Paul Kenneth Bernardo, (born August 27, 1964
Toronto, Ontario), is a
serial killer and rapist,
known for the murders
he committed with his wife
Karla Homolka and the
serial rapes he committed in
Bernardo was born into a wealthy but
dysfunctional family. His mother Marilyn, who had been adopted by
lawyer Gerald Eastman and his wife Elizabeth, was raised in a stable
household. His father, Kenneth, was the son of an English woman and an
Italian immigrant who created a highly successful marble and tile
business, but was
abusive to his wife and children. Instead of entering the family
business, Kenneth Bernardo became an accountant. After her father had
disapproved of an earlier boyfriend, Eastman married Bernardo in 1960.
Like his father, Kenneth Bernardo was said to be abusive. Marilyn,
after having given birth to a son and a daughter, began seeing a
former boyfriend. She became pregnant and gave birth to Paul Kenneth
Bernardo on August 27, 1964. Kenneth Bernardo tolerated his wife's
affair and is listed as the biological father on Paul's birth
In 1975, Kenneth Bernardo fondled a girl and was charged with child
molestation; he also sexually abused his own daughter. Bernardo's
depressed over her husband's abuse, withdrew from family life and
lived in the basement of their
Scarborough home. Though the elder children felt the effects of
the emotional and mental turmoil, young Paul appeared to be unscathed
by it. In his book Lethal Marriage, Nick Pron describes the
young Bernardo: "He was always happy. A young boy who smiled a lot.
And he was so cute, with his dimpled good looks and sweet smile, that
many of the mothers just wanted to pinch him on the cheek whenever
they saw him. He was the perfect child they all wanted: polite, well
mannered, doing well in school, so sweet in his
Boy Scout uniform."
Following an argument between his parents when Bernardo was 16, his
mother told him of his actual parentage. Repulsed, he began openly to
call his mother "slob" and "whore".
Bernardo graduated from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute,
opting to work for Amway,
whose sales culture had a deep effect on him. "He bought the books and
tapes of famous motivational get-rich-and-famous experts." Bernardo
and his friends practised their techniques on young women they met in
bars, and were fairly successful. By the time Bernardo attended
University of Toronto Scarborough, he had developed dark
sexual fantasies, enjoyed humiliating women in public and beat up
the women he dated.
In October 1987, he met
Karla Homolka. They became sexually interested in each other
almost immediately. Unlike the other girls he knew, she encouraged his
sadistic sexual behaviour, also encouraging his acts as the "Scarborough
Bernardo committed multiple sexual assaults,
escalating in viciousness, in and around Scarborough, Ontario. Most of
the assaults were on young women whom he had stalked after they exited
buses late in the evening.
May 4, 1987, Bernardo committed his first rape in
Scarborough against a 21-year-old woman, in front of her parents'
house, after following her home. The attack lasted more than half an
July 27, 1987, Bernardo attempted his third rape.
Although he beat the young woman, he abandoned the attack after she
December 16, 1987, Bernardo committed his third
rape, against a 15-year-old girl. This rape lasted about one hour.
The following day, the Toronto Police Service issued a warning to
women in Scarborough travelling alone at night, especially those
December 23, 1987, Bernardo committed his fourth
rape. During this attack, Bernardo raped the 17-year-old with the
knife he used to threaten his victims. It was at this point he began
to be referred to as the 'Scarborough Rapist'.
May 25, 1988, Bernardo was nearly caught by a
uniformed Metro Toronto investigator staking out a bus shelter. The
investigator noticed him hiding under a tree and pursued him on foot,
but Bernardo escaped.
May 30, 1988, Bernardo committed his sixth rape,
this time in Clarkson, about 25 miles southwest of Scarborough. This
attack, against an 18-year-old, lasted 30 minutes.
August 15, 1989, Bernardo committed his eighth
rape, against a 22-year-old woman. He had stalked her the previous
night from outside the window of her apartment and waited for her to
arrive home. This particularly vicious attack lasted two hours.
November 21, 1989, Bernardo committed his ninth
rape, against a 15-year-old whom he saw in a bus shelter. This
attack lasted 45 minutes.
December 22, 1989, Bernardo committed his tenth
rape, against a 19-year-old. This attack occurred in a stairwell of
an underground parking lot and lasted 30 minutes.
May 26, 1990, Bernardo committed his eleventh
rape. This rape lasted over an hour. However, his 19-year-old
victim's vivid recollection of her attacker permitted police to make
a computer composite photograph, which was released two days later
by police and published in Toronto and area newspapers.
Investigation and release
Between May and September 1990, the police had
submitted more than 130 suspects' samples for DNA testing when they
received two reports that the person they were seeking was Paul
Bernardo. The first, in June, had been called in by a bank employee.
The second call was received from Tina Smirnis, the wife of one of the
three Smirnis brothers who were among Bernardo's closest friends.
Smirnis told the detectives that Bernardo "had been 'called in' on a
previous rape investigation — once in December, 1987 - but he had
never been interviewed." He frequently talked about his sex life to
Smirnis and liked analingus, rough sex and anal sex.
Alex Smirnis' phrasing was awkward and stilted and
consequently left the detectives unsure of whether to take him
seriously. But after cross-checking several files the detectives
decided to interview Bernardo. The interview, on November 20, 1990,
lasted 35 minutes and Bernardo voluntarily gave samples for forensic
testing. When the detectives asked Bernardo why he thought he was
being investigated for the rapes, he admitted that he did resemble the
composite. The detectives concluded that such a well-educated, well-adjusted,
congenial young man couldn't be responsible for the vicious crimes; he
"was far more credible than...Alex Smirnis who, with his awkward,
strange way of speaking, might just be trying to collect the reward."
Paul Bernado was released the following day.
Following the interview, Bernardo drove to St.
Catharines and held a secret meeting with Homolka, assuring her that
he was not the Scarborough Rapist.
Bernardo moved permanently to St. Catharines on
February 1, 1991. The sexual assaults in Scarborough had stopped.
However, on April 6, 1991, Bernardo committed his 12th rape, this one
in St. Catharines. Again, the victim was young (14). Unlike the other
attacks, this one occurred early in the morning and he was not near a
When she still worked at a pet shop, two years
earlier, Homolka had befriended a then 15-year-old girl. On June 7,
1991, Homolka invited the teen, referred to as "Jane Doe" in the
ensuing trials, for a "girls' night out." After an evening of shopping
and dining, Homolka took "Jane Doe" to 57 Bayview Avenue and began to
ply her with alcohol laced with Halcion.
After "Jane Doe" lost consciousness, Homolka called
Bernardo to tell him his surprise wedding gift was ready. They
undressed the girl, who was a virgin, and Bernardo videotaped Homolka
as she raped the girl before Bernardo vaginally and anally penetrated
her. The next morning, the teenager was nauseous. She believed her
vomiting was due to having drunk alcohol for the first time. She did
not realize she had been violated.
She was invited back to Port Dalhousie (a district
in northwest St. Catharines, situated on Lake Ontario) in August this
time to "spend the night." In a replay of Tammy Homolka, "Jane Doe,"
whose identity remains protected by law, stopped breathing after she
was drugged and Bernardo had begun to rape her. Homolka called 911 for
help but called back a few minutes later to say that "everything is
all right." The emergency crew was recalled without follow-up.
