The brutal murder of Bobbi-Anne McLeod by Cody Ackland left even veteran detectives bewildered, as the aspiring rock star had never revealed his obsession with violence to a soul.
Ackland struck Miss McLeod, 18, twice to the head with a hammer as she waited at a bus stop close to her home in Leigham, Plymouth on the evening of November 20 last year.
He then bundled her into the footwell of his car and drove her 19 miles to a remote car park on Dartmoor where he bludgeoned her to death.
None of his relatives or friends knew he had been stockpiling images of dead and maimed bodies and murder weapons for months, and scoping out Dartmoor.
The day after the murder, Ackland was back out socialising, joining rehearsals with his band Rakuda, and partying into the small hours at a pub lock-in.
The only difference friends noticed was that Ackland, described as usually introspective and someone who struggled to share his emotions, was “happier than usual”.
They said the only time they saw him in such an amped-up and joyful state was when Rakuda was getting ready backstage at a gig.
By Tuesday of the following week, Ackland had turned himself in, telling police he had dumped Miss McLeod’s body in undergrowth in Bovisand – a beauty spot a few miles up the coast from Plymouth.
He told police the murder had not even been on his mind over the previous three days because it was “so out there” it was like a film or a fantasy.
Ackland claimed he felt low on the day of the murder, had been for a drive to clear his head, and come across Miss McLeod when he took a short-cut through Leigham on his way to the town centre.
The killing was the first time Ackland had ever come to the attention of the police, and not a single person who knew him had even the vaguest idea of his dark predilections.
Speaking at Devon and Cornwall Police headquarters in Exeter, Detective Superintendent Mike West said investigators had been through Ackland’s past “with a fine toothcomb” and found nothing to link him to previous crimes.
Ackland had no mental health issues, not suffered any obvious childhood trauma, and had never mistreated former girlfriends.
Mr West said: “In all honesty the reason that this investigation will last with me way beyond after I retire is because of its sadistic nature and the lack of a trigger event to cause it.”
He added: “It is such a rare, exceptional event, for someone to have no record at all and then do something as horrible as this.”
Investigators found a cache of over 3,000 images of mutilated bodies on his phone, mostly of murder victims and of post-mortem examinations.
He had saved pictures of murder weapons, bloodied clothing, and where murder victims had been dumped in the past. He had also conducted extensive searches of high-profile serial killers from around the world.
Ackland had a particular fascination with Ted Bundy in the US, who confessed to committing 30 murders during the 1970s and was executed in 1989.
Bundy, like Ackland, would usually strike his victims with a hammer, before raping and killing them.
But unlike Bundy, Ackland was emphatic there was no sexual motive behind the murder of Miss McLeod, and there was no evidence to suggest she had been the victim of a sex attack.
Ackland did remark that Miss McLeod looked a little like a former girlfriend, but Mr West said he believed Ackland posed as much a risk to men as he did to women on the night she was killed.
Mr West said he did not believe Ackland’s claim that the murder was a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“The vast majority of us do not leave the house with claw hammers in our vehicles and have that weapon plus the level of research he had completed about deposition sites on Dartmoor and the outskirts of Plymouth,” Mr West said.
“My professional, personal opinion is, he went out with the intent to kill.”
Despite confessing his crime, the detective superintendent said Ackland has never shown any remorse for what he has done, and has instead sought to blame others.
“He felt hard done by, he claimed he was not understood very well as a youngster, claimed he did not have the same opportunities as others growing up, said mum and dad weren’t overly interested,” Mr West said.
“But none of it was a triggering event, none of it life-altering and none of it in anyway an excuse for what he did to Bobbi.”