'Bind, torture, kill' suspect arrested

In the small-town world of Wichita, Kansas, Dennis Rader was, on the surface, the epitome of normality - a municipal employee who liked to make sure people's rubbish bins were placed just so, a Boy Scout leader, an active church-goer, an air force veteran, husband, father and grandfather.

In the small-town world of Wichita, Kansas, Dennis Rader was, on the surface, the epitome of normality - a municipal employee who liked to make sure people's rubbish bins were placed just so, a Boy Scout leader, an active church-goer, an air force veteran, husband, father and grandfather.

But newspaper reports yesterday painted a very different picture of Mr Rader, identifying him as a notorious serial killer known in central Kansas by the chilling acronym BTK - short for his standard operating procedure, bind, torture, kill.

Wichita police, who have hunted the killer for more than 30 years, were jubilant as they announced Mr Rader's arrest. They gave few details of how they linked the murders of as many as 10 people to the balding, avuncular 59-year-old, but exuded considerable confidence that they had their man after a search of Mr Rader's house and a cross-check of DNA samples.

BTK was active mostly in the 1970s and 1980s, strangling a family of four in 1974 and going on to kill half a dozen single women over the next 12 years. The trail had gone cold until last year when the killer started sending letters and mementoes of his crimes to public authorities and to the Wichita Eagle newspaper. First, he sent a copy of the missing driving licence of the last of the victims, Vicki Wegerle, 28. Then he submitted letters, poems, jewellery, and even a cereal packet on which the letters B, T and K were circled.

The evidence helped police profilers build up a picture of their suspect, concluding that he was a punctilious man who might be hiding his demons behind a veneer of sanity and normality.

They also concluded from the derivative text of one of his poems that he had read a textbook used in an American folklore class at Wichita State University in the late 1970s. Mr Rader graduated from Wichita State in 1979.

The fact that the killer was sending so many signals years after the last murder was an indication, they felt, that deep down he wanted to be caught.

Mr Rader, who was in custody at an undisclosed location yesterday, is expected to be formally charged this week with 10 counts of murder.

Many of Mr Rader's neighbours and acquaintances in suburban Wichita expressed amazement that he could have been the BTK killer.

"You always wondered if it was someone you knew, someone in your own backyard, but this is ridiculous," Zach Day told The New York Times. "How could this be?"

Two of the murders now being linked to Mr Rader were not previously thought to be the work of BTK. But police changed their minds after raiding the suspect's house and examining his computers on Friday.

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