Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Crime, Women, Sexual Abuse, Criminal Justice, Family, Victimology, Discrimination, Victim

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/17


Born on 27 August 1964, Paul Kenneth Bernardo, is an infamous Canadian serial killer and rapist who along with his wife Karla Homolka committed highly sensational sexual assaults and murders in the east-Metropolitan Toronto city of Scarborough. Also known as Paul Jason Teale, Paul Kenneth Bernardo and his wife Karla Homolka were especially notorious for the murders of the three school girls, Tammy Homolka, Leslie Mahaffy, and Kristen French (Pearson, 1997). Apart from these three confirmed murders, Paul Kenneth Bernardo is also suspected for the murders and rapes of other possible or intended victims, but due to the lack of evidence, his involvement with those murders and sexual assaults could not legally substantiated (Williams, 2009). What is most disturbing about his persona is that despite being a convicted serial killer and rapist, Paul has a way with charming women as is proven by his confession of receiving fan mails from smitten women. In an interview conducted in 2006 by two police investigators, Paul stated, "I get letters. I get lots of letters" (Pazzano, 2014). In fact, in 2014, a Toronto Sun news report revealed that an anonymous woman from London, Ont. is so charmed by Paul's personality that she is harboring a desire to marry him. The university educated 30 year old woman has been telling her friends of Paul's innocence and how he was framed and wrongly convicted for the murders and rapes of the school girls. According to her, Paul was just a bystander to those rapes and tortures inflicted by other culprits, and that he is "a kind man, a Christian, a very nice man" (Pazzano, 2014). With the way Paul manages to brainwash and manipulate women has made the researchers who documented his story divide in opinion on the part played by his wife Karla. According to one group of researchers, Karla was an abused woman who did what she was told, while the other group considers her as vicious and depraved as Paul is with the same vice and murderous streaks. This paper would discuss the rapes and murders committed by the deadly duo, Paul Kenneth Bernardo and Karla Homolka, in greater detail, drawing a comparison and contrast between different researches.

Early Life

In his childhood and boyhood days, Paul Barnardo was far from the vicious man that he is now. Though he was born into dysfunctional family with his father being an abusive person, who not only beat his mother regularly but also sexually assaulted his sister and was charged with child molestation once, Paul always maintained a happy exterior outside. He was a handsome, charming boy that everyone loved. He was well-mannered, polite and doing well in school. Though Kenneth Bernardo was listed as Paul's biological father in his birth certificate, Paul was actually conceived of an affair of Marilyn, Paul's mother. Upon knowing the truth behind his birth, Paul openly started calling his mother 'whore' and 'slob'. It was after he graduated from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute and started working for Amway as a sales executive that he started developing the tricks of manipulation. While learning to manipulate customers into buying Amway products, he simultaneously applied those sales skills on young women he met in bars and was successful in manipulating them. By the time he entered the University of Toronto Scarborough, he began to enjoy dark kinky sexual fantasies and relished in humiliating and beating women he dated.

Sexual Assaults

Paul Bernardo is dubbed as 'the Scarborough Rapist' for the role he played in raping women serially during a particular period. It is estimated that in between May 4, 1987 and April 6, 1991, he raped at least 18 young women (Hickey, 2009). He especially targeted women who alighted from buses late in the evening. Some of the known incidents of sexual assaults committed by Paul Bernardo include the following:
A 21 year old woman was raped in Scarborough on 4th May, 1987 in front of her parents' house after Paul stalked her to her home. The vicious attack lasted over half an hour.
A 19 year old woman was raped on 14th May, 1987 in the backyard of her own parent's house, and the attack continued over an hour.

He attempted a rape on 17 July, 1987, but quit in the face of the victim's strong resistance.

He again attempted a rape on 29th September, 1987 on a 15 year old girl by breaking into a house in Scarborough and entering the victim's bedroom. Though he beat the girl and bruised her, he gave up his attempt after the victim's mother started screaming to alert the neighbors.
He committed rape on a 15 year old girl on 16th December, 1987, and the following day a warning was issued to the women of Scarborough, especially those travelling alone at night, by Metropolitan Toronto Police.
He committed a brutal rape on a 17 year old on 23rd December, 1987 and penetrated her with a knife that he used to intimidate his victims.

He raped a 17 year old girl on 18th April, 1988.

He raped an 18 year old girl on 30th May in Mississauga, which is around 40 kilometers southwest of Scarborough (Hickey, 2009).
He attempted rape on 4th October, 1988, but the victim fought off bravely and apart from the wounds received in the scuffle, she literally wrenched herself free.

He sexually assaulted an 18 year old woman on 16th November, 1988 in the backyard of her parents' home.

His attempted rape on 17th November, 1988 was thwarted by the intervention of a neighbor who chased him off the street.
Another attempted rape on 20th June, 1989 was averted by the screams and fights of the victim who alerted neighbors and scratched Bernardo on his face.
He committed a vicious rape on a 22 year old woman, whom he peeped at from outside her window the previous night, on 15th August, 1989 (Hickey, 2009).