"Jane Doe" visited the couple once more, on
December 22, 1992. This time Homolka pressured her to have sex with
Bernardo; she became upset and left.
By 1990, Bernardo was spending large amounts of
time with the Homolka family, who liked him. He was engaged to the
eldest daughter and flirted constantly with the youngest one. He had
not told them that he had lost his job as an accountant, and instead
was smuggling cigarettes across the nearby U.S.-Canadian border. He
had become obsessed with Tammy Homolka, peeping into her window and
entering her room to masturbate while she slept. Karla Homolka helped
him by breaking the blinds in her sister's window to allow Bernardo
access. In July, Bernardo took Tammy across the border to get beer for
a party. While there, Bernardo later told his fiancee, "they got drunk
and began making out."
According to Bernardo's testimony at his trial on
July 24, 1990, Karla Homolka laced spaghetti sauce with crushed Valium
she had stolen from her employer, Martindale Animal Clinic. She served
dinner to her sister, who soon lost consciousness. Bernardo began to
rape Tammy while Karla watched.
Over the summer, he supplied Tammy and her friends
with gifts, food, and sodas that had "a film and a few white flecks on
Six months before their 1991 wedding, Karla Homolka
stole the anaesthetic agent Halothane from the clinic. On December 23,
1990, Homolka and Bernardo administered sleeping pills to the 15-year-old
in a rum-and-eggnog cocktail. After Tammy was unconscious, Homolka and
Bernardo undressed her and Karla applied a Halothane-soaked cloth to
her sister's nose and mouth.
Karla Homolka wanted to "give Tammy's virginity to
Bernardo for Christmas" as, according to Homolka, Bernardo was
disappointed by not having been Karla's first sex partner. With
Tammy's parents sleeping upstairs, the pair filmed themselves as they
raped her in the basement. Tammy began to vomit. The pair tried to
revive her, then called 911, but not before they hid evidence, dressed
Tammy, and moved her into her basement bedroom. A few hours later
Tammy Homolka was pronounced dead at St. Catharines General Hospital
without having regained consciousness.
Despite the pair's behavior — vacuuming and washing
laundry in the middle of the night, and despite the presence of a
chemical burn on Tammy's face, Niagara Regional Coroner and the
Homolka family accepted the pair's version of events. The official
cause of Tammy Homolka's death was accidental — choking on her vomit
after consumption of alcohol. The pair subsequently filmed themselves
with Karla wearing Tammy's clothing and pretending to be her. They
also moved out of the Homolka house to a rented Port Dalhousie
bungalow, to let her parents cope with their grief.
Early in the morning on June 15, 1991, Bernardo
took a detour through Burlington, halfway between Toronto and St.
Catharines, to steal licence plates where he found Leslie Mahaffy. The
14-year-old had missed her curfew after attending a funeral, was
locked out of her house and had been unable to find anyone with whom
she could stay overnight.
Bernardo approached her and told her he was looking
to break into a neighbor's house. Unfazed, she asked if he had any
cigarettes. As Bernardo led her to his car he blindfolded her, forced
her into the vehicle and drove her to Port Dalhousie, where he
informed Homolka that they had a playmate. Bernardo and Homolka
subsequently videotaped themselves torturing and sexually abusing
Mahaffy, all while listening to Bob Marley and David Bowie. At one
point, Bernardo said "You're doing a good job, Leslie, a damned good
job." Then he added, "The next two hours are going to determine what I
do to you. Right now, you're scoring perfect." On another segment of
tape, played at Bernardo's trial, the assault escalated. Mahaffy cried
out in pain and begged Bernardo to stop. In the Crown description of
the scene, he was sodomizing her while her hands were bound with twine.
Later Mahaffy told Bernardo that her blindfold seemed to be slipping,
an ominous development as it signaled the possibility that she might
be able to identify both her tormentors if permitted to live.
The following day, Bernardo claimed, Homolka fed
her a lethal dose of Halcion. Homolka claimed that, instead, Bernardo
strangled her. The pair put her body into their basement.
After the Homolkas and their remaining daughter,
Lori, had left, Bernardo and Homolka decided the best way to dispose
of the evidence would be to dismember Leslie Mahaffy and encase each
piece in cement. Bernardo bought a dozen bags of cement at a hardware
store the following day. He kept the receipts which would prove
damning at his trial. Bernardo used his grandfather's circular saw to
cut the body. Bernardo and Homolka then made numerous trips to dump
the cement blocks in Lake Gibson, 18 kilometres south of Port
Dalhousie. At least one of the blocks weighed 200 pounds and proved
beyond the pair's patience or abilities to sink. It rested near the
shore, where a father and son on a fishing expedition discovered it on
June 29, 1991. Leslie Mahaffy's orthodontic appliance proved
definitive in identifying her.
On the afternoon of April 16, 1992, Bernardo and
Homolka were driving through St. Catharines to look for potential
victims. It was after school hours on the day before Good Friday.
Students were still going home but by and large the streets were empty.
As they passed Holy Cross Secondary School, a main Catholic high
school in the city's north end, they spotted Kristen French, a 15-year-old
student, walking briskly to her nearby home. The couple pulled into
the parking lot of nearby Grace Lutheran Church and Homolka got out of
the car, map in hand, pretending to need assistance.
As French looked at the map, Bernardo attacked from
behind, brandishing a knife and forcing her into the front seat of
their car. From her back seat, Homolka controlled the girl by pulling
down her hair.
French took the same route home every day, taking
about 15 minutes to get home in order to attend to her dog's needs.
Soon after she should have arrived, her parents became convinced that
she had met with foul play and notified police. Within 24 hours,
Niagara Regional Police ("NRP") had assembled a team and searched the
area along her route and found several witnesses who had seen the
abduction from different aspects, thus giving police a fairly clear
picture. In addition, one of Kristen's shoes, recovered from the
parking lot, underscored the seriousness of the abduction.
Over the three days of Easter weekend, Bernardo and
Homolka videotaped themselves as they tortured, raped and sodomized
Kristen French, forcing her to drink large amounts of alcohol and to
behave submissively to Bernardo. At Bernardo's trial, Crown prosecutor
Ray Houlahan said that Bernardo always intended to kill her because
she was never blindfolded and was capable of identifying her captors.
While Bernardo was out buying pizza on April 18 he
was spotted by Kerry Patrich (see below), whom he had stalked the
previous month. Her report to NRP was mishandled by police, as noted
by Judge Archie Campbell in his 1995 inquiry into the police
investigation of Bernardo's crimes, thus negating any chance of
Kristen French's being discovered at the Bernardo house.
The following day, the couple murdered French
before going to the Homolkas' for Easter dinner. Homolka testified at
her trial that Bernardo had strangled French for exactly seven minutes
while she watched. Bernardo said Homolka beat her with a rubber mallet
because she had tried to escape and that French ended up being
strangled on a noose tied around her neck secured to a hope chest.
Immediately thereafter, Homolka went to fix her hair.
French's nude body was found in a ditch on April
30, 1992 in Burlington, approximately 45 minutes from St. Catharines,
and a short distance from the cemetery where Leslie Mahaffy is buried.
