Thirty years have passed since he died in the electric chair, 41 since his last murder, 45 since his first confirmed murder, and 73 since his birth.

Yet in 2019, notorious rapist and serial killer Ted Bundy returned to public fascination.

The release of Netflix's four part series Conversations with a Killer: the Ted Bundy Tapes and biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile – which featured Hollywood heart-throb Zac Efron as the turtleneck-wearing sociopath – proved that no murderer has captured the world's attention like Bundy.

Pop culture's enduring interest in the killer, who lured at least 30 unsuspecting women into the snares of murder and rape in the 1970s, is often chalked up to his dashing good looks.

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Serial murderer Theodore Bundy. Photo / Getty Images
Serial murderer Theodore Bundy. Photo / Getty Images

"His physical attractiveness helped to make him a mythical character, an antihero who continues to intrigue readers, many of whom were not even born when he carried out his horrendous crimes," prolific true crime author Ann Rule, who worked alongside Bundy at a suicide crisis hotline, wrote in The Stranger Beside Me.

Bundy managed two separate prison breaks upon capture and inspired the FBI to examine serial killers in a different light – all while charming America into labelling him attractive.

Even The New York Times, in December 1978, remarked on his good looks, describing Bundy as "a young man who represented the best in America, not its worst."

"Here was this terrific looking man with light brown hair and blue eyes, looking rather Kennedy-esque, dressed in a beige turtleneck and dark blue blazer, a smile turning the corners of his lean all-American mouth," wrote author of the piece, Jon Nordheimer.

Theodore Bundy walks forward and waves to TV camera as his indictment for the January murders of FSU coeds Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman is read. Photo / Getty Images
Theodore Bundy walks forward and waves to TV camera as his indictment for the January murders of FSU coeds Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman is read. Photo / Getty Images

Despite America's obsession with Bundy's appearance, however, a significant change in it was overlooked until it was too late – one that, had it been noticed, could've possibly prevented his final killing spree.

During the spring and summer of 1974, women at colleges across Washington and Oregon were disappearing at an alarming rate.

In just six months, six women had been abducted, and law enforcement had few leads as to who was behind it – until two disappeared, in broad daylight, from a crowded beach.

On the day that Janice Ott and Denise Naslund disappeared, several other women remembered being approached by an attractive young man, driving a brown Volkswagen Beetle, who had tried and failed to lure them to his car.

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His name, he told them, was Ted.

After releasing a description to the public, one Seattle resident, Theodore Bundy, was repeatedly identified. Police were contacted by four people, all of whom identified the same Seattle resident: Theodore Bundy.

But police, believing it unlikely that a clean-cut law student with no adult criminal record could be the perpetrator of such brutal crimes, dismissed Bundy as a suspect.

The Seattle crimes came to an end at the beginning of autumn. At the same time, young women, all fitting the same general physical description, began to disappear in Salt Lake City.

On November 8, 1974 – the same evening Debra Knight disappeared from a school parking lot – one woman, 18-year-old Carol DaRonch, was finally able to escape his grasp.

Bundy was convicted of kidnapping DaRonch and began his prison sentence.

Meanwhile, authorities in other states began to build a murder case against him.

Over the course of his imprisonment, Bundy's good looks and charm afforded him the opportunity to make not one – but two – escapes.

Serial killer Ted Bundy acting up in courtroom after the judge had departed. Photo / Getty Images
Serial killer Ted Bundy acting up in courtroom after the judge had departed. Photo / Getty Images

The first, on June 7, 1977, came after months of him noticing "a number of opportunities to just walk right out," Bundy told prison psychologist Dr Al Carlisle.

A judge had decreed that Bundy didn't need to wear leg shackles or handcuffs, and, as a law student, he was allowed to assist in his own defence, giving him access to the second floor law library of the Pitkin County Courthouse.

"I'd thought a great deal about escape, and I don't know if I had the guts do it, quite frankly," Bundy said.

When a guard went outside for a cigarette, though, with the windows open and fresh air blowing through, the killer took his chance.

"The sky was blue, and I said, 'I'm ready to go', and walked to the window and jumped out. Honest to god, I just got sick and tired of being locked up."

It took 10 minutes for anyone to realise he'd escaped – and by then, Bundy had headed for the mountains of Aspen, the town reacting "as if Bundy were some sort of modern Robin Hood instead of a suspected mass murderer," Nordheimer wrote.

Six days later, Bundy was pulled over behind the wheel of a stolen car, taken back to custody, and moved to Garfield County Jail in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

The killer's second escape, on December 30, was much more complex – and had a much more sinister outcome.

"When I visited him in Glenwood, I noticed that he had lost a lot of weight," Bundy's former defence lawyer John Henry Browne told 20/20.

"I'd say he lost 20 or 25 pounds. I would think this would've come to the attention of the jailers perhaps. 'Why is he doing this?'"

Browne might have found Bundy's dramatic loss of weight strange, but his jailers dismissed it as just another attempt by the prisoner to gain special food privileges.

The guards' ignorance, and the holiday decrease in manpower, enabled Bundy to carve around an already existing opening in the ceiling of his cell, arrange law books and pillows to make it look like there was a body in his bed, and climb unnoticed into the space between the prison's floors.

"He crawled through the ducting just like in a movie," said Browne.

Bundy dropped from the ducts into one of the guards' apartments, changed into civilian clothes, and escaped into the night.

He was added to the FBI's list of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives – but it was too late.

After catching a flight, a train, and a bus, Bundy made his way to Tallahassee, Florida, where he committed his final string of murders – Margaret Bowman, 21, Lisa Levy, 20, and Kimberly Leach – who was just 12 years old.

A week later, he was arrested for the final time. And two jail breaks and more than 10 years later, Bundy was strapped into the electric chair at Florida State Prison on January 24, 1989, and in the early hours of the morning, he was pronounced dead.