He targeted a 15 year old, whom he noticed in a bus shelter, for his sexual perversion.

He raped a 19 year old woman in the stairway of a basement parking space, and the attack lasted for 30 minutes.
He sexually assaulted a 19 year old woman whose vivid recollection of the incident helped the police in creating a computer portrait of the perpetrator, which was distributed in and around Toronto two days later (Hickey, 2009).
Though two months after receiving tips from the 11th victim of Bernardo and the computer composite portrait resembling his features, Bernardo was called in for an interview by the investigators, he was soon released on the ground that he appeared to be "far more credible thanAlex Smirnis" who was one of the closest friends of Bernardo and whose wife tipped off the detectives about the dark sexual fantasies and preferences of kinky sex of Bernardo (Williams, 2009). Upon his release, Bernardo committed his 12th rape on a 14 year old.


Tammy Homolka
Bernardo met Karla Homolka in 1987 in the month of September at a pet store convention and started dating with her. Karla was quite rebellious since her childhood, having quit high school against her parents' wish and working at a veterinary hospital. Karla introduced Bernardo to her parents and two sisters, Lori and Tammy. Soon Bernardo became a frequent weekend guest at the Homolka house. It was there that Bernardo started flirting with the 15 year old Tammy. He was so obsessed with her that he often sneaked into her room, with Karla's help, while Tammy was sleeping and masturbated. The preceding day of Christmas in 1990, in order to gift Bernardo Tammy's virginity as Bernardo was upset for not being the first sexual partner of Karla, Karla in order to facilitate the rape of Tammy acquired a bottle of Halothane, a generic liquid anesthetic used in animal surgery, from the veterinary clinic (Davey, 1995). She then laced Tammy's drink with sedatives and alcohol. When Tammy became unconscious, she soaked a cloth in Halothane and put that to her sister's mouth and nose, while simultaneously helping Bernardo undress her. The pair videotaped the rape of Tammy, but when Tammy was not regaining consciousness, they hid evidence and dressed themselves before calling 911 (Davey, 1995). A few hours later, Tammy was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Leslie Mahaffy

Leslie Mahaffy was a 14 year old girl who fell a victim of Bernardo when on 15 June, 1991, after coming back from the funeral home of her classmate who died in an accident, she found the doors of her house locked from inside and went to a pay phone booth to call her friend to request for sleepover, but upon the friend's refusal, she was coming back home to wake up her mother and on the way, she met Bernardo who kidnapped her. Bernardo was then staying together with Karla in a house and he took Mahaffy there. Both Karla and Bernardo engaged in a vicious game of torturing and raping Mahaffy who was blindfolded all the while (Burnside and Cairns, 1995). Mahaffy once told Bernardo of her blindfold slipping, and in order to prevent the possibility of her being able to identify both of them later if she is released, they decided to kill her. They gave her lethal dose of Halcion, a sedative Karla brought from her clinic. Then they dismembered the body and encased each of the body parts in cement block and then dumped the cement blocks in Lake Gibson, about 18 kilometers south of where Bernardo and Karla stayed. The body was discovered on 29th June, 1991, the day when Karla and Bernardo celebrated their wedding (Hickey, 2009).

Kristen French

On April 16, 1992, Paul and Karla were driving through St. Catharine’s to look for their next victim. It was a day before Good Friday and as they passed Holy Cross Secondary School, they spotted Kristen French. Kristen was at that time 15 years old and was walking back home from school. Her home was only 15 minutes away (Williams, 2014). Homolka pretended to ask her question when Paul attacked her from behind and pulled her into the car. Karla and Paul tortured, raped and videotaped Kristen for three days. Finally, three days after they murdered Kristen, Karla testified that Paul murdered Kristen by strangling, whereas, Paul testified that it was Karla who murdered Kristen (Williams, 2014). The body of Kristen was found in a ditch some 45 minutes away from where she was abducted by Paul and Karla.