It had been washed and the hair had been cut off. It was originally
thought that the hair was removed as a trophy, but Homolka testified
that the hair had been cut to impede identification.
Other potential or possible victims
In addition to the confirmed murders of Tammy Lyn
Homolka, Leslie Erin Mahaffy and Kristen Dawn French, suspicions
remain about other possible victims or intended victims of Bernardo
Shortly after Tammy Homolka's funeral her parents
went out of town and Lori visited her grandparents in Mississauga,
leaving the house empty. On the weekend of January 12, 1991,
according to author Stephen Williams, Bernardo abducted a girl, took
her to the house and raped her while Homolka watched; afterward he
dropped her off on a deserted road near Lake Gibson. Bernardo and
Homolka referred to her simply as "January girl."
At about 5:30 a.m. on April 6, 1991, Bernardo
abducted a 14-year-old who was warming up for her duties as coxswain
on one of the local rowing teams. The girl was distracted by a
blonde woman who waved at her from her car, enabling Bernardo to
drag her into the shrubbery near the rowing club. There he sexually
assaulted her, forced her to remove all her clothes and wait five
minutes, during which he disappeared.
On July 28, 1991, Bernardo stalked Sydney Kershen,
21, after he saw her while driving home from work. On August 9,
1991, he resumed stalking her. This time she took evasive action,
stopping at her boyfriend's house just prior to his arrival. After
spotting Bernardo the boyfriend gave chase, came across Bernardo's
gold Nissan and took note of the licence plate. The couple reported
the incident to Niagara Regional Police who established that the car
belonged to Paul Kenneth Bernardo. A NRP officer visited the
Bernardos' house where the car was parked in the driveway, but did
not pursue the matter, nor did he submit an official police report.
On November 30, 1991, 14-year-old Terri Anderson
vanished about three blocks from the parking lot where Kristen
French would be abducted, and never returned. Terri was a grade nine
student at Lakeport Secondary School, next door to Kristen French's
school. Terri Anderson and Kristen French disappeared within two
kilometres of each other. In April 1992, NRP said they had no
evidence to suggest a link. But in May 1992 Terri Anderson's body
was found in the water at Port Dalhousie. The medical examiner saw
no evidence of foul play, despite the difficulties of determining
such factors in a body that had been in the water for six months.
The coroner's ruling, that her death was by drowning, probably as a
result of drinking beer and taking LSD, was controversial in light
of Leslie Mahaffy's and Kristen French's murders.
A newspaper clipping found during the police
search of the Bernardo house described a rape that occurred in
Hawaii during the couple's honeymoon there. The presence of the
article, the rape's similarity to Bernardo's modus operandi
and its occurrence during the Bernardos' presence led police to
speculate on Bernardo's involvement. Law enforcement officials on
both sides of the border have stated their belief that Bernardo was
responsible for this rape, but due to extradition issues, this case
was never prosecuted.
In 1997, Derek Finkle's book No Claim to Mercy
was published, which presented evidence tying Bernardo to the murder
of Elizabeth Bain, who disappeared on June 19, 1990, only three
weeks after the last known attack of the Scarborough Rapist. Bain
told her mother she was going to "check the tennis schedule" on the
Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto. Three days later,
her car was found with a large bloodstain in the back seat. Robert
Baltovich, who has consistently maintained his innocence, was
convicted on March 31, 1992, of second-degree murder in the death of
his girlfriend. At trial, his lawyers suggested that the then
unidentified "Scarborough rapist" was responsible for the crime. He
served eight years of a life term before being released pending his
appeal. In September 2004 his appeal was processed. His lawyers
alleged that he had been wrongfully convicted and that Bernardo was
guilty of the murder. On December 2, 2004, the Ontario Court of
Appeal set aside the conviction. On July 15, 2005, Ontario's
Ministry of the Attorney-General announced that Robert Baltovich
would face a new trial and on April 22, 2008, after a series of
pretrial motions including the presentation of evidence implicating
Bernardo in the murder of Elizabeth Bain, Crown Attorney Philip
Kotanen advised the court that he would be calling "no evidence" and
asked the jury to find Baltovich not guilty of second-degree murder.
On March 29, 1992, Bernardo stalked and
videotaped Shanna and Kerry Patrich from his car and followed them
to their parents' house. The Patrich sisters incorrectly recorded
his licence plate number; Shanna Patrich reported the incident to
NRP on March 31, 1992, and was given an incident number, should
further information develop. With Kristen French under Homolka's
guard on April 18, 1992 Bernardo went out to buy dinner and rent a
movie. He was spotted by Kerry Patrich, who attempted to track him
to his house. Despite losing him, she got a better description of
his licence plate and car, which she reported to NRP. This
information, however, was mishandled by police and slipped into the
"black hole" to which Judge Archie Campbell would refer in the
Campbell Report of 1996, an inquiry into police mishandling of
evidence in the case.
In 2006, Bernardo confessed to a 1987 assault
against a 15-year-old girl. Another man, Anthony Hanemaayer, had
been convicted of that assault and served the sentence for it. On
June 25, 2008, the Court of Appeal for Ontario overturned that
conviction and exonerated Hanemaayer.
Trial and Incarceration
Bernardo's trial for the murders of French and
Mahaffy took place in 1995, and included detailed testimony from
Homolka and videotapes of the rapes. The trial was subject to a
publication ban which applied to Canadian newspapers and media, and
the venue was moved to Toronto from St. Catharines, where the murders
occurred. However, the ban did not affect American newspapers and
television stations from nearby Buffalo, New York from reporting trial
proceedings, which were easily seen in Southern Ontario. During the
trial, Bernardo claimed the deaths were accidental, and later claimed
that his wife was the actual killer. On September 1, 1995, Bernardo
was convicted of a number of offences, including the two first-degree
murders and two aggravated sexual assaults, and sentenced to 25 years
in prison. Later, Bernardo was also declared a "Dangerous Offender",
making it unlikely he will ever be released.
In return for a plea bargain (12 years in prison
for manslaughter), Homolka testified against Bernardo in his murder
trial. This plea bargain received much public criticism from Canadians
as Homolka's first defense lawyer Ken Murray had withheld for 17
months videotapes that Bernardo made. This was considered crucial
evidence, and prosecutors said that they would have never agreed to
the plea bargain if they had seen the tapes. Murray was later charged
with obstruction of justice, which he was acquitted, and he also faced
a disciplinary hearing from the law society.
During her interrogation in 1993, Homolka told
police Bernardo once bragged to her that he had raped as many as 30
women, double the 15 assaults police suspected he had committed. She
described him as "the happy rapist."
Bernardo has been kept in the segregation unit at
the penitentiary for his own safety, nonetheless he has been attacked
and harassed. Once he was punched in the face by another inmate while
returning from a shower in 1996. In June 1999, five convicts tried to
storm the segregation range where Bernardo lived and a riot squad had
to use gas to disperse them.
The Toronto Star reported on February 21,
2006, that Bernardo had admitted having sexually assaulted at least 10
other women in attacks not previously blamed on him. The majority of
those assaults took place in 1986, a year before what police termed
the reign of terror by the Scarborough Rapist. Authorities suspected
Bernardo was the culprit in other crimes, such as a string of rapes in
Amherst, N.Y., and the drowning death of Terri Anderson in St.
