After raping his shackled victims, quiet baker and family man Robert Hansen took them into the wild, set them loose and tracked them and shot them dead.
After raping his shackled victims, quiet baker and family man Robert Hansen took them into the wild, set them loose and tracked them and shot them dead.

‘Butcher Baker’ and his sickening live human hunt

Prostitutes, pimps, con artists and drug dealers were drawn to Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, because the well-paid construction workers on huge oil pipeline being built in the 1970s had a lot of cash to blow.

And the women drawn to make a living from the city's seedy side would prove the perfect hunting ground for Robert Hansen, a family man and baker who led a sinister secret life as the killer of at least 17 women.

A serial killer lacking the notoriety of a Ted Bundy or John Wayne Glover, Hansen's crimes were no less evil.

After raping with his shackled victims, Hansen flew some of them into the wilderness in his private light plane and, armed with his hunting rifle, tracked them and shot them dead.

He lived across town from his bakery with his wife and children, who knew nothing of his depravity.

Robert Hansen was a seasoned hunter who preferred human prey.
Robert Hansen was a seasoned hunter who preferred human prey.

A lonely child who had a dysfunctional relationship with his domineering father.

He was bullied and teased and developed a stutter.

As a young man, he took up the solitary hobby of hunting.

After being discharged from the army he worked as an assistant drill instructor at a police academy before being jailed for crimes including arson and theft.

After marrying a second time, he set up his bakery business and was well-liked within his community.

An expert hunter, Hansen kidnapped vulnerable women, used them as sex slaves, flew them to his cabin in remote Alaska, released them into the wild and then hunted them during what he called his "summer project''.

His victims ranged in age from 16 to 41.

Hansen mostly chose prostitutes and erotic dancers as they were less likely to be missed and more difficult to trace.

He kidnapped Ms Paulson who, in June 1983, managed to escape his clutches before her plane flight to a certain death.

Ms Paulson was instrumental in Hansen's downfall, helping investigators gain the necessary evidence for search warrants during which police found hidden firearms and victims' jewellery.

After his arrest, and knowing police had matched recovered projectiles to his rifle, Hansen he confessed to killing 17 women, mostly dancers and prostitutes, over 12 years.

In 1984 he was convicted of just four of the murders in a deal sparing him going to trial 17 times.

Some of Hansen’s victims.
Some of Hansen’s victims.

 

He also confessed to raping another 30 women.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 461 years.

Former FBI agent John Douglas, an expert on criminal personality profiling and the one-time head of the elite FBI Investigative Support Unit, said Hansen was one of the most vile rapist/killers.

"These were crimes of anger," Mr Douglas told The Advertiser.

"He would have gotten off on having his victims beg for their lives. Being a hunter, at a certain point it would have occurred to him that he could combine these various activities by flying them (his victims) out into the wilderness alive, then hunting them down for sport and further sexual gratification.

"This would have been the ultimate in control. And it would have become addictive. He would have wanted to do it again and again.''

Hansen died two months ago, at age 75, at Alaska Regional Hospital.

His health had been in decline for about a year, Alaska Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sherrie Daigle said after his death.

Hansen, who was nicknamed "The Butcher Baker", had been incarcerated at a state prison in Seward and was moved, in May 2014, to the Anchorage Correctional Center to receive medical attention.

Robert Hansen.
Robert Hansen.

Only 12 bodies of the 17 women he admitted killing have been found.

There could be other unknown victims of his still out there; their remains lying hidden and unaccounted for.

Despite his lack of notoriety, his kill career - already written as a true crime book - was made into a movie.

Because of its gross nature, Hansen's murder spree was a tough story to transfer to film - but it did have an element that set it apart from other serial killer stories.

That difference was the existence of a surviving victim.

Her name is Cindy Paulson.

She was 17 years old at the time.

A dogged local sergeant named Glenn Flothe, of the Alaskan State Troopers, protected Ms Paulson after her ordeal and, patiently and tactfully, built a trusting relationship with her in an effort to positively identify Hansen and build a case against him, with the help of an FBI criminal psychological profile.

It was a New Zealand-born filmmaker named Scott Walker who brought the story to screen.

He had started writing a fictional movie script about a hunter and his obsession, until a colleague told him it had a lot of similarities to the Hansen story.

John Cusack as Hansen.
John Cusack as Hansen.

"I was exploring the idea of a victim's story and it had a hunter in it and was more a contemporary take on Deliverance; the obsession of hunting and killing," Walker told Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers in August last year.

"When I told (a colleague) about the script, they said, 'Wow that sounds like Robert Hansen', and I said, 'Who's he?' When I started looking into the case I was wondering, 'Do I want to do this?'

"It was a horrific thing that affected so many people and it left a big, black mark on Anchorage and the way people trusted each other out there."

To write his script, Walker wanted to meet and talk with Mr Flothe.

The two met in Alaska.

"I said (to him) I wanted to tell the victims' story, not glorify what Hansen did," Walker told the Screen Daily website.

"He said, 'I'll help you and give you everything I've got.' He didn't want his name to be used because he said he'd just done his job.

"The last thing he said to me was: 'I'll help you with anything you want, but the reality is from my perspective is that I'm not the hero. Cindy Paulson is the hero and you need to find her."

Walker managed to track Ms Paulson down and spent an initial week talking to her.

Another unique element of the The Frozen Ground film is the use of real pictures of victims at the end.

Paula Golding was one of his victims.
Paula Golding was one of his victims.

Director Walker said the victims' families he contacted were all for the pictures being used.

"The photos at the end was a big decision," Walker told Collider.com.

"It was like, 'Wow, is this right or not?' and then going back to the real people and saying, 'What do you think?'

"(I phoned) one of the victim's families (and spoke to her sister) and she's saying, 'Could you use this photo? That is amazing that my sister will be up there and mentioned because nobody ever mentioned her and she was one of the victims.'

"I wish I could have tracked down every victim's family."

In the movie, actor John Cusack plays the sinister Hansen.

He initially hesitated at taking on the role due to the dark character.

"I was about the age of Cindy Paulson - I was about 17 or 18 back then - so I was the age of one of victims," Cusack told ETonline.

"I remember hearing a story of a guy …[who] went out and hunted people and did these things. I sort of pushed it away 'cause I thought it would have to be the right circumstance to do it 'cause it's a very dark subject matter."

In the end he took on the role.

Nicolas Cage plays a detective based on Sgt Flothe.

Cage told STV website: "The Frozen Ground was important to me. I felt like I was playing a real person, a hero.

"Glenn Flothe was an Alaskan State Trooper who risked his life to put this serial killer behind bars. He went up hard against the justice system."

News about the movie made some Alaskans nervous about the impact it might have on their state's image.

To address that issue, Wanetta Ayers, director of the Alaska Division of Economic Development, which operates the Alaska Film Office, released a statement.

It said in part: "Aspects of the story of The Frozen Ground may be difficult and disconcerting to us all. But the benefits of the production to Alaska, both socially and economically, cannot be denied.

*For 24-hour sexual violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.

 

"The courage of Cindy Paulson and the dedication of Trooper Glenn Flothe and other law enforcement officials will leave the audience with a hopeful message of lives transformed by courage and caring.

"In honour and respect to all of the lives touched by the madness of Robert Hansen, their story needs to be told."

MORE CRIME:

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Victim Joanne Messina.

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