fears, the young detective reasoned that the killer had to be intelligent and charming, because his victims were so willing to go along with him.
She also pointed out that he likely went to college, as he seemed so comfortable prowling for young women on college campuses.
Although Bundy was convicted on just three murder charges, police were aware that he had committed at least 30 killings.
The true number of his crimes has never definitively been established.