Catharines, he had never acknowledged his involvement. It was reported
that Bernardo's lawyer, Anthony G. Bryant, had forwarded this
information to legal authorities the previous November.
In 2006, Paul Bernardo gave an interview in prison
suggesting he had reformed and would make a good parole candidate. He
is not eligible for release in 2010 under the "faint hope" clause,
since he was convicted of multiple murders. Bernardo is currently
serving his term in the maximum security prison at Kingston
Penitentiary, in the segregation unit. He spends 23 hours a day in an
8' x 4' jail cell.
Homolka was released from prison on July 4, 2005.
Several days before, Bernardo was interviewed by police and his lawyer,
Tony Bryant. According to Bryant, Bernardo claimed that he had always
intended to free the girls he and Homolka kidnapped. However, once
Mahaffy's blindfold fell off, allowing Mahaffy to see Bernardo's face,
Homolka was concerned that Mahaffy would identify Bernardo, and
subsequently report them to the police. Further, Bernardo claimed that
Homolka planned to murder Mahaffy by injecting an air bubble into her
bloodstream, eventually causing an embolism.
Books, film and other references
A number of books have been written about the
Bernardos, and in October 2005 a motion picture of their story was
released under the title Karla, starring Misha Collins as
Bernardo and Laura Prepon as Homolka.
Kristen French, one of Bernado's victims, is
mentioned in the song "Nobody's Hero", by Canadian progressive rock
The Law & Order episode "Fools for Love" and
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes "Pure" and "Damaged"
are based on the events, as is Series VII of the Inspector Lynley
Mysteries, "Know Thine Enemy".
There was some risk without the proper equipment -- she
would have to put the halothane on a cloth and hold it over Tammy's
face -- but she would make sure Tammy had plenty of air and check her
breathing regularly." A truly organized rape, as only a thoughtful
sister could plan. Maybe even the most thought out and organized rape
December 23, 1990, was the big day -- Tammy's
deflowering. Paul used his new video camcorder to take videos of Mr.
and Mrs. Homolka, their daughters, Karla, Tammy and Lori and the
Christmas decorations in the house.
Paul plied Tammy with drinks, laced with the sedative
Halcion. The effects of the drugs and alcohol were swift and Tammy
was out cold on the couch in no time. When the other members of the
household went up to bed, Karla and Paul started to work on Tammy.
Paul held the camera on Tammy while he raped her, leaving Karla to
keep the halothane-laden rag over her sister's face. Then he ordered
Karla to make sexual advances to her sleeping sister.
Suddenly Tammy threw up. Karla wished her sister
hadn't eaten before this event, but Karla knew what to do. She did
what they did in the veterinary clinic. She held her sister upside
down to try to clear her throat.
Only problem was that Tammy choked to death. Their
amateur attempts to revive her failed so they dressed her, hid their
drugs and camera and called an ambulance. The first that Tammy and
Karla's parents knew of this tragedy was when they heard the ambulance
pull up to the house. Everybody was led to believe that Tammy had
died from accidentally choking on her vomit.
With Tammy no good to him anymore, Paul needed a
Paul Bernardo was born into an unusual family. His
mother, Marilyn, had been adopted early in life by the well-to-do
Toronto lawyer Gerald Eastman and his wife Elizabeth. Marilyn was
raised in a happy, genteel household. Her husband, Kenneth Bernardo
was the son of an Italian immigrant and a woman of English heritage.
Kenneth's father made a very successful life for himself in the marble
and tile business, but was abusive to his wife and children. Kenneth
did not go into the family business but became an accountant instead.
He and Marilyn married in 1960 after her father
disapproved of her other suitor who did not have the education that
Eastman demanded in a son-in-law. Eventually, Kenneth and Marilyn
settled in a nice middle-class neighborhood in Scarborough area of
The marriage did not go well and Kenneth, like his
father, was physically abusive to his wife. After giving birth to a
son and daughter, Marilyn found refuge in the arms of her previous
suitor -- the man without the education her father had required for
his daughter. Thus, was Paul Bernardo conceived illegitimately.
Kenneth was very open minded about this indiscretion
and, in August of 1964, the baby's birth certificate gave him the name
of Paul Bernardo. Kenneth had his difficulties as well. He fondled a
young girl and went to court for it. He started hanging around the
neighborhood at night, peeping into the windows of young women. But
worst of all, he started to sexually abuse his young daughter.
Marilyn put on more and more weight. She became
grotesquely obese. Signs of severe depression were very noticeable.
She stopped taking care of the home and the children and withdrew into
her own world in the basement of the house.
The children keenly felt the effects of the mental and
emotional turmoil in the household. For a while, it looked as though
Paul might have escaped the unhappiness that the older two children
had experienced. Nick Pron in Lethal Marriage describes Paul
as a friendly little boy: "He was always happy. A young boy who
smiled a lot. And he was so cute, with his dimpled good looks and
sweet smile, that many of the mothers just wanted to pinch him on the
cheek whenever they saw him. He was the perfect child they all
wanted: polite, well mannered, doing well in school, so sweet in his
Boy Scout uniform"
Later, as he grew up, he became more involved in
scouting. He worked summers as a counselor and he was the most
popular one with the children. The kids loved him and he seemed to
enjoy being with them.
The teenage girls also adored him. He had angelic
looks and a shy, pleasing demeanor. The girls who dated him in high
school considered him a thoughtful and considerate lover.
Paul was out to make something of himself. He was
intelligent, worked hard in school and held a series of responsible
after-school jobs. He had a good head for figures and the makings of
a good future businessman.
When Paul was sixteen, he got into an argument with his
mother and she told him that he was a bastard. Then, she showed him a
photo of his real father. The effect on Paul was devastating. After
that, he openly mocked and taunted his mother, calling her a "slob"
and a "whore." Considering his mother's infidelity and his father's
sick sexual perversions, Paul began to hate his parents.
Then, he started hanging around with some neighborhood
boys that had a very negative impact on his behavior. They were
tough, swaggering macho types and petty thieves. Paul's attitude in
general and towards women in particular changed dramatically for the
In the early 1980s, Paul and his friend were recruited
into the Amway business. Scott Burnside and Alan Cairns in
Deadly Innocence describe how deeply Paul was influenced by the
things he learned from a few of the people who recruited him. "Paul
used Amway techniques in many facets of his life, not only in sales
and business but also in personal relationships. He bought the books
and tapes of famous motivational get-rich-and-famous experts....
Although Paul didn't make much money from Amway, the philosophy he
embraced from it and other motivational mavericks justified his own
crude and selfish longings." Then his interests moved on to the style
of television evangelist Jim Bakker, which he emulated perfectly.
As he and his friends cruised the bars every night,
they spun fantastic stories about who they were to any pretty girl
that was naive enough to believe their lies. It seem to pay off and
many willing girls spread their legs.
By the time Paul went to college at the University of
Toronto, his sexual fantasies had developed a dark side. Forceful
anal sex was his preferred means of pleasure. Submissive women were
what he sought. He had a terrible temper and enjoyed humiliating
women publicly. He began beating up the women he dated.
