Disclaimer: This write-up may offend some readers. It is not my intention to do so, it is merely a side effect of describing the actions of two of the most perverse individuals in Canadian history. If you are likely to be offended by a factual description of the actions of these two rapists and murderers, I suggest that you pick another node at this point.

The case against rapists Paul Bernardo and Karla Holmolka was one of the most shocking in Canadian history, and likely generated more media coverage than any other criminal case in Canadian courts. The reasons behind this are fairly simple. To outsiders, they were, simply put, the perfect couple. It is not without reason that they are often referred to as the Ken and Barbie killers, because with both of their good looks, and their fair blond hair, they look the part. He was an attractive, intelligent, ambitious young accountant, who seemed to have quite a future ahead of him. She was also quite a stunning woman, had a job at a pet care company, and was absolutely devoted to Paul and his happiness.

What wasn't evident to the public however, was the depth of Paul's violent sexual fantasies, and the way that Karla, unlike previous girlfriends who had grown tired of the violence and the brutal sodomy that Paul liked so much, cheered him on, encouraging Paul to act out his sadistic fantasies with her, and with others.

With her encouragement and approval, after he met her in 1987, he started out on a series of nearly identical rapes. As the woman got off the bus, he would grab her from behind, pulling her to the ground. He would then proceed to engage in the brutal anal sex that he enjoyed so much, talking to them all the while. Within two years, with this method, called the Scarborough Rapist by police, he assaulted at least 11 women.

Now Paul was a bit annoyed that Karla wasn't a virgin before he met her, so in 1990, he was able to convince Karla that he should be able to take her younger sister Tammy's virginity in lieu of hers.

Because Karla worked at a pet care center, she knew something about the sedatives used to knock out animals. She selected one of those drugs, and carefully measured the dosage needed to put 15 year old Tammy under, so she could give her to Paul at Christmas time. Paul had the camcorder running while he raped Tammy, as Karla held the rag soaked in the inhalant drug over her face. But something went wrong, and Tammy started vomiting. Karla tried to clear her throat, but Tammy choked to death on her own vomit. They re-dressed her, and hid the evidence of their crime, calling the Ambulance. Everyone believed it was an accident.

Next, Karla found for Paul a 15 year old named Jane. She drugged her up, and together they raped the girl, taping it all the while. Jane was Karla's wedding present to Paul. They did get married, at a very lavish affair at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Later, on June 14th of 1991, Leslie Mahaffy had been locked out of her house by her parents, as a punishment for staying out past her curfew. Paul happened upon her, and pulled a knife on her, forcing her into the car and taking her to his home. Paul instructed Karla on how to violate the 14 year old, and then gave the camera to her for his turn.

Later that month, two canoeists found a concrete block with half of Leslie's leg embedded in it. Police went on to find five concrete blocks, and Leslie's torso. She was identified by her braces.

For a while, the pair amused themselves with a willing girl by the name of Terri Anderson. Eventually, they decided it was time to be rid of her. She disappeared on the last day of November, 1991. Her body was found in the water next may. Initially the coroner was not able to find any evidence of foul play.

On April 16th 1992, the pair kidnapped young Kristen French from a church parking lot. For a day or two, the pair abused her, raping her, urinating on her. She cooperated because she felt it was the only way in which she would be able to make it out alive. She was wrong. On the 30th, her body was found in a ditch.

Police were initially led to Paul from his work as the Scarborough Rapist. Eventually, they released the sketch they had of him, and a number of his acquaintances phoned in about him. They went and interviewed him, took some saliva and blood samples, and went their merry way. After a time, the Scarborough Rapist stopped, and the case was no longer a priority. The samples were kept in the lab.

Years later, after the Mahaffy and French murders, another tip was called in about Paul. Investigators finally decided to do the final test of his blood to the semen sample obtained from the Scarborough rape victims. It was found that he was the rapist. He was put on surveillance. Paul was frustrated and began beating up Karla. She was interviewed a few times by police, and realized they had made the connection between the Scarborough Rapist and the murders. She got herself a good lawyer, and played the role of the innocent victim of Paul. When he was arrested in February of 1993, she made a plea bargain to serve 12 years on manslaughter charges, in exchange for her testimony against Paul.

In the meantime, before he was arrested, Paul had given the videotapes to his lawyer, in the hopes that they would stay out of the Crown's hands that way. However, because of the cooperation of Karla, they still knew about the tapes, and eventually his lawyer gave over the tapes and withdrew from the case.

In light of the evidence of Karla's behavior on the tapes, her previous plea bargain is now regarded as one of the worst deals ever made by a Crown Prosecutor in Canada.

Paul's trial was delayed for 2 years after his arrest, but once he did get to trial, with his own videotapes as evidence against him, there was little doubt about the verdict. His lawyer attempted to cast doubt upon Karla's credibility as a witness, but at that point it didn't matter. He was convicted of two counts each of first degree murder, aggravated sexual assault, forcible confinement, kidnapping, and one count of performing an indignity on a human body. He will be eligible for parole in 2020. I seriously doubt his chances of receiving it. Karla's last parole application was denied, and she will remain in an institution until at least 2005.

