SPECULATION was mounting last night that the convicted paedophile who confessed to killing child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey is instead a limelight-seeking fantasist.
As authorities prepared to fly John Mark Karr from Thailand to Colorado to face likely murder and kidnap charges over the six-year-old's 1996 death, several inconsistencies emerged in the stories he told investigators and reporters in Bangkok.
Police in Thailand also changed some details of their first account of Karr's confession, which JonBenet's family had hoped would help bring an end to one of the United States' most notorious and long-running child-killing cases.
Detectives in Thailand announced this week that Karr, 41, told them he had drugged, raped and killed JonBenet, the winner of several junior beauty pageants, at her home in Boulder on Boxing Day 1996, shortly after picking her up from school.
But her school would have been closed on the day after Christmas, and no traces of drugs or alcohol were found in the child's body. She had been beaten and strangled to death, and although small internal abrasions were discovered, no semen was found and there has never been any formal allegation that JonBenet was raped.
A portrait of Karr as a bizarre character obsessed by the case emerged last night after details were published of a four-year exchange of hundreds of e-mails with Michael Tracey, a professor of journalism at the University of Colorado.
"JonBenet, my love, my life. I love you and shall forever love you," he wrote in one that he asked Prof Tracey to read out to the Ramsey family last Christmas. "I pray that you can hear my voice calling out to you from my darkness - this darkness that now separates us."
Prof Tracey tipped off private investigators to the e-mails, who alerted authorities.
Meanwhile, in a contradictory development, a law enforcement official told CNN that Karr had knowledge of the condition of JonBenet's body that was never made public.
But further doubt about the confession came from Karr's ex-wife, Lara. She told detectives he was at home in Alabama with her and their three children during Christmas that year, and could not have left the ransom note in the Ramsey household that JonBenet's mother, Patricia, claimed to have discovered just hours before the body was found in the basement.
JonBenet's father, John Ramsey, and Mary Lacy, the Boulder district attorney, urged people not to "jump to conclusions" over Karr's confession and await the result of DNA tests.