He and his friend Van Smirnis started trafficking in
stolen goods while Paul was still in college. Paul's appetite for
toys, clothes and money could not be supported by any normal job.
Paul was always looking for the ultimate scam that would pay him
enormous sums of money.
When Paul graduated from college, he got a job as a
junior accountant at Price Waterhouse. His girlfriends, sick of being
tied up and beaten, were ready to dump him. Then in October of 1987,
he met the girl of his dreams -- pretty, blond Karla Homolka.
They became sexually obsessed with each other almost
immediately. Unlike the other girls he knew, she encouraged his
sadistic sexual behavior. "Karla, handcuffed, on her knees and
begging for him, was scratching an itch. Paul asked her what she
would think if he was a rapist. She would think it was cool. Their
love deepened. He started raping women in earnest." (Stephen
His pattern was usually the same. When his victim got
off a bus, he would grab her from behind and pull her to the ground.
After he forced anal sex and fellatio on her, talking to her all the
time, he let her go. Two years later, the number of his sexual
assaults had climbed to eleven. Then there was a several month hiatus
and several more rapes in 1988.
The police were striking out, although they had
collected from the women a lot of physical evidence that would help
them determine if they had the right suspect. They also had, what
they considered, a good composite drawing of the man who had assaulted
the thirteen women. While the police decided to share that drawing
with other policemen in the region, it was not shown to the public for
a long time.
this time, Karla knew exactly what Paul was doing and encouraged him.
One victim even remembered seeing a woman with the rapist with what
appeared to be a video camera in her hand.
The police discounted this memory and chalked it up to
hysteria on the part of the woman who was raped.
Karla was obsessed with Paul’s happiness. Her greatest
fear was that she would not be able to hold onto this wild and
thrilling man who was to become her husband. When he would become
bored or distracted, she would either do something to excite him or
find another person for him to get excited about.
Paul harped continually that Tammy was no longer
available to him for his sexual pleasure and blamed Karla for causing
her death. Karla searched for a replacement for Tammy – someone very
young and virginal. Karla knew just the right person, a teenager named
Jane, who looked very much like Karla’s dead sister Tammy. Jane would
be Karla’s wedding gift to Paul.
Jane idolized Karla as a beautiful, sophisticated role
model and gratefully accepted Karla’s invitation to the Bernardos’ new
home they rented at 57 Bayview. The first evening, Karla took Jane to
dinner and spent hours talking to her and plying her with sweet
alcoholic drinks. Jane passed out and slept deeply.
After Jane had passed out from the Halcion tablets that
Karla had put in her drinks, Karla called Paul over for his surprise
gift. He was thrilled when he saw how much Jane resembled Tammy and
she was a virgin as well. He was a bit concerned that Karla was using
the same halothane that killed Tammy to subdue Jane, but Karla
convinced him that she was in control of the situation this time
Once they undressed Jane, Paul videotaped Karla as she
made love to the sleeping girl. Then Paul took her virginity. With
that accomplished and memorialized in the videotape, he moved on to
his favorite fun – a brutal kind of anal sex. Jane was so drugged
that she did not wake up during the whole ordeal.
Karla was left to clean the blood off the
fifteen-year-old girl and put her to bed for the night. The next
morning, Jane, who was very sick to her stomach and understandably
sore, met Paul, -- she thought for the first time. Jane had no idea
what had really happened to her.
While Paul seemed very grateful for the gift of Jane's
virginity and was continually amazed at the things Karla would do for
him, he was having second thoughts about marrying her. She was, after
all, getting old, having already passed her twenty-first birthday and
she was a far cry from being the virgin for which he lusted.
Despite his concerns, he went through with it and
married Karla in a huge, lavish wedding. "Their wedding was going to
be perfect. The historic church in Niagara-on-the-Lake with the white
horses and the carriage, champagne, a sit-down dinner for one hundred
and fifty guests with veal-stuffed pheasant at Queen’s Landing, no
expense spared." (Stephen Williams)
Paul had carefully controlled every detail of the
wedding from Karla’s $US 2,000 wedding dress to her hairstyle to the
menu and to the inclusion of "love, honor and obey" in Karla’s wedding
vow. He would not allow the minister to pronounce them "husband and
wife." It had to be "man and wife."
"If it was to be a grand wedding, then people could be
expected to donate money and gifts on a similarly grand scale. Paul
viewed the entire process as a great business opportunity. 'If I
spend fifty dollars a plate, I expect to get a hundred dollars a
person,' the junior accountant proclaimed. He told them he’d set a
goal of realizing $50,000 from the wedding." (Burnside and Cairns)
Leslie Mahaffy was a troubled youngster. Her strong,
independent personality seemed to be at the root of the problem, which
manifested itself in ignoring her curfews, engaging in promiscuous
sex, skipping school and even shoplifting. Her parents responded by
getting tough on Leslie when she broke the rules.
On Friday, June 14, 1991, Leslie went out for the
evening with her friends and stayed out well past her curfew. At 2
A.M., she found herself locked out of her house. She called her
girlfriend to ask her if she could spend the night with her, but the
girlfriend didn’t think that her mother would allow it at that hour.
Leslie told her girlfriend that she was going back home to wake up her
Her friends and family never saw her alive again.
Leslie had actually gone back to her home to see if
there was any way to get in without waking her parents. With the worst
possible luck imaginable, she encountered Paul Bernardo who was
prowling around the neighborhood looking for license plates to steal.
Paul had begun augmenting his income by smuggling cigarettes across
the border and needed the stolen license plates to disguise his
frequent visits across the American-Canadian line. He pulled a knife
on Leslie Mahaffy and forced her to go in his car.
Paul took his catch home. While Karla slept, he began
to videotape the fourteen-year-old Leslie naked and blindfolded. When
Karla woke up, she was very angry that Paul had used their best
champagne glasses to entertain his new toy. Finally, Karla came around
and started being the obedient wife that Paul demanded.
Paul gave Karla elaborate instructions on how to make
love to Leslie. It was the voice of a director in an important film.
Every moment had to be just perfect for the videotape he was making.
After the prelude with Karla, Paul went in for the rough stuff, while
his wife held the camera. The brute force of his anal penetration
caused Leslie to scream in pain.
On the evening June 29, 1991, a man and his wife were
canoeing on Lake Gibson when they came across a concrete block with
some pieces of animal flesh encased in it. Later, he went back to the
spot and, with the help of a fisherman, pulled out the concrete block
and looked at it closely. Inside the block was the calf and foot of a
Soon, the place was alive with cops, who found a total
of five concrete blocks that had been dumped there in the shallow
water. Police theorized that whoever dumped this body in Lake Gibson
was not familiar with the area or he would have dumped the concrete
blocks over the bridge where the deep water may have kept them a
Not long afterwards, the torso of a young woman was
found in the water. The body parts that had been found in the concrete
block had been cut from her torso with a power saw. Leslie’s
distinctive braces provided the clues to her identification.
