Paul Bernardo and his wife Karla Homolka are responsible for the murders and rapes of at least three Canadian teenagers in the early 90s. Karla and Paul, infamously dubbed the ‘Ken and Barbie killers,’ recorded their crimes, making them two of the most sadistic killers in Canada’s history. Their crimes and trials feature in the new series, Ken and Barbie Killers: The Lost Murder Tapes.
Karla avoided a lengthy prison sentence by cooperating with prosecutors. Homolka was also lucky that the tapes detailing her involvement in the murders and rapes emerged after signing a plea deal.
Bernardo wasn’t as lucky as the court sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Paul will remain in prison after his latest denial of parole
Paul Bernardo remains incarcerated at Millhaven penitentiary in eastern Ontario. Bernardo spends most of the day confined in his cell, with one hour of solitary yard time. The dangerous offender inmate has no meaningful human interaction apart from the letters he gets from his admirers.
Bernardo qualified for parole in February 2018 and has since had two parole applications rejected. His latest parole application came in June 2021. The presiding judge deliberated for only one hour before turning down Paul’s request.
In pleading his case, Paul described himself as a man filled with ‘stress and anxiety,’ stemming from over 10,000 days without meaningful human interaction. He described his punishment as cruel and inhuman and affirmed that he had changed.
“I am no longer preoccupied with fantasies,” Paul said. “Without a doubt, I’m low risk. I have fought all deviant sexual behavior for two years.” Bernardo denied being a sadist or psychopath and blamed his behavior on a desire to ‘punish’ his victims for failing to fulfill his sexual desires.
“I expected to be catered to,” Paul said. “I was a male chauvinistic pig.” Bernardo’s parole officer didn’t offer him much help, stating that Paul had made no progress since his last parole hearing in 2018. The parole officer recommended that Paul be denied parole.
The most impactful statements during the hearing came from the victims’ parents. The parents of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French described Paul as an incurable sadist and psychopath who still poses a threat to society.
“You’re understanding and insight remains limited,” Maureen Gauci, one of the hearing officers, said. “It was evident today that you continue to exhibit behaviors that are counter-productive to the development of insight. You have not shown the risk offending can be managed in the community.”
The Toronto Sun obtained a report by the Parole Board of Canada that paints Paul as a man incapable of redemption. According to the report, psychologists diagnosed Paul with a slate of untreatable conditions, including voyeurism, sexual sadism, other paraphilia, psychopathy, and narcissistic personality disorder.
A report in 2020 stated that generally, Paul is unlikely to re-offend if released. However, Paul was highly likely to commit a sexual offense. “It is beyond debate that you are a high-risk offender,” the report read.
Paul Bernardo will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
The victims’ families want Paul’s parole hearings spaced further apart
The parents of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy have twice stated that the crimes perpetrated by Paul still haunt them.
“How does one describe such immeasurable pain so as to give even the slightest understanding of the overwhelming sadness, the emptiness, and the pain we feel even after 26 years of dealing with our loss,” French’s mother, Donna, said during the first parole hearing.
“Time doesn’t heal the pain; the pain is a life sentence,” Donna and her husband, Doug, said during the 2021 hearing.
In her 2021 statement, Debbie Mahaffy decried that she and the French family had to relive the murders every time Paul applied for parole. A statement read by lawyer Tim Danson said:
“Once again, Bernardo’s desires are inflicted on us as he inserts himself into our lives again, forcing his horrors and terrifying memories upon us. What does resting in peace mean when you have to relive the horrors every two or so years for the rest of our lives?”
The victims’ families want the interval between which Paul Bernardo can apply for parole extended to at least five years. Debbie Mahaffy stated that every parole hearing tears the families apart as it transports them back to the 90s.
“It’s as if we were back to the early 1990s and the trial of ’95: It’s that vivid for all of us that have been involved,” Danson read.
It’s unclear whether authorities will increase the interval between Paul’s parole hearings. However, we are certain that, despite the pain, Kristen and Leslie’s families will avail themselves at any time to object to Paul’s release. “They’re here for their daughters, to have their daughters’ voices heard,” Danson said.