Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka’s wedding pictures depict them as the perfect couple. Young and blond, beautiful and well off, they were a couple that had it all…and that took it all too. Based in Scarborough, Ontario, Bernardo began a successful career as a rapist in 1987 while he was courting Homolka. Bernardo recognized a kindred spirit in Karla and so took the risk of asking her how she would react if he told her that he had committed rape. Rather than be repulsed by her boyfriend’s bizarre request, Karla actually started to encourage him and the Scarborough Rapist began to claim even more victims.
After committing a total of eleven rapes, Bernardo was brought in by the police for questioning during November 1990. Like the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, however, Bernardo was released without any charges being brought against him. He committed one further rape in St Catharines, where he had joined Homolka after he left Scarborough, and the pair then decided it was time that they moved on to bigger things.
To Bernardo and Homolka, “bigger things” comprised their plying teenage girls with alcohol, drugging them with tranquillizers and Bernardo’s repeatedly raping them with Homolka’s help. They abducted and abused several girls in this way and, with three of the girls, they went even further.
On December 23rd 1990, Homolka decided that she wanted to give Bernardo her younger sister’s virginity for Christmas. Tammy Homolka was only 15 years old at the time but this did not deter Karla, who laced Tammy’s eggnog with rum and sleeping pills and then, once Tammy was unconscious, helped Bernardo undress her and administer a large dose of the anesthetic agent Halothane. In the middle of Karla’s filming Bernardo’s rape of her sister, Tammy reacted badly to the Halothane, began to vomit and then choked to death. Her death was later ruled accidental; classed simply as that of yet another teenager who couldn’t handle her alcohol.
Tammy’s death did not deter this murderous Bonnie and Clyde, however, and the fact that they got away with it so easily must only have encouraged them. On the day before Father’s Day in 1991, Bernardo abducted 14 year old Leslie Mahaffy, and, together with Homolka, subjected her to over 24 hours of torture and rape before killing her and dismembering her corpse. In an eerie echo of the audio tape made of Lesley Ann Downey’s demise by English Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, Bernardo and Homolka videotaped their abuse of Mahaffy. At one point, the tape perversely even shows Bernardo praising Mahaffy and telling her that she’s ‘doing a good job’.
Their spree continued and on April 16th 1992 – the day before Good Friday – they kidnapped another 15 year old, Kristen French, and, after abusing her for the entire Easter Weekend, strangled her and dumped her body in a nearby ditch. Again, they videotaped the entire affair, perhaps to enjoy the tape later at their leisure…
On December 27th 1992 – after the holiday this time – Bernardo beat Homolka so severely with a flashlight that she landed up in hospital. This was, perhaps, a mistake, as Homolka turned against Bernardo and the entire sordid affair became public knowledge with Homolka taking the spotlight as the abused wife forced into watching children being killed. After a long and winding road fraught with legal uncertainties, Homolka entered into a plea bargain with the Canadian government in terms of which she would receive 12 years imprisonment in return for telling them all she knew of her husband’s involvement in the crimes. Perhaps inevitably, her confession showed her playing a smaller role in the murders than the video tapes, recovered only in May 1993, would attest to. Once it was discovered that she had been rather more than an unwilling and abused participant in the murders, there was a public outcry for her plea bargain agreement to be overturned. This did not happen, however, and she has since served her sentence and been unconditionally released.
Bernardo was not so lucky and, on September 1st 1995, was sentenced to life imprisonment for, amongst other crimes, the murders of Mahaffy and French. They were never tried for the murder of Tammy Homolka.
Bernardo and Homolka divorced in 1993. The honeymoon was definitely over.
Schechter, Harold. The Serial Killer Files. New York: Ballantine Books (2003)
Paul Bernardo Wikipedia
Karla Homolka Wikipedia
Tammy Homolka Wikipedia
Trish Wood The Case Against Karla Elm Street Magazine
Marilyn Bardsley Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka TruTV Crime Library
Winnipeg Free Press