Paul deprived of his eccentric entertainment was prone
to ill humor. This simply would not do. Karla, the ever-dutiful wife
called Jane back into service. But Jane was far from the ideal sex
slave. First of all, the girl upset them both by refusing to let Paul
have intercourse with her (Jane thought she was still a virgin). Oral
sex was all she would agree to. Then she told her riding instructor
about Paul and the instructor told Jane’s mother. The result was that
Paul and Karla had less opportunity to enjoy themselves with Jane. One
night, things got out of hand again with the halothane and Jane
stopped breathing for awhile. This scared the daylights out of Paul
Not only that, Paul was become annoyed with his new
wife. He questioned her competence with the halothane. Karla was
frantic. She had to do something to put some new romance back into
November 30, 1991, pretty and vivacious
fourteen-year-old Terri Anderson disappeared.
For a while, another willing girl satisfied their
needs, but eventually she moved back to Youngstown, Ohio, and the
Bernardos were bereft once again for entertainment. This always
created tensions in their marriage – tensions that were unbearable to
On April 16, 1992, a very popular and attractive
teenager named Kristen French was abducted from a church parking lot.
Karla had lured the pretty girl over to their car on the pretense of
asking directions. When Kristen stood by the car looking at Karla’s
map, Paul forced the girl into the backseat with his knife.
At the outset, both Paul and Karla knew that Kristen
would have to die. She had clearly seen them, knew where they lived
and had seen their dog. Even so, they didn’t want Kristen to figure
this out, particularly since she was bigger than Karla was and fairly
strong despite her youth.
Kristen, who was a smart girl, did everything she could
to cooperate with this depraved couple and their outrageous and
humiliating demands. She believed that cooperation was her only chance
for survival. The ordeal became worse and worse. The more she
cooperated, the more sadistic Paul became.
"’I’m going to piss on you, okay? Then I’m going to
shit on you.’ Paul said in a whisper…Kristen did not move, even when
he slapped her face with his semi-erect penis.
"’Don’t make me mad. Don’t make me hurt you,’ he said,
urging her to smile when he rubbed his groin into her face.
"’Don’t worry, I won’t piss in your face.’
Finally, he stood over her and urinated. Then he moved.
Turning his buttocks into her face, he squatted over her face and
tried to defecate on her without success.
"’You’re a fucking piece of shit. But I like you,’ he
told her. ‘You look good covered in piss.’" (Stephen Williams)
The indignities went on for a day or two, all
meticulously captured on video for the future enjoyment of the
newlyweds. Then came the final and worst indignity of all for Kristen
French, but her death was not captured on film.
On April 30, 1992, Kristen’s body was found in a ditch.
Her naked body had not been dismembered like Leslie’s, leading the
investigators to erroneously conclude that the murders of the two
teenagers were not connected.
On May 23, 1992, the body of Terri Anderson, who had
been missing since the previous November, was found in the water at
Port Dalhousie. The medical examiner saw no evidence of foul play,
despite the difficulties of determining such factors in a body that
had been in the water for six months. The coroner ruled that her death
was by drowning, probably as a result of drinking beer and taking LSD.
"Inspector Bevan and the coroner were asking Mr.
Anderson to accept that his daughter, who had been an excellent
student, cheerleader and a generally well-adjusted child, had, under
the influence of a few beers and a hit of blotter acid, gone out and
in a stupor neither he nor her friends had perceived, walked into the
freezing November waters of Lake Ontario and drowned." (Stephen
The police first became aware of the handiwork of Paul
Bernardo in his incarnation as the Scarborough Rapist. Detective
Constable Steve Irwin of Toronto’s Metropolitan Police was deeply
involved in that particular serial rape case. There were a lot of
similarities in the stories the victims told and police were sure that
it was one man.
As Stephen Williams points out, serial rapists are
fairly rare creatures. "They are invariably acting out some kind of
strange, private fantasy, so the details of their crimes are
distinctive…In the earlier assaults, the women had all just left
buses, they were accosted from behind, the guy had been rough but he
did not really ‘rape’ them. He had fondled them sexually, penetrating
the last one with his fingers…the descriptions of a well-groomed young
man who had good teeth and did not smell bad. The rapist talked all
the time he was assaulting his victims, and he wanted to hear certain,
specific things. All of the attacks had occurred within a short radius
of Scarborough’s Guildwood Village.
Just before Christmas, 1987, one of his victim’s gave a
very specific description of her rapist. He was good looking, about
six feet tall, clean-shaven and had no tattoos. Her description and
the composite picture she helped develop resulted in the exact
likeness of Paul Bernardo. But the police did not publish the photo.
One of Paul’s old girlfriends, Jennifer Galligan, had
gone to the police several times about Paul regarding his brutal rape,
physical abuse of her, and his threats to do her bodily harm. There
were coincidences which tied Bernardo to the rapes that were going on
at that same time: the rapist drove a white Capri and so did Bernardo;
Bernardo lived in the vicinity of where the rapes took place. A report
was filed, but nothing came of it.
Finally, in May of 1990, years after the rapes began,
the police decided to finally publish the composite picture, which the
victims had agreed upon as the likeness of their attacker. That
picture, plus the $150,000 reward, initiated a flood of tips.
By this time, Paul had quit his position with Price
Waterhouse and was living entirely on his cigarette-smuggling income.
But once his former colleagues at the accounting firm saw the
newspaper picture, they marveled at how much it resembled Paul. An
employee of Paul’s bank contacted the police and reported that
Bernardo looked liked the picture. However, at this point in time, the
police were inundated with similar calls and did not have the manpower
to follow up on all of them.
Detective Steve Irwin centralized all the physical
evidence gathered from the rape victims under one individual, Kim
Johnston, in the forensic laboratory. From the semen samples, she was
able to determine that the rapist was a non-secretor and his blood
type factors, which put him in 12.8 percent of the male population.
Eventually, a number of Paul’s acquaintances contacted
the police about him and Irwin paid Bernardo a visit. Paul did not
strike Irwin as the kind of personality to be a serial rapist, but he
took a blood, saliva and hair sample from Paul anyway. The samples,
along with 230 samples from other suspects, were handed over to Kim
Johnston. Only 5 of the 230 samples fit the blood factors of the
attacker. Paul Bernardo was one of those five. His sample was
resubmitted for additional testing in April of 1992. By that time, the
Scarborough Rapist had mysteriously ended his attacks and the case did
not have the urgency and priorities that it had two years earlier when
the attacks were in progress.
The Scarborough Rapist samples went onto the back
Now that Paul and Karla were living and murdering in
St. Catharine’s, the police investigation was centered in the Niagara
Falls area. Superintendent Vince Bevan was in charge once the body of
Leslie Mahaffy was found. After the death of Kristen French, the
Ontario government formed the Green Ribbon Task Force. Hotlines and a
base of operations were set up just outside St. Catherine’s. Forensic
experts of the American FBI advised the task force.
Later when Kristen French was abducted, a woman
remembered seeing a struggle going on in a car at the scene. While she
was not familiar with various makes of cars, she thought it was a
Camaro. Vince Bevan focused on tracking the ownership of all the
Camaros in the region.
Meanwhile, Bernardo’s name surfaced once again from one
of the many tips that police received. Two policemen called on Paul at
his 57 Bayview home. Paul was very gracious and polite during the
interview and admitted that he had been a suspect in the Scarborough
rapes because of his facial similarities to the composite picture. The
police noted that Paul was very clean-cut and good looking, that he
was intelligent and cooperative and that his home was very clean and
orderly. They also noted that he drove a Nissan, which looked nothing
like a Camaro.
