Paul Bernardo

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Coordinates: 44°13′16″N 76°30′53″W / 44.22111°N 76.51472°W / 44.22111; -76.51472

Paul Bernardo
Born (1964-08-27) August 27, 1964 (age 50)
Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
Other names Paul Jason Teale
The Scarborough Rapist
The Schoolgirl Killer
Criminal penalty
Life imprisonment with a possibility of parole after 25 years, declared a dangerous offender in 1995
Spouse(s) Karla Homolka (1991-1994)
Conviction(s) Murder
Sexual assault
Victims 3+
Span of killings
December 24, 1990–April 19, 1992
Country Canada
Date apprehended
February 17, 1993
Imprisoned at Kingston Penitentiary
(until 2013)
Millhaven Institution

Paul Kenneth Bernardo, also known as Paul Jason Teale[1] (born 27 August 1964), is a Canadian serial killer and rapist, known for the highly publicized sexual assaults and murders he committed with his wife Karla Homolka and the serial rapes he committed in the east-Metropolitan Toronto city of Scarborough.

Early life[edit]

In 1975, Bernardo's father Kenneth fondled a girl and was charged with child molestation; he also sexually abused his own daughter.[2] 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."[3]

Following an argument between his parents when Bernardo was 16, his mother told him that he was conceived illegitimately during an extra-marital affair with a former lover of hers.[4] Repulsed, he began to openly call his mother "slob" and "whore".[5]

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."[6] Bernardo and his friends practiced their techniques on young women they met in bars, and were fairly successful.[5] By the time Bernardo attended University of Toronto Scarborough, he had developed dark sexual fantasies and enjoyed humiliating women in public and beating up the women he dated.[5]

In October 1987, he met Karla Homolka.[5] They became sexually interested in each other almost immediately. Unlike the other women he knew, she encouraged his sadistic sexual behaviour.

Bernardo was deeply interested in the 1991 novel American Psycho and had "read it as his 'bible'."[7]

Sexual assaults[edit]

"The Scarborough Rapist"[edit]

Bernardo committed multiple sexual assaults, escalating in viciousness, in and around Scarborough, Ontario.[8] Most of the assaults were on young women whom he had stalked after they exited buses late in the evening.

Known incidents are:

  • May 4, 1987, rape, 21-year-old woman, Scarborough, in front of her parents' house, after following her home. The attack lasted more than half an hour.
  • May 14, 1987, rape, 19-year-old woman in the backyard of her parents' house. The assault lasted over an hour.
  • July 17, 1987, attempted rape. Although he beat the young woman, he abandoned the attack after she fought back.
  • September 29, 1987, attempted rape, 15-year-old girl. Bernardo broke into a house in Scarborough and entered the bedroom of the victim. He jumped on her back, put his hand over her mouth, threatened her with a knife, caused a bruise on the side of her face, and bit her ear. He fled when the victim's mother entered the room and started screaming. Anthony Hanemaayer was initially convicted of the sexual assault but was exonerated after Bernardo confessed to the crime in 2006.
  • December 16, 1987, rape, 15-year-old girl. This assault lasted about one hour. The following day, Metropolitan Toronto Police issued a warning to women in Scarborough traveling alone at night, especially those taking buses.
  • December 23, 1987, rape, 17-year-old girl. During this attack, Bernardo raped the victim with a 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 girl. 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, rape, 18-year-old woman, Mississauga - about 40 kilometres southwest of Scarborough. The attack lasted 30 minutes.
  • October 4, 1988, attempted rape, Scarborough. His intended victim fought him off, but he inflicted two stab wounds to her thigh and buttock that required 12 stitches.
  • November 16, 1988, rape, 18-year-old woman 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, attempted rape, an alerted neighbour chased Bernardo off after he had begun his attempted eighth rape.
  • June 20, 1989, attempted rape, the young woman fought against him, and her screams alerted neighbours. Bernardo fled with scratches on his face.
  • August 15, 1989, rape, 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, rape, 15-year-old girl whom he saw in a bus shelter. The attack lasted 45 minutes.
  • December 22, 1989, rape, 19-year-old woman. The attack occurred in a stairwell of an underground parking lot and lasted 30 minutes.
  • May 26, 1990, rape, 19-year-old woman. This rape lasted over an hour. His victim's vivid recollection of her attacker permitted police to create a computer composite portrait, which was released two days later by police and published in Toronto and area newspapers.

