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The Staircase: All the evidence for the 'owl theory' explained

The theory is barely mentioned on the show, but many think it might a plausible explanation for the death of Kathleen Peterson 

Clarisse Loughrey
Tuesday 03 July 2018 10:19
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The Staircase - Official Trailer

Netflix's latest true-crime series The Staircase is the latest to grip the streaming platform's viewers.

Michael Peterson, a crime novelist, was accused of killing his wife Kathleen after she was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in their home in 2001, sparking a 16-year court battle.

The series tracks him from arrest to verdict, keeping the focus strictly on the legal proceedings, with only a passing mention of what has come to dominate coverage of the case: the owl theory.

A theory which, quite literally, posits that an owl attack was ultimately responsible for Kathleen's death; first put forward, not in court, but by a lawyer named Larry Pollard, the Petersons' next-door neighbour.

Netflix has released a new video on Facebook which runs down the evidence for the owl theory, which suggests Kathleen may have been attacked by an owl outside of her home, with the bird digging its talons into her scalp, leaving traces of blood outside.

Having been drinking, with muscle relaxers and anti-anxiety medication in her system, Kathleen may have tried to head upstairs to tend to her wounds, only to slip and fall, bleeding to death.

The theory crucially would explain two things: the microscopic owl feathers found amongst Kathleen's own hair, nestled in her hand, suggesting she may have torn her own hair out in an attempt to free herself from the bird's claws.


Furthermore, the lacerations on her scalp had a trident pattern which roughly resembled the tracks of an owl.

The Staircase's director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade told Vulture that the owl theory isn't explored in series as: "The purpose of the film was to follow the legal process. If there would have been another trial, I’m sure that the owl theory would have been examined inside the courtroom, and then it would have been in the film.”

"The first time I heard about the owl theory, I really laughed. But when I started looking at it and I met with Larry Pollard … It might be the more plausible explanation. How can you explain all the cuts and lacerations and the absence of fractures? When you start thinking about the owl theory, and the kind of injuries she had, you start thinking maybe there is something there.”

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