Update 2 July, 2005: Karla will have finished serving her time, and be released sometime between today, and Monday, July 4, 2005. She attempted to get a court injunction to prevent the media from releasing any information about her, photos, her new address, the name she's going under now (Teale). It didn't quite work the way she hoped to. She is, however, planning on living somewhere in Quebec, where knowledge of herself and her crimes are somewhat less widespread.

Update: Karla is out, and living in Montreal. Since she was deemed to still be a danger to the public, she was released with the following conditions:

  • She will inform police of her home address, work address and who she lives with.
  • She has to notify police as soon as any of the above changes, as well as any name changes.
  • If she wants to be away from her home for more than 48 hours, she will have to give 72 hours notice.
  • She cannot contact Paul Bernardo, the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French or that of the woman known as Jane Doe. She also may not contact any violent criminals.
  • She also will be forbidden from being with people under the age of 16 and from consuming drugs other than prescription medicine.
  • She must continue therapy and counselling.
  • She must provide police with a DNA sample.
Not shockingly, she rather quickly had her name changed. She is now going by the moniker "Karla Leanne Teale." With the exception of one interview, in french, by Radio Canada, she has not surprisingly been trying to avoid any media attention. It remains to be determined if she'll be successful at letting society forget what she had done.

Wikipedia, "Karla Homolka," Wikipedia, the free encylopedia. <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karla_Homolka>
Marilyn Bardsley, "Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka, Serial Killer and Rapist Team," Court TV's CRIME LIBRARY: Criminal Minds and Methods <www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/notorious/bernardo/index_1.html?sect=1>

I've been reading about true crime, and dreaming of being a criminologist, since I was 12. Not so strange these days, but in the past, I'm sure it all looked differently. Over the years, in pursuit of my girl mind-hunter dream, I've read about and seen some awful things which age won't soften. The worst I've seen is the aftermath of an untimely decision made by a young man with a gun. The worst I've read about are the crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

Why this case? I've chased the question round and round. Soon as I managed to isolate that one most despicable thing, something more despicable would usurp it. Was it the story itself, the handling of the case, the mishandling of the case, was it him, was it her, it all just swirled around my head as it must have the Canadian people's, when they finally became privy to the details. The passage of time has not muted interest in this nightmare; banning the public from the details naturally heightened curiosity about what could possibly be so bad.

Now we know it was all far worse than anyone imagined. And now those of us still recovering from the shock can plunder at our leisure through every disgusting detail, like detectives who have the luxury of time because there's no expectation of privacy once trash hits the street.

But why this case?

Everyone has their own answer, but for most that answer revolves around the princess in this grim fairy tale, Ms. Karla Homolka. She's variously described as a compliant victim, a predator, Paul Bernardo's willing or unwilling sex slave, a diagnostic mystery and an enigma. What keeps everyone guessing past the time they have the answer is an idea, from childhood perhaps, that evil cannot possibly look so pleasing. Or the more horrific notion that this evil is housed in a body capable of reproduction.

For me, there are no more cycles of thought on Ms. Homolka; I no longer endlessly question what she is, and I don't particularly care what biological or environmental events made her that way. Unlike most other women who partner up with violent men, there's no evidence in her past of neglect, of having been dropped on her head one too many times, nothing. And nothing is what explains her, and is inside her; a permanent nothing which time won't heal. For myself I have adequately cleared up that pesky enigma-thing, and I wonder about Paul Bernardo.

Oh, I don't mean in some behavioral-profiling way; that ship's fairly well sailed. It's no great trick to pick up the pieces of that man's life and put together a Paul-Bernardo-puzzle. What does bother me, as much as Ms. Homolka bothers others, is why, if he is no diagnostic mystery, if his behavior, while brutal, is so in keeping with a thousand psychopaths before him, why is it necessary for us, the public, to maintain that image of him? If we must forever grapple with the question of Homolka, why is Paul Bernardo written in stone?

It hasn't been so long since Ms. Homolka's release from prison; what with a toddler now, it's possible we won't be hearing quite so much in the years to come. Since there's no going back and you can't grow a soul, she'll never have the benefit or burden of that human necessity. But maybe she won't repeat the past, and maybe if she doesn't she'll win some more converts to her side. With time it's possible, even for Karla Homolka. It will never happen for Paul Bernardo.

It will never happen. In spite of his protests at trial that he never killed anyone; in spite of the fact we know we can't trust Homolka any farther than we'd like to throw her; in spite of the fact he's got nowhere to go but up and nothing else to do but improve, it will never happen. Because as necessary as it seems to be to endlessly debate and remain undecided about Karla's character and motive, it will always be as necessary to write off Paul Bernardo as unchangeable, and as fixed in time as he is in his cell. We'll never take a chance on him; we have ascribed him permanency as a dark, mythic figure, far more the evil prince than his evil princess. Now that Karla's a mother and all, we'll make room for her possible character expansion, and we'll comfort ourselves with the thought that never will we be so foolish as to extend the same opportunity to that animal she once married.

And time will usher in another century, with new and enlightened theories as to what gave rise to the next Paul Bernardo.

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