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

Investigation and release[edit]

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."[9] He frequently talked about his sex life to Smirnis and liked anilingus, rough sex, and anal sex.[9]

Smirnis's phrasing was awkward and stilted and consequently left the detectives unsure of whether to take her 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 could not be responsible for the vicious crimes; he "was far more credible than...Smirnis who, with her awkward, strange way of speaking, might just be trying to collect the reward." Bernardo was released the following day.[9]

"Schoolgirl Killer" murders[edit]

Tammy Homolka[edit]

By 1990, Bernardo was spending large amounts of time with the Homolka family, who liked him. He was engaged to the oldest daughter, Karla, and flirted constantly with the youngest daughter. He had not told them that he had lost his job as an accountant, and instead was smuggling cigarettes across the nearby Canada–United States border. He had become obsessed with Tammy Homolka, peeping into her window and entering her room to masturbate while she was sleeping. Karla Homolka helped him by breaking the windows in her sisters' room 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 at 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 soft drinks that had "a film and a few white flecks on the top".[9]

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 not to have been Karla's first sex partner. With Tammy's parents sleeping upstairs, the pair videotaped 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 behaviour – vacuuming and washing laundry in the middle of the night,[9] 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.[9] The official cause of Tammy Homolka's death was accidental – choking on her vomit after consumption of alcohol. The pair subsequently videotaped 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.

Other potential or possible victims[edit]

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".[9]
  • 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, then forced her to remove all her clothes and wait five minutes, during which he disappeared.[9]
  • In 1997, Derek Finkle's book No Claim to Mercy was published,[10] 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. 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 two sisters from his car and followed them to their parents' house. The sisters incorrectly recorded his licence plate number. One sister reported the incident to Niagara Regional Police 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 one of the sisters, 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 police. 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.[11]


Publication ban[edit]

Citing the need to protect Bernardo's right to a fair trial, a publication ban was imposed on Homolka's preliminary inquiry.[12]

The Crown had applied for the ban imposed on 5 July 1993, by Mr. Justice Francis Kovacs of the Ontario Court (General Division). Homolka, through her lawyers, supported the ban, whereas Bernardo's lawyers argued that he would be prejudiced by the ban since Homolka previously had been portrayed as his victim. Four media outlets and one author also opposed the application. Some lawyers argued that rumours could be doing more damage to the future trial process than the publication of the actual evidence.[13]

Public access to the Internet effectively nullified the court's order, however; as did proximity to the American border, since a publication ban by an Ontario Court cannot apply in New York, Michigan, or anywhere else outside of Ontario. American journalists cited the First Amendment in editorials and published details of Homolka's testimony, which were widely distributed by many "electronic ban-breakers", primarily on the[14] Usenet newsgroup.

Newspapers in Buffalo, Detroit, Washington, New York and even Britain, together with border radio and television stations, reported details gleaned from sources at Homolka's trial. The syndicated series A Current Affair aired two programs on the crimes. Canadians bootlegged copies of The Buffalo Evening News across the border, prompting orders to NRP to arrest all those with more than one copy at the border. Extra copies were confiscated. Copies of other newspapers, including The New York Times, were either turned back at the border or were not accepted by distributors in Ontario.[13] Gordon Domm, a retired police officer who defied the publication ban by distributing details from the foreign media, was charged and convicted on two counts of contempt of court.[15]

Trial, conviction, and incarceration[edit]

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 life in prison without parole for at least 25 years.[16] Bernardo was also declared a "Dangerous Offender", making it unlikely he will ever be released.[16]

In return for a plea bargain (12 years in prison for manslaughter), Homolka testified against Bernardo in his murder trial.[17] This plea bargain received much public criticism from Canadians as Bernardo's first defence 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, of which he was acquitted, and he also faced a disciplinary hearing from the Law Society of Upper Canada.[18][19]

During her interrogation in 1993, Homolka told police Bernardo once bragged to her that he had raped as many as 30 women, twice the number of assaults police suspected he had committed. She described him as "the happy rapist".[20]

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.[21]

The Toronto Star reported on February 21, 2006, that Bernardo had admitted having sexually assaulted at least 10 other women in attacks not previously attributed to 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[citation needed] in St. Catharines. He has never acknowledged his involvement. It was reported that Bernardo's lawyer, Anthony G. Bryant, had forwarded this information to legal authorities the previous November.[22]

In 2006, Bernardo gave an interview in prison suggesting he had reformed and would make a good parole candidate.[23][24] He was not eligible for release in 2010 under the "faint hope" clause, since he was convicted of multiple murders. Bernardo is not eligible to apply for parole until July 2020. In September 2013, Bernardo was moved from Kingston Penitentiary, owing to its impending closure, to Millhaven Institution in Bath,[25] and is incarcerated in the segregation unit.

Homolka's release[edit]

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.[26]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1997, Lynn Crosbie, Canadian poet, novelist and cultural critic, published Paul's Case, termed a "theoretical fiction". After systematically analyzing the couple's crimes it provided an examination of the cultural effects of the shocking revelations and controversy surrounding their trial.[27]

Episodes of Law & Order ("Fools for Love", season 10),[28] Law & Order: Special Victims Unit ("Damaged", season 4) and Close to Home ("Truly, Madly, Deeply", season 2) were inspired by the case, as well as an episode of the Inspector Lynley Mysteries titled "Know Thine Enemy", aired in 2007. Under the Canadian publication ban on details of the crimes that was in force at the time, "Fools for Love" could not be shown on Canadian television when it aired on February 23, 2000. The second episode of the series The Mentalist featured a respectable but murderous husband and wife team.