Nevertheless, the two policemen tried to contact
Detective Steve Irwin in Toronto to ask about the results of the
inquiry into the Scarborough Rapist. Eight days later, Irwin responded
to the message and explained that final testing of Bernardo’s blood
and saliva samples had not been done. Thus, technically, Bernardo had
not been cleared as a suspect. Irwin sent the task force some
information, but neglected to send results of the interviews with
friends of Paul who had tipped off the police about him, a woman’s
report that Bernardo was stalking her and the police reports filed by
his former girlfriend, Jennifer Galligan. Consequently, Bernardo was
not pursued as a suspect.
Incredibly enough, in February of 1993, several years
after blood samples had been taken from Paul Bernardo, the forensic
laboratory in Toronto finally got around to analyzing his blood. The
tests proved conclusively that Bernardo had raped the three women
victims from whom they had semen samples.
Had the laboratory been speedier, Paul Bernardo would
have been in jail instead of raping more women and murdering several
Despite this irony, Detective Irwin excitedly put
Bernardo under surveillance.
What he learned was that Bernardo had just been charged
with assault in St. Catharine’s.
The assault charges had been filed by his wife Karla.
When Paul started using Karla as a punching bag in the
summer of 1992, he really compromised his future. Regardless of the
insane things that Karla put up with from Paul, physically abusing her
pushed her to the limit. But even with two black eyes and serious
bruises, she didn’t leave him. In early January 1993, her parents
intervened and persuaded Karla to take refuge in the home of one of
her sister Lori’s friends, whose husband was a Toronto cop. The
Niagara police were brought into the situation and took Karla to the
hospital. All of this was before the Toronto police had the forensic
evidence to convict Paul as the Scarborough Rapist.
In early February, when the police investigation of
Paul intensified, both the Toronto police and the Ontario Green Ribbon
Task Force wanted to interview Karla. They also wanted to fingerprint
her and question her about a Mickey Mouse watch that was very similar
to Kristen French’s watch.
Initially, several Toronto detectives interviewed Karla
for almost five hours. By the kinds of questions they asked, Karla
understood that the police had tied together the Scarborough rapes
with the murders in St. Catharine’s. Karla was understandably nervous
and told her uncle that Paul was the serial rapist and that he killed
Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.
Karla got herself a real good lawyer. As a veterinary
assistant, Karla had taken special care with the cancer-stricken
Dalmation of lawyer George Walker. Over a period of many interviews
with Karla, George Walker realized that she was not necessarily the
innocent victim of Paul Bernardo that she painted herself to be. Yet,
he did not really understand at that point just what exactly her role
had been in these crimes. Some kind of immunity would have been
desirable for his client, but he really wasn’t sure what could be
negotiated on her behalf in exchange for complete cooperation.
In mid-February, Bernardo was arrested in conjunction
with both the Scarborough rapes and the murders of Mahaffy and French.
Karla was shocked and afraid. She assuaged her anxieties with large
amounts of painkillers and alcohol.
On February 19, police executed the search warrants for
Paul and Karla’s house and found an amazing amount of evidence. Paul
had a written description of every one of the Scarborough rapes plus
an extensive library of books and videos on sexual deviation,
pornography and serial killers.
The police also found one brief home video that
indicated that there had been more than one lascivious person in the
Bernardo household. Quite explicitly, the short video showed Karla as
an enthusiastic lesbian in sexual acts with two other women. A week
later, George Walker and Murray Segal, a plea-bargain specialist for
the attorney general, discussed the deal for Karla. Karla would get
twelve years in prison for each of the two victims, but the sentences
would be served concurrently. She would be eligible for parole in a
little over three years with good behavior. The government even agreed
to contact the parole board on Karla’s behalf, pointing out to them
the importance of her testimony against Paul. Segal would do what he
could to arrange for Karla to serve out her sentence in a psychiatric
hospital instead of prison. The trial would be very brief and she
would waive her right to a preliminary hearing.
In exchange for this leniency, Karla would agree to
tell the absolute truth about her involvement in the crimes and
everything she knew about them. Karla agreed unconditionally.
In early March, Karla was checked into a psychiatric
hospital for assessment. She was given heavy doses of drugs and
insisted on being given even larger doses. Eventually, Karla got up
the nerve to write an important letter to her parents:
Dear Mom, Dad and Lori,
This is the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write and
you’ll probably all hate me once you read it. I’ve kept this inside
myself for so long and I just can’t lie to you any more. Both Paul and
I are responsible for Tammy’s death. Paul was "in love" with her and
wanted to have sex with her. He wanted me to help him. He wanted me to
get sleeping pills from work to drug her with. He threatened me and
physically and emotionally abused me when I refused. No words I can
say can make you understand what he put me through. So stupidly I
agreed to do as he said. But something – maybe the combination of
drugs and the food she ate that night – caused her to vomit. I tried
so hard to save her. I am so sorry. But no words I can say can bring
her back…I would gladly give my life for hers. I don’t expect you to
ever forgive me, for I will never forgive myself.
Karla’s trial had a media circus atmosphere about it
when it began on June 28, 1993. Burnside and Cairns described the
defendant: "Karla sat impassively, wearing a green jacket over a one
piece green dress that seemed oversized and somehow too broad for her
slender shoulders. On her feet were black shoes with a slight heel.
Unlike her court appearance a month earlier, when she wore a
schoolgirl’s tartan kilt and blazer, Karla now looked somewhat
matronly. Yet her clothes were out of place with the false eyelashes,
deep-red lipstick, and heavily caked foundation on her face. If she
was matronly, then she was a matronly Lolita."
Her psychiatric report helped set the stage for the
plea-bargain deal. Dr. Malcolm, the psychologist, concluded that Karla
"knew what was happening but she felt totally helpless and unable to
act in her own defense or in anyone else’s defense. She was in my
opinion paralyzed with fear and in that state became obedient and
At the end of the trial, the media people left, allowed
only to report a few of the details so that the jury pool that would
be selected in the future for Paul’s trial would not be tainted by
information they heard or read before the trial.
Expecting a public outcry over the plea bargain, Murray
Segal chose to make a statement: "Why not a greater penalty in light
of the horrendous facts? Without her, the true state of affairs might
never be known. A guilty plea is the traditional hallmark of remorse.
Her age, her lack of criminal record, the abuse and the influence of
her husband, and her somewhat secondary role were factors. She's
unlikely to re-offend."
Karla left the trial after receiving the agreed
sentence and prepared herself for what was sure to be an ordeal – the
trial of her husband Paul Bernardo.
The trial of Paul Bernardo was delayed for two years
after his arrest. One of the reasons for the delay was that Bernardo
had placed his first lawyer, Ken Murray, in a very difficult ethical
situation. Bernardo had given Murray the videotapes that he and Karla
had made of their adventures, believing that by doing so, they would
never get into the hands of prosecutors.
However, the prosecutors knew of the videotapes from
Karla and had wiretapped Murray's conversations with Bernardo.
