A US truck painter has pleaded guilty to murdering 48 women, in what became known in the United States as the Green River killings.
Ridgway: "I killed so many women I have a hard time keeping them straight"
Gary Ridgway's confession in court, in the north-western city of Seattle, was made under a plea bargain expected to spare him the death sentence.
"I wanted to kill as many women as I thought were prostitutes as I possibly could," he said in the statement.
The 54-year-old from Auburn, Washington, is set to have more
murders on his record than any other serial killer in US history.
Many of the victims' remains were found near the Green River, just south of Seattle.
Most of them - strangled between 1982 and 1984 - were prostitutes who worked on "the strip" close to Sea-Tac airport, which serves Seattle and nearby Tacoma.
Some relatives of victims wept quietly in the courtroom, the Associated Press reports.
For weeks, Ridgway has been leading police to sites where he dumped the bodies of young women.
He had been a prime suspect in the case for
years before a breakthrough DNA test linked him to several
The bodies of his initial victims were fished out of the
Green River in 1982 and later bodies, typically naked and
mutilated, were found in other parts of western Washington state.
Prosecutors said advances in DNA technology had
allowed them to match a saliva sample taken from Ridgway in 1987 with DNA samples taken from the bodies of three of the earliest victims.
Victims' relatives heard the plea agreement in court
Ridgway confirmed details of his plea agreement with
prosecutor Jeff Baird in front of Judge Richard Jones in the King County Superior Court.
His arrest in 2001 ended the longest-running serial killer investigation in US history.
In his statement he said he left some bodies in "clusters" and
enjoyed driving by the sites afterward, thinking about what
he had done.
"Most of the time I killed them the first time I met them, and I do not have a good memory of their faces," he said.
"I hate most prostitutes and I did not want to pay them
for sex," he said.
"I also picked prostitutes as victims because they were easy to pick up without being noticed. I knew they would not be reported missing right away and might never be reported missing. I picked prostitutes because I thought I could kill as many of them as I wanted without getting caught."
In recent decades several other serial murders have haunted the north-western US and neighbouring Canada:
Robert Lee Yates Junior, a father of five and National Guard helicopter pilot, sentenced to death after admitting he killed 15 people, mostly prostitutes, from the 1970s to the 1990s in Spokane, Washington;
Ted Bundy, who confessed to 28 murders in the 1970s - several of his victims were found in Washington and
Oregon. Executed in Florida in 1989;
In Vancouver, Canadian pig farmer Robert "Willy" Pickton faces charges of murdering at least 15 women among 60 prostitutes and drug addicts who vanished in the past two decades.
Worldwide, among the most prolific serial killers of recent times were:
Former doctor Harold Shipman, Britain's worst serial killer - an official report concluded he had killed at least 215 of his patients, and he was jailed for life in January 2000 for killing 15 with lethal heroin injections;
Javed Iqbal, 41, sentenced to death in March 2000 in Pakistan for killing 100 teenage boys - later died in prison, reportedly after taking poison;
Pedro Alonso Lopez, known as the Monster of the Andes, thought to have butchered more than 300 young girls in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador throughout the late 1970s and early 80s;
Americans Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole, who are thought to have killed more than 200 people in the 1970s and 80s in the Deep South;
Andrei Chikatilo, who killed 53 women and children in the Soviet Union, in a murder spree which began in 1978 - he mutilated some of his victims by gnawing at them.