Dark Heart, Iron Hand is a documentary broadcast by MSNBC and was rebroadcast as an episode of the series MSNBC Investigates retitled "To Love and To Kill" concerned the case.[29][30]

In 2004, producers from Quantum Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based production company, announced the release of the movie Karla (with the working title Deadly),[31] starring Laura Prepon as Homolka and Misha Collins as Bernardo. Since the announcement of the movie, Tim Danson – the lawyer for the families of French and Mahaffy – was given a private screening of the film, and following this, announced that the families had no objection to the film being released. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called for a boycott on the film. The film was released in Canada by Christal Films in the major markets of Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Paul Bernardo legally changed his name to Paul Jason Teale on Feb. 13, 1993, allegedly because of a family rift, ..."
  2. ^ Stephen Williams (14 October 2009). Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case Of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. Random House Publishing Group. p. 247. ISBN 978-0-307-56965-3. 
  3. ^ Pron, Nick (2005). Lethal Marriage: The Uncensored Truth Behind the Crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. Toronto: Seal Books. ISBN 0-7704-2936-X. OCLC 60738933. 
  4. ^ Bardsley, Marilyn. "Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka". truTV. Retrieved 2008-11-18.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  5. ^ a b c d Bardsley, Marilyn. "Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka". truTV. Retrieved 2008-11-18.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  6. ^ Burnside, Scott; Alan Cairns (1995). Deadly innocence. New York: Warner Books. pp. [page needed]. ISBN 0-446-60154-3. OCLC 33286797. 
  7. ^ Cairns, Alan (1995-09-01). "Life imitates 'art' in Bernardo 'bible'". The Toronto Sun. 
  8. ^ "Baltovich trial timeline". CBC News. 2008-04-22. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Williams, Stephen (1996). Invisible darkness: the strange case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. Little, Brown and Company. pp. [page needed]. ISBN 0-316-94137-9. OCLC 35882487. 
  10. ^ Finkle, Derek (1997). No claim to mercy: the mysterious disappearance of Elizabeth Bain and the circumstantial evidence that convicted her boyfriend Robert Baltovich. Toronto: Viking. ISBN 0-670-87412-4. OCLC 78820165. 
  11. ^ "Court clears Ontario man after Bernardo confession". CBC News. 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  12. ^ "Bernardo Trial Gets Underway". Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  13. ^ a b Farnsworth, Clyde H. (December 10, 1993). "Murder Trial in Canada Stirs Press Freedom Fight". New York Times. 
  14. ^ Dov Wisebrod. ""The Homolka Information Ban"". Archived from the original on 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  15. ^ Gordon Domm. "Our Most Serious Consideration — Consent 24 - December 1995". Freedom Party International. Archived from the original on 2007-07-29. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  16. ^ a b R. v. Bernardo, [1995] O.J. No. 2988 (Ct. J. (Gen. Div.))
  17. ^ Jenish, D'Arcy (1995-09-11). "Bernardo Convicted". Maclean's. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  18. ^ The Ken Murray Case: Defence Counsel's Dilemma. "The Ken Murray Case: Defence Counsel's Dilemma". Criminal Defence News - Cooper & Sandler LLP. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  19. ^ "Court finds Bernardo lawyer not guilty". 2000-11-10. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  20. ^ Pron, Nick (2006-02-21). "Bernardo admits more rapes". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  21. ^ Hewitt, Pat (Oct 24, 2010). "Russell Williams enters a ‘grim’ existence in Kingston Penitentiary". Totonto Star. 
  22. ^ "Bernardo confessed to more crimes: lawyer". CBC News. 2006-02-21. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  23. ^ "Bernardo Says He's A Good Candidate For Parole". CityNews. 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  24. ^ "Paul Bernardo Interview Tape". CityNews. 2008-06-21. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  25. ^ Paul Bernardo dad says Karla Homolka 'got away with it' by Joe Warmington Sept 27, 2013, The Toronto Sun
  26. ^ "Bernardo's lawyer says killer 'agitated' over attention given to Homolka". CBC News. 2005-07-05. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  27. ^ Paul's Case: Insomniac
  28. ^ "Bernardo murders inspire Law & Order episode". CBC News. 10 November 1999. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  29. ^ MSNBC Investigates, "To Love and To Kill...a classic program from our Crime Files." Retrieved September 5, 2007.
  30. ^ MSNBC Investigates episode schedule. Retrieved September 5, 2007.
  31. ^ Homolka movie to debut at Montreal film fest CBC News – July 25, 2005 (accessed November 21, 2010)

Further reading[edit]

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