Comparison and Contrast of Research and Ideas

The equation between Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka and the reason of their committal of such heinous crimes have been subjected to multitude of criminal research studies. Both in Canada and the USA, Paul Bernardo’s case is a popular research topic for psychologists. In fact, this case set new precedence in the area of criminal psychology research. However, there is no single definitive analysis of the Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka case. There are mainly three different schools of thought in this case. The majority of the researchers believe that Paul Bernardo was the main mastermind in the whole crime and Karla was only another victim who submitted to his guiles and maneuvers and did what she was told (Davey, 1995). To them, she was an abused woman who followed the directions of Bernardo to save her own skin (Burnside and Cairns, 1995). Many other researchers believe that both Karla and Paul played an equal role to the rape and murder cases. They both planned and executed their actions in unison. A very small number of researchers also believe that Paul was a pervert, who raped women serially, but he did not commit any murder. In his trial, Paul while confessing to all the rapes accused Karla of machinating the murders, stating that Karla was the criminal mastermind behind all the murders that took place.
Eric W Hickey (2009), the author of the book Serial Murderers and Their Victims, analyzed more than 500 cases in his book. In each of those cases, there was always one person who maintained the psychological control. However, there were few instances in the book where a married couple jointly conducted serial rapes and murder operations. Hickey furnished many examples of murders in which the murder was committed by more than one person. In cases involving a couple, there was always one partner dominating the other, fully controlling him or her. In fact, the dominant partner looked for someone insecure, mentally unstable and with low self-esteem for relationship (Hickey, 2009). These dominant masterminds choose their partners in a way that their partners obey them like servants. Hickey put the equation between Paul and Karla in the same league. According to him, when Karla met Paul, she was so besotted that she wanted to show everyone that she was able to find a boyfriend better than others. She probably wanted Paul badly and obliged Paul by fulfilling his all kinky sex obsessions. However, Paul was not a one woman person. Karla might have realized soon enough that Paul was not a good person. However, Paul was a great womanizer who knew the art of manipulating women (Hickey, 2009). He sought for someone who would pander to his dark fantasies. He wanted a girl who would be under his total control willing to do anything for him. In Karla, he found his match. Paul in the serial murder case totally controlled and manipulated Karla and took advantage of her weak personality. Al Carlisle, a former prison psychologist and author of the book “I’m not guilty: The Case of Ted Bundy” also supported the theory of Hickey and suggested that Karla was the shadow of Paul and mirrored his beliefs and ethics, constantly seeking justifications from him for her actions (Ramsland, 2014).
However, there are other researchers who believe that Karla was far from innocent. She had a criminal bent of mind that attracted her to Paul. Gregg McCrary, a criminologist and former FBI criminal profiler, who worked specifically on the Karla-Paul case, rejected the theory of dominant partner. McCrary suggested that Karla was under no obligation to continue relationship with Paul (Ramsland, 2014). She had a lot of suitors. She might have come to know of dark fascination of Paul early in the relationship, especially when Paul started showing perverse interest in Tammy. Still she continued the relationship. Not only that, she helped Paul rape her own sister, which any normal person would not have done. Probably, the girlfriends that came before Karla in Paul’s life left him immediately after being exposed to his dark fetish (Pearson, 1997). However, Karla was the only one who even upon knowing about Paul’s perversion continued relationship with him. This clearly shows that she was a person who enjoyed sadistic activities as much as Paul did.
There are some suggestions provided by Janet Warren, a professor of clinical psychology, who believes that without the help of Karla, Paul would have only remained a serial rapist and not a killer (Williams, 2014). However, after committing rape upon the victim, may be in order to impress upon Karla that she was the most important woman in his life, Karla convinced him to kill the victim.
As more and more criminal psychological cases are analyzed in the future, the dynamics of such serial murders by couples will come to open. Currently, the work by FBI criminologist Robert Hazelwood remains as one of the most instrumental in this case. As per his findings, the dominant partner theory might hold good for this crime with Paul probably being the main culprit (Ramsland, 2014). However, as many facts were not gathered properly by the Toronto police during investigation, and cross examination of Karla and Paul was not done properly, we probably will not know for sure what actually happened.


Paul Bernardo, who is a Canadian serial rapist and killer, was notorious for the rapes and the murders that he committed with the help of his wife Karla Homolka. Known as 'the Scarborough Rapist', Bernardo committed about 18 rapes in between May 4, 1987 and April 6, 1991. He began to commit murder after he met Karla. They began their murderous adventure first by killing Karla's own younger sister Tammy who was heavily drugged before being raped and videotaped. She never regained consciousness because of the lethal dose sedatives and drugs administered to her. Leslie Mahaffy was the second victim of the couple, who after being raped and tortured for 24 hours, was killed mercilessly by the duo and then dismembered and dumped in a lake. Kristen French was the third victim who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by the duo in 1992. The heinous crimes of Bernardo and Karla attracted many psychologists and authors to do research on their case. However, researchers are divided in their opinion on the case. Though some researchers believe that Karla played an equal role to the rape and murder, some cherish the notion that Karla was a victim of Paul's machinations. Another group of researchers believes that it was Karla who masterminded the murders and influenced Paul to help her to prove that she was the only woman most important in his life. However, though there are many theories, due to many facts not being properly gathered by the Toronto police during investigation, the actual facts might never be known.


Pazzano, S. (2014). Paul Bernardo to marry?. Toronto Sun. Retrieved on 12th March, 2015 from <http://www.torontosun.com/2014/07/03/paul-bernardo-to-marry>
Williams, S. (2009). Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case Of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. Random House Publishing Group.
Burnside, S. and Cairns, A. (1995). Deadly Innocence: The True Story of Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka and the Schoolgirl Murders. New York: Warner Books.
Pearson, P. (1997). When She was Bad. Toronto: Random House Canada.
Davey, F. (1995). Karla’s Web. Toronto: Penguin Books.
Hickey, E. M. (2009). Serial Murderers and their Victims. Cengage Learning.
Ramsland, K. (2014). Partners in Crime. Psychology Today. Retrieved on 12th March, 2015 from <https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201406/partners-in-crime>

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