Man obsessed with serial killer jailed for murder of teenager Bobbi-Anne McLeod

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A man who was morbidly fascinated with the American serial killer Ted Bundy has been jailed for a minimum of 30 years after admitting to the savage murder of the teenager Bobbi-Anne McLeod, who disappeared as she waited for a bus in Plymouth.

Cody Ackland, a 24-year-old rock musician, attacked 18-year-old McLeod with a claw hammer in November last year before kidnapping her and carrying out a prolonged attack in a forest, causing “catastrophic” injuries to her head and face.

Ackland then drove 28 miles, stripped McLeod and dumped her body close to a beach. In subsequent days he went out with friends and rehearsed with his band, appearing more joyful and affectionate than usual.

Three days later he handed himself in and detectives were shocked to find a cache of 3,000 graphic images on his phone revealing his obsession with Bundy, other serial killers and crime scenes.

Ackland, from Plymouth, admitted last month to murdering McLeod after seizing her from a bus stop close to her home on the evening of Saturday 20 November.

Ackland was not known to police, and friends had no idea of his obsession, but detectives believe he went out looking to kill a stranger. Prosecutors said the similarities between what he did and Bundy’s modus operandi – approaching victims in public places, knocking them out and taking them to a remote spot to kill them – was significant.

Related: Murderer of Bobbi-Anne McLeod was fascinated with killer Ted Bundy

Judge Linford told Ackland it had been a “prolonged, savage and merciless attack”. He said McLeod had survived for more than 90 minutes after she was first assaulted at the bus stop and that she had been subjected to three separate attacks in three locations before Ackland finally killed her.

Linford highlighted that during the attack in the woods McLeod had told Ackland, “I’m scared,” to which he had replied, “So am I.” The judge also noted that Ackland had told police, “Hats off to her,” that McLeod was still alive after one of the attacks.

The judge said Ackland, who remained largely impassive as he was sentenced, would indefinitely remain “highly dangerous” and might never be released. As Ackland left the dock, McLeod’s brother, Lee, shouted: “You’re a dead man.” Her mother, Donna, wept throughout and at one point her father, Adrian, had to leave the court.

In a victim impact statement, Donna McLeod said her daughter had dreamed of going to college and becoming an interior designer. She asked: “Was she scared? Did she shout out for us?” She said they felt they had let her down by not being able to protect her.

After sentencing, the family released a statement paying tribute to “a beautiful girl who lit up our lives and the lives of everyone she ever met”.

They said: “She was kind, funny and loyal. She was the best daughter, the best sister, and the best friend to so many people. Everybody who knew Bobbi loved her. Cody Ackland has taken away our world. We will never see her beautiful face or hear her laugh, see her get married or have the children she so wanted. Her not being here is still unimaginable.

“We have not been able to say goodbye to Bobbi-Anne and we can only imagine the things he did to her – the thoughts are continually going around in our minds. Why Bobbi-Anne? Why make her suffer? To know her final hours were spent being tortured destroys us inside.”

Det Supt Mike West, the head of Devon and Cornwall police’s major crime branch, said there were “clear parallels” between Ackland and Bundy and it was an “exceptional event” for someone with no previous convictions to have acted as he did.

“There was no trigger event, there was no escalation of behaviour, there is no indication, whether it be police records or anecdotal information or evidence from anyone that knew him, that there could be any suspicion or concern he could have done anything like this,” he said.

In the days before the attack, Ackland researched tools, weapons and possible sites to dispose of a body. West said: “My professional, personal opinion is, he went out with the intent to kill.”


West said he thought it was possible Ackland could have killed again. “Whether his desires would have been sated by the attack on Bobbi-Anne, I don’t know.” He called for anyone with concerns about Ackland in the past to come forward.

There was no scientific evidence to suggest McLeod was sexually assaulted and Ackland insisted this was not his motive. He said he stripped her to try to hide her identity.

The senior crown advocate Richard Posner told Plymouth crown court: “His interest in the macabre presents as deep-rooted; a fascination with death, murder and murderers, and the means to commit murder.”

He had hoarded extreme and graphic images of dead and dismembered people, bodies of murder victims, postmortem examinations, deposition sites and artefacts linked to murders, such as weapons.

Posner added: “There are numerous images of the American serial killer Ted Bundy in his telephone, and images of weapons he used to kill his victims. Bundy approached his victims in public places and knocked them unconscious before killing them. It is not a coincidence that Bobbi-Anne McLeod met her fate the same way.”

Ray Tully QC, defending Ackland, said his client’s obsession with images of murder victims had to be viewed through the “prism” of his mental health struggles.

“Psychiatrists characterise it as a kind of self-harm, someone who has developed an addiction to seeking out material, going back to it again and again,” he said.

Tully said Ackland described it as “self-medicating” – an attempt to shock himself out of what he felt he was capable of doing – and that his client felt the “storm clouds” were gathering before he killed McLeod. The court was told that Ackland’s feelings of depression lifted afterwards.

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