Ted Bundy is known as one of America’s most brutal and prolific serial killers, having terrorised a generation of young women with his sick methods of murder, rape and necrophelia.
But what if the police and prosecuting authorities got it wrong – and Ted Bundy went to his own death as an innocent man?
That’s the bizarre theory that has been thrown up once again after the new Netflix documentary series Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes dropped online.
Ted Bundy went on a rape and murder spree in the 1970s
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Born Theodore Robert Cowell to a seemingly nice middle-class American family, Ted was executed by the electric chair in 1989 – a whole 20 years after his first brutal murder.
But as the Netflix tapes show, Bundy’s crimes were overshadowed by his refusal to admit what he’d done – even as the evidence piled up around him.
Here are just some of the clues conspiracy theorists flag up when they talk about Ted Bundy’s innocence.
Bundy was a master manipulator, able to change his appearance at will
(Image: Universal Images Group Editorial)
Ted was well aware of the power of his good looks on women – which helped him disguise himself in bland anonymity whenever the net looked like it might be closing on him.
He would wear turtlenecks to cover up an identifiable mole on his neck and switch his hair parting from side to side to throw potential witnesses off the scent.
Detectives found it difficult to get statements from people who might have seen him before or after a murder – because he looked different in every picture taken of him.
Witnesses even found it hard to agree on the colour of his car, such was his manipulative tendencies
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Even a judge in one of his trials commented on his chameleon-like way of changing his appearance, saying that in person "his expression would so change his whole appearance that there were moments that you weren’t even sure you were looking at the same person. He [was] really a changeling".
Bundy would also wear a fake cast on his arm or leg in order to lure women to his car – itself an odd colour that was described variously as brown, tan, bronze or beige – where he would knock them unconscious with a crowbar and take them to a secondary site to end their lives.
It was because of his ever-changing looks that many of his apologists today are certain Bundy’s conviction was a matter of mistaken identity.
Relationships on Death Row
Bundy still manipulated women from behind bars
Even after he was locked up following his jailbreak and subsequent escape to Florida in January 1977, Bundy was still able to manipulate those who he felt would be useful to him.
He wrote love letters to a string of adoring woman living outside the jail and maintained his facade as a nice guy who had been mistakenly fingered for the crimes of another man.
He even kept up the charade to Carol Ann Boone, his long-term partner and the mother of his daughter Rose Bundy, who had testified on his behalf during both trials.
She was said by his biographer to be "deeply betrayed" by his confession of guilt on the eve of his execution and refused to take his last ever phone call.
The women with whom he was in correspondence called or wrote in after his death to say they were in a deep depression – some even suffered from nervous breakdowns after he was electrocuted.
Lack of physical evidence
Just some of Ted Bundy’s known victims – (left to right) Roberta Parks, Julie Cunningham, Brenda Carol Ball, Georgann Hawkins, Susan Rancourt, Kimberly Leach, Nancy Wilcox and Janice Ott
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As a practised serial killer, Bundy was meticulous in his methods. He would never murder a woman if there was the slightest risk they’d met before, and never left his fingerprints at the scenes.
He would pore over geographical areas with precision, searching for the most remote places where he could drag his semi-conscious victims to finish them off, and always burnt their clothes to remove any trace of himself.
His background as a law student gave him plenty of scope to stay ahead of the police – and the lack of inter-departmental communication between police forces meant he was able to operate as a serial killer for a long time, racking up 20 murders before investigators across several jurisdictions realised they were all hunting for the same man.
Bundy was only ever convicted of 30 murders – but detectives believe he carried out far more
He did break the one rule that most murderers hold dear, however, returning to the scenes of his crimes to have sex with his decomposing victims, putting makeup on them or collecting grisly trophies from their corpses to keep in his apartment.
Bundy’s biographer Ann Rule put it best when she said: "Even in death, Ted damaged women. To get well, they must realize that they were conned by the master conman. They are grieving for a shadow man that never existed."
So was Ted Bundy innocent?
Bundy tried to retain control by going into intricate detail about his murders in a bid to avoid the death penalty
In short, no.
Not only did the killer confess on the eve of his execution – having given away his secrets in dribs and drabs in order to win stays throughout his time on Death Row – his final confession was a blatant exercise in saving his own skin.
He agreed to meet with Dr James Dobson, founder of the Christian organisation Focus On The Family, to give what would be his last ever interview.
In it, he admitted to having a "very potent and destructive segment" that was ignited, he claimed, by the discovery of softcore porn magazines when he was 13.
"I was a normal person. I had good friends. I led a normal life," he told Dobson.
Ted Bundy refused to ask for a last meal before his execution, so was served this breakfast
(Image: Henry Hargreaves)
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"Pornography can reach in and snatch a kid out of any house today. It snatched me out of my home 20 or 30 years ago."
Bundy’s confession wasn’t enough to save him from the chair, however – especially as forensic odontology connected him to the bite marks left on one of his four victims at the Chi Omega sorority house on the morning of January 15 1978.
The tapes reveal how Bundy was furious to be confronted with a police warrant to take impressions of his teeth, refusing to open his mouth until he chillingly snapped out of his rage, immediately arranging his face into a mask of geniality and submitting to the dentist.
The bravery of abducted teenager Carol DaRonch helped secure Bundy’s conviction
The only surviving kidnapping victim, Carol DaRonch, helped convict Bundy with her brave testimony. He had approached her at a mall and told her he was a detective and had seen a man break into her car. When she followed him out to the car park, Bundy lured her into his car, drove her to an abandoned field and attempted to beat her to death, only giving up when she stumbled out to the road and escaped.
She was later able to identify the so-called Officer Rosewood from a police lineup, finally securing detectives their vital eyewitness evidence to place Bundy behind bars.
*Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes series 1 is streaming on Netflix now
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