In the 1980s, the idea of the ‘serial killer’ was still a relatively new concept, having only come into existence in the 1970s when FBI investigator Robert Ressler pioneered the practice of criminal profiling.
Once people had a name for the organised, and often ritualistic killing, of more than three people, criminals like the Green River Killer, Ted Bundy, and BTK could be classified and quickly became a source of morbid fascination for the general public.
So when Henry Lee Lucas claimed that he had murdered hundreds of women, reports The Daily Beast, he was soon labelled the “world’s most prolific serial killer”, and a monster that law enforcement thought “makes Charles Manson sound like Tom Sawyer”.
Interested? You can check out his story on Netflix.
Directors Robert Kenner and Taki Oldham’s incisive, infuriating five-part miniseries The Confession Killer (premiering Dec. 6 on Netflix) is the story of a man intent on mythologizing himself—and, just as crucially, about the media and law enforcement’s desire to mythologize him, to their own benefit (and don’t forget the movies too: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was inspired by his tale).
Lucas was initially convicted at an early age of murdering his abusive mother. When he was released, he was accused of killing both his girlfriend Becky Powell and his 82-year-old landlord Kate Rich.
When questioned about the latter double-homicide, Lucas began talking, first about his outstanding warrants, and then about how and where he had offed the two women. It was, by all appearances, an open-and-shut case—until, at his arraignment, he asked the judge what they should do about the other 100 women he’d killed, and all hell broke loose.
It started as 100 women, and then snowballed as Lucas confessed to almost every murder put in front of him.
Soon, though, cracks started appearing in the confessions. Journalist Hugh Aynesworth quickly identified discrepancies between Lucas’ admitted crimes and indisputable whereabouts.
The Confession Killer maps the case as it unfolds, taking a closer look at the killer and the people he claimed to have killed.
I’ll leave you with the trailer. You can catch The Confession Killer on Netflix from this Friday, December 6.
As an aside, Lucas is not to be confused with Samuel Little, who is on his way to being recognised as the most prolific serial killer in US history.
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