The Boston Strangler: Disney+ movie true story explained - who was the killer, is Albert DeSalvo still alive?

The new true crime film is directed by Matt Ruskin, co-produced by Ridley Scott and stars Kiera Knightley

The Boston Strangler has dropped on Disney+. The film tells the story of one of Boston’s most notorious killers who terrorised the New England city in the 1960s. Directed by Matt Ruskin and co-produced by Ridley Scott, the movie follows reporter Loretta McLaughlin (Kiera Knightley) who along with her colleague Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) uncover the story of the brutal killings carried out across Boston. But the real story doesn’t end there, with the crimes still being investigated up until 2013.

The Boston Strangler is the latest true crime dramatisation to be created by streaming platforms. The genre has seen a spike in interest following the success of Netflix’s series about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. What makes these shows more terrifying is the fact they are based on real life events.

So what is the true story behind the Boston Strangler, who was the killer and what happened to them? Here’s everything you need to know.

Is the Boston Strangler a true story?

The Boston Strangler is based on the true story of a murderer who terrorised the New England city of Boston in the 1960s. For two years the killer sexually assaulted and strangled 13 women in the Boston area between 1962 to 1964, earning him his nickname. Albert DeSalvo was eventually caught in 1964 after confessing to the crimes whilst he was arrested on charges for rape.

Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo stands in jail for unrelated crime in an undated photo (Photo: Getty Images)
Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo stands in jail for unrelated crime in an undated photo (Photo: Getty Images)
Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo stands in jail for unrelated crime in an undated photo (Photo: Getty Images)

Who was the Boston Strangler?

Albert DeSalvo confessed to being the Boston Strangler in 1964 after he was arrested on charges for rape. Police were initially sceptical that he was behind the killings but after he gave vivid detail about the crimes that hadn’t been made aware to the public, they started to think he was their guy. However no physical evidence other than his confession tied him to the crimes, this meant that he was instead tried for his previous charges of sexual assault and robbery, in which his victims identified him as “The Green Man” and “The Measuring Man”. DeSalvo was sentenced to life in prison, however there was still much scepticism as to whether he had committed the murders or had been aided in carrying them out.

How did DNA help solve the case?

It wasn’t until 2013 that the case was finally cracked with the help of DNA from DeSalvo’s nephew. The Boston Police office confirmed that they had uncovered new DNA connecting DeSalvo to the murder of 19-year-old Boston Strangler victim, Mary Sullivan, with “99.9 percent certainty”.

Reported by ABC News in 2013, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis described the discovery as a “story of relentlessness”. Explaining that DeSalvo could now be linked to the case with “99.9 percent certainty.” Sullivan’s nephew Casey Sherman had long believed his aunt had been murdered by another man, he told ABC: “I am grateful this brings closure to me and to my mother most of all. For all these years it was just me and her chasing this case. It took 49 years for police to say they legitimately got him.”

Is Albert DeSalvo still alive?

DeSalvo was sentenced to life in prison in 1967, however in February of the same year he escaped prison along with two other inmates disguised as a US navy officer. His escape lasted only one day, with DeSalvo handing himself in after the manhunt ensued. He was transferred to the maximum prison security Walpole State Prison, however in November 1973 he was stabbed to death by a fellow inmate.

Where can I watch the Boston Strangler?

The Boston Strangler is available to watch now on Disney+.