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Paul Kenneth BERNARDO






A.K.A.: "Paul Jason Teale" - "The Scarborough Rapist" - "The Schoolgirl Killer"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Serial rapist
Number of victims: 3 +
Date of murders: December 1990 - April 1992
Date of arrest: February 17, 1993
Date of birth: August 27, 1964
Victims profile: Tammy Homolka, 15 / Leslie Mahaffy, 14 / Kristen French, 15
Method of murder: Poisoning - Strangulation
Location: Ontario, Canada
Status: Sentenced to 25 years in prison on September 1, 1995. Later, Bernardo was also declared a "Dangerous Offender", making it unlikely he will ever be released
photo gallery 1 photo gallery 2

Ontario Supreme Court

Regina v. Bernardo
Paul Bernardo interview on June7, 2007

Paul Kenneth Bernardo, (born August 27, 1964 in Toronto, Ontario), is a Canadian serial killer and rapist, known for the murders he committed with his wife Karla Homolka and the serial rapes he committed in Scarborough.

Early life

Bernardo was born into a wealthy but dysfunctional family. His mother Marilyn, who had been adopted by well-to-do Toronto 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 certificate.

In 1975, Kenneth Bernardo fondled a girl and was charged with child molestation; he also sexually abused his own daughter. Bernardo's mother became 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 Rapist."

Sexual assaults

The Scarborough Rapist

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 hour.

  • May 14, 1987, Bernardo committed his second rape. He attacked a 19-year-old woman in the back yard of her parents' house. This incident lasted over an hour.

  • July 27, 1987, Bernardo attempted his third rape. Although he beat the young woman, he abandoned the attack after she fought back.

  • 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 taking buses.

  • 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'.

  • April 18, 1988, Bernardo attacked a 17-year-old. The fifth assault, this one lasted 45 minutes.

  • 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.

  • October 4, 1988, Bernardo attempted a seventh Scarborough rape. His intended victim fought him off but he inflicted two stab wounds to her thigh and buttock which required 12 stitches.

  • November 16, 1988, Bernardo committed his seventh rape against an 18-year-old in the backyard of her parents' house.

  • November 17, 1988, Metro Police formed a special task force dedicated to capturing the Scarborough Rapist.

  • December 27, 1988, an alerted neighbor chased Bernardo off after he had begun his attempted eighth rape.

  • June 20, 1989, Bernardo attempted to rape another young woman. She fought against him and her screams alerted neighbors. Bernardo fled with scratches on his face.

  • 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.

  • July 1990, two months after receiving tips that Bernardo fit the Scarborough Rapist composite, he was interviewed by two police detectives.

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.

St. Catharines

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 bus stop.

"Jane Doe"

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.

Schoolgirl Killer murders

Tammy Homolka

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 the top."

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.

Leslie Mahaffy

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.

Kristen French

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 and/or Homolka.

  • 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's release

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 band Rush.

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".


Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka

by Marilyn Bardsley

All For Love

It was all too good to be true.  In 1990, Karla was engaged to a handsome, sophisticated professional accountant with money.  It was going to be an incredible wedding.  One that her family and friends would never forget. 

She loved Paul very much.  He was so unique and so very wild in bed.  She would do absolutely anything to keep his love  -- anything at all.

What made this situation a little different than most engagements is that for several years Paul made utrageous demands on Karla -- and Karla, just as outrageously, agreed to them.

Paul was very annoyed that Karla was not a virgin when he met her.  It was, therefore, from his point of view, her responsibility to make it possible for Paul to take the virginity of Karla's pretty younger sister Tammy without her knowledge or consent.  Some people call it rape.  Once Karla accepted that logic, the rest was easy, even the idea of videotaping the whole thing seemed to make sense to her. After all, videotaping was a way to remember important events.

Karla worked in a veterinary clinic so she had a rudimentary knowledge of sedatives used for animals.  The trick was figuring out what and how much to use to knock out Tammy so that Paul could rape her.  Eventually, she decided on using halothane, an anesthetic which animals inhale before surgery.

Stephen Williams in his book Invisible Darkness describes Karla's idea:   "She had really thought this thing with Tammy through.  After all, she did not want to kill her own sister; she just wanted to knock her out and give her to Paul for Christmas.  They sedated animals before they put them to sleep for surgery, so it should be all right to do it to her sister. 

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 ever.

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 replacement.

Scarborough Rapist

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 Toronto.

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 worse.

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 Williams)

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.

All 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 around.

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 parents.

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 young woman.

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 secret forever.

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 and Karla.

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 their relationship.

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 Karla.

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 Williams)

The Investigation

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 burner.

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 school girls!

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 -XOXO

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 self-serving.

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 the trial.

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 human body.

"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 Mahaffy."

Crown prosecutor Ray Houlahan began with a segment showing Karla naked, masturbating, with the camera focused on her vagina.

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 witness.

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 seriously.

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.


Bernardo, Paul (1964- ); Homolka, Karla (1970- )


DATE(S): 1990-92

VENUE: Ontario, Canada


MO: Lust killers of three young women, including Karla's sister.

DISPOSITION: Homolka turned states evidence, receiving 10-12 years in return for testimony, 1994; Bernardo sentenced to life with 25-year minimum, 1995.



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