Eventually, the pressure increased and Murray had to do something
about the videotapes in his possession. The videotapes were turned
over to the prosecutors and Murray withdrew from the case. Veteran
defense lawyer John Rosen took his place as Bernardo's lawyer. This
series of activities alone caused a delay of one year in the start of
In May of 1995, Bernardo's trial began in Judge Patrick
LeSage's courtroom with the videotapes as critical pieces of evidence.
Bernardo faced two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of
aggravated sexual assault, two counts of forcible confinement, two
counts of kidnapping, and one count of performing an indignity on a
"For a public who had been denied access to information
revealed at Karla Homolka's trial almost two years earlier, the
day-long opening address of lead prosecutor Ray Houlahan was a
relentless avalanche of sexual degradation, brutality and murder. In
painstaking detail, Houlahan …described the Crown's belief that Paul
had first dominated Karla, reducing her to a compliant victim through
systematic physical and mental abuse, then used her to exploit his
sexual fantasies in the rape of Tammy Homolka, a rape in which Karla
participated. Unable to shake free of Paul's violent control and
scared he would reveal her role in Tammy's death to her parents, Karla
then took part in the rapes and murders of Kristen French and Leslie
Crown prosecutor Ray Houlahan began with a segment
showing Karla naked, masturbating, with the camera focused on her
Nick Pron in Lethal Marriage describes the
electrifying effect the video had on the courtroom: "Gasps of surprise
and disgust, perhaps even shock, along with plenty of embarrassed
giggles, could be heard throughout the courtroom as the camera
lingered on Homolka's exposed body for several minutes as she
stimulated herself... For the previous two years, ever since her
arrest, Homolka's face had been almost as well known as the prime
minister's. She had been seen on television in footage taken at her
wedding, with her friends, and at her trial…But few people in the
courtroom that day were expecting to see a triple X-rated tape, a
close study of the country's most infamous woman in a variety of
sexually explicit positions."
It seemed like an odd way for the prosecutor to treat
his star witness, however Houlahan explained that the dialog in the
videos had been scripted by Bernardo and was a good example of how he
forced his will on Karla.
The tape was clearly geared to sexually excite Bernardo
as Karla talked of procuring thirteen-year-old virgins for him to
rape. The whole dialog was an articulation of Bernardo's sexual
fantasies with the goal of bringing him to a climax. Karla played the
role of the sex slave and Bernardo was "the king."
As more of these videotapes of Leslie, Kristen and Jane
were shown, the jury was provided with indisputable and powerful
evidence of Paul Bernardo's sexual depravity. As if that were not
enough, Karla was called to the stand to elaborate on what the jurors
had just seen and heard.
What she described in her relationship with Paul was an
escalating theme of sexual degradation similar to what Paul had begun
with other girlfriends before he met Karla. In Karla, the willing
victim, the degradation knew no boundaries. He made her wear a dog's
"choke" collar; he inserted a wire bottle into her vagina; and he
almost strangled her with a wire cord to satisfy his sadistic
fantasies. Paul told her that his choke fantasy was "important to him
and it wouldn't hurt anybody." He told her that she was nothing
without him and he would call her names, like slut, bitch, and cunt.
When the defense had its turn in the courtroom, John
Rosen attacked Karla's credibility. His goal was to show that she was
not the victim she portrayed herself to be, but a willing participant
in the couple's rape and murder spree.
He was, at least, successful in showing Karla to be a
morally vacuous woman with no remorse for her part in these crimes. In
particular, Kristen's murder had to be committed at a particular time
so that Karla and Paul could spend Easter dinner with Karla's parents.
Immediately after Kristen was strangled, Karla left to blow dry her
hair. If it was not immediately clear at the trial, it became clear
shortly after, that Karla had cleverly manipulated the circumstances
of her cooperation with the government to engineer one of the worst
deals that the Canadian government had ever made with a criminal
Regardless of Karla's degree of guilt or innocence and
the deal she had made with the authorities, it did not save Bernardo
from the outrage that he kindled in the minds of the jurors. On
September 1, 1995, Bernardo was convicted on all the charges against
him regarding the kidnappings, rapes and murders of Leslie Mahaffy and
Kristen French. He also faced trials in the death of Tammy Homolka and
the serial rapes in Scarborough. Under Canadian law, Bernardo can
apply for parole after twenty-five years in prison, although it is
unlikely that he would be successful in any parole bid.
Latest Update February 2001
by Patrick Bellamy
Karla Homolka's safety became a growing concern for her
lawyer after he was made aware of an Internet death pool that
allegedly took bets on when Homolka would be killed.
At the time, Homolka was housed at the Pinel Institute,
a psychiatric hospital in Montreal after being transferred there in
early February for a treatment program after she spent more than two
months under psychiatric evaluation in Saskatoon.
According to her lawyer, Homolka has discovered at
least two or three Web sites that contain threats against her,
including the betting pool. One site is called "Karla Homolka Death
Pool: When the Game is Over, We All Win." While the site states
clearly it does not condone violence against Homolka, it solicits bets
on the exact day she will die. The strongest bets are for June and
July 2001. The rules state players are not allowed to fix the bet by
killing her themselves or having someone else do it. Homolka, who is
using the alias Karla Teale while in prison, is taking the threats
The threats came at a time when two out of three
psychiatrists had recommended that Homolka is still too dangerous to
be released forcing corrections officials to make recommendations to
the National Parole Board to keep her in prison until her sentence
expires in 2005. Homolka's lawyer said that Homolka still wants to
return to Joliette prison and stay there for the rest of her term.
Labelle said Homolka feels it's the only place in Canada where she
won't be murdered. He said she also intends to waive opposition to
her detention hearing.
Prior to Homolka's transfer to Pinel, corrections
officials had told Labelle that his client would go to St.
Anne-des-Plaines maximum-security prison, one of the most notorious
federal institutions in Quebec. Labelle suggested that Homolka will
almost certainly launch a federal court challenge if she is sent
anywhere but Joliette.
On March 8, 2001, Karla Homolka was officially denied
early statutory release. The National Parole Board released its
ruling after a review of the case, ordering that Homolka remain
detained past her July release eligibility date. ''The board is
satisfied that, if released, you are likely to commit an offence
causing the death of or serious harm to another person before the
expiration of the sentence you are now serving,'' said the order. The
families of her schoolgirl victims are delighted with the result,
according to Tim Danson, their lawyer.
According to the board report, the gravity of her
crimes is part of the reason she was detained. ''The judge described
those acts as monstrous and depraved,'' said the report. ''All these
crimes are extremely grave ... the fact that you continued your crimes
after the death of your sister, which occurred during your sexual
abuse of her, demonstrates clearly your difficulty in controlling your
violent sexual impulses to the point of putting in danger the safety
of others. Your modus operandi demonstrates a high degree of
indifference to the consequences of your acts.''
The report added that Corrections didn't know of any
surveillance program Homolka could participate in outside prison that
would sufficiently protect the public. It also noted that Homolka had
expressed worry about her own safety in the community.
Canadian law requires that when the Correctional
Service of Canada feels a case requires detention beyond the
two-thirds point, it be referred to the board at least six months
before the statutory release date. The law also requires that the
board review the case every year after the statutory release date
until the expiry of her sentence, which is in July 2005.
At the time of the board’s announcement, Homolka said
that she wouldn’t contest the ruling and indicated that she may leave
Canada after she has served her full sentence.