|Kristen Dawn French|
May 10, 1976|
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
|Died||April 19, 1992
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
|Parents||Doug and Donna French|
Abduction and murder
On 16 April 1992, as she walked home from Holy Cross Secondary School, a Catholic school in St. Catharines, French was approached at the entrance of the Grace Lutheran church parking lot by Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo under the pretense of needing directions. While French assisted Homolka with directions, Bernardo attacked her from behind and forced her into the car at knife point. The kidnapping was seen by several eyewitnesses.
She was held in captivity for three days, during which Bernardo and Homolka videotaped themselves torturing and subjecting the 15-year-old to sexual humiliation and degradation while forcing her to drink large amounts of alcohol. They murdered her on 19 April 1992. Her naked body was found in a ditch along No. 1 Sideroad in north Burlington on 30 April 1992, approximately one kilometre from the gravesite of Leslie Mahaffy, another of Bernardo and Homolka's murder victims.
While French was missing, her classmates, teachers and friends at Holy Cross Secondary School chose the Green Ribbon of Hope as the symbol for their search. French's school community also gave the name to the Green Ribbon of Hope Campaign, a national campaign continued to this day by Child Find Canada, governments, organizations and individuals to raise funds and awareness for missing children.
The Green Ribbon Trail in St. Catharines was named in her honour. A monument to French's memory stands at the beginning of the trail. The ribbon also gave its name to the Green Ribbon Task Force, the police group tasked with finding French and Mahaffy's killers, though they later found themselves embroiled in controversy over the role of media in police investigations.
French is remembered for declining cooperation with her abductors in the later period of her abduction: "Some things are worth dying for." She said to Bernardo: "I don't know how your wife can stand to be around you." On one of the memorials dedicated to her is engraved "Her legacy proves an inspiration."
The couple was also convicted of the fatal drug rape of Karla Homolka's sister, Tammy Homolka, which received wide coverage in Canadian newsmedia. Her murder and the subsequent criminal trials remain one of the best-known criminal cases in Canadian history. There was physical evidence of torture and rape, and a videotape which Bernardo made of her captivity and torture later proved to be key evidence in his trial.
In popular culture
Although never confirmed, it is believed that the song Nobody's Hero by Rush is partially about Kristen French. The second stanza of the song, which was first published in 1993, speaks of a girl who was brutally murdered. A line from the song indicates that the lyricist Neil Peart knew the family of the girl the song speaks about. Growing up in St. Catharines himself, it is not unlikely that Peart had been in fact acquainted with French's parents.
Autopsy, a television series of HBO's America Undercover Documentary series, aired an episode entitled "Autopsy Presents: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka".
The premiere episode of Wicked Attraction, a television show which focuses on couples who commit heinous crimes, focuses on Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. The episode, entitled "The Perfect Couple" first aired on August 7, 2008.