The charming monster who confessed to killing 36 women during a four-year reign of terror in the US. What drove him to commit his crimes? Police and psychiatrists investigate.

Bundy the early years

Theodore Robert Cowell was born in a Vermont home for unwed mothers on 24 November 1946, to Louise Cowell, and was raised initially by his grandparents. Teddy, as he was known, believed that his grandparents were his parents, and that his mother was his elder sister, a circumstance that was fairly common in illegitimate births at that time. When his mother married Johnnie Bundy in 1951, her son took his stepfather’s name, and was known thereafter as Ted Bundy.His stepfather’s attempts to integrate the young Bundy into the family were rebuffed, and he became increasingly more isolated as four additional children were added to the Bundy brood, preferring his own company. Despite his aloofness, he did well at school, and his natural good looks increased his popularity and improved his self-esteem.

In 1967, whilst a student at the University of Washington, he was to meet the girl who was to have the most profound effect on his life, fellow student Stephanie Brooks, who was from a wealthy family, and with whom he fell deeply in love. She didn’t reciprocate with as much passion, however, and when she graduated in 1968 she ended their relationship abruptly.His devastation was to have a major impact on his life, and it is believed that the vast majority of his future victims were selected for their physical similarities to Brooks, who became a lifelong obsession. He dropped out of college for a while, and found out about his true parentage, which must have been a significant psychological blow. However, as if to prove both Brooks and his family wrong, he threw himself into his studies with renewed vigour, becoming an honours student in his chosen field, psychology. He also nurtured a keen interest in politics, and became a charismatic Republican campaigner.Around the same time, he cultivated a new relationship that was to last five years, with Meg Anders, a divorcee with a young daughter, but his obsession with Brooks continued.

When he met up with Brooks again in 1973, she was amazed at the transformation in Bundy’s fortunes, and they rekindled their romance, with neither Brooks nor Anders knowing anything about the other. Just as Brooks began to believe that the relationship might lead to marriage, Bundy cut off all contact with her abruptly, in much the same way as she had done to him six years previously. This revenge brought Bundy little comfort, however, and his rage was sublimated into a series of brutal attacks on women, who all shared Brooks’ physical characteristics.