Paul Bernardo was a serial rapist, terrifying women in Scarborough, Canada. He shared his shocking secret with his then girlfriend, Karla Homolka and together they raped and murdered 3 girls, including Karla’s younger sister.
Karla’s confession is a must-hear experience as she tries to portray herself as the victim, despite playing her part in these terrible crimes.
But is she telling the truth?
Listen to the tapes and judge for yourself.
Plus, our News section covers a suspected serial killer protesting his innocence, two female serial killers fighting to be top dog in one of Britain’s toughest jails, what police found inside the home of the suspected Golden State Killer and New Zealand’s first serial killer released from jail.
See below for more information about Bernardo and Homolka from Amanda’s book, Killer Minds
Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka
‘We raped a little girl … in my room. You … found her …I was shocked. I gave you that. I let you do that because I love you. Because you’re the king’ Homolka
‘Obviously, looking back, I had a problem with sexuality. It’s hard to explain … I was enjoying myself’ Bernardo
Paul Bernardo was conceived illegitimately in Ontario, Canada, when his mother, Marilyn Bernardo, returned to the comfort of a previous boyfriend after problems in her marriage. Marilyn’s husband, Kenneth Bernardo, was an abusive man who was known by neighbours to be a peeping tom. When Marilyn had found him fondling their baby daughter, she left him and sought out an ex-lover. However, she returned to live with her husband once again and Paul was born, believing Kenneth was his father. It was only years later, during a violent argument with his mother, that the teenage boy discovered the truth about his real father.
By the time he was at university, Paul had grown bored of normal sex and preferred to dominate submissive women, demanding anal sex and fellatio. He would also beat up his numerous girlfriends and urinated and defecated on them during sex. In October 1987, 23-year-old Paul Bernardo was working at a large Toronto accounting firm when he met Karla Homolka.
Karla Leanne Homolka was born on 4 May 1970 in Port Credit, Ontario. She was the eldest of three daughters born to Dorothy and Karel Homolka. The family lived in St Catherines, Ontario where Karla first became interested in working with animals. While still in high school she got a part-time job working at a veterinary clinic. After leaving school she started at another clinic as a full-time veterinary assistant.
Homolka was attending a vet conference in Toronto when she was spotted by Bernardo across a room. The seventeen year old was besotted by the attention from the older man. He was an attractive, successful businessman in her eyes and she soon told her friends she had met the man she was going to marry. The pair spent the first night together in a hotel room having rough, fervent sex for hours. The relationship was sexually charged from the very beginning and Bernardo gave Homolka a list of demands and instructions on how she should behave and dress and things he wanted her to do for and to him.
When Bernardo failed the exam to become an accountant he decided he could earn more money in other ways and soon began trafficking stolen goods across the American/Canadian border.
After a few years together Homolka made plans for a wedding to match the fairy-tale romance she was living, even as their sexual relationship grew more sadistic. Homolka started to encourage Bernardo’s deviant behaviour: ‘Karla, handcuffed, on her knees and begging for him, was scratching an itch. Paul asked her what she would think if he was a rapist. She would think it was cool. Their love deepened. He started raping women in earnest’ as the unidentified Scarborough rapist.
From May 1987, Bernardo had savagely raped several women. He would often attack his victims from behind, grabbing them after they had stepped off a bus in a secluded area. He anally raped most his victims and forced them to perform fellatio before letting them go. One of the victims was able to get a look at her attacker and went to police with the description.
Many of Bernardo’s friends made jokes about how much the picture looked like him, but a few took it seriously enough to report him to the police. Police visited Bernardo and was asked to provide saliva, blood and sperm samples for DNA comparison. However, the samples were lost.
By December 1990, Karla’s parents were happy that their eldest daughter had found such a handsome successful young man; Karla’s younger sister Tammy was also thrilled, yet she was to become the couple’s first victim.
On 23 December 1990, Bernardo slipped a few sedatives into Tammy’s drinks. He was frustrated that he wasn’t his fiancé’s first lover and so he wanted to take Tammy’s virginity. Karla held a cloth soaked in halothane over her sister’s nose and mouth. Tammy passed out from the drug quickly and Bernardo began the attack. Homolka filmed the abuse while she monitored Tammy’s breathing. Homolka encouraged Bernardo to rape and sodomise her sister. Bernardo pushed Homolka’s face towards her sister’s vagina and told her to perform cunnilingus. Homolka refused several times before Bernardo became abusive, hitting her over the back of the head as he forced her closer to her sister’s vagina. Tammy began to vomit and her head lolled forward blocking her airway. Karla redressed her sister and turned her upside down in an attempt to clear her airways.
Unfortunately, Tammy fell into a coma. After hiding the videotapes, the couple called the paramedics and woke the family. The ambulance team attempted to revive the comatose girl without success. The family was questioned regarding any possibility that that Tammy had taken anything besides alcohol—she had a huge purple stain around her mouth that suggested drug ingestion. Karla and Paul claimed that Tammy had only been drinking ‘screwdrivers’ but had drunk quite a few. In the end, Tammy’s death was declared an accident and no toxicology tests were conducted. The purple stain was explained away as an acid burn from the vomiting.
One day, in January, Bernardo made a big announcement. He told Karla’s parents that he was moving out and Karla was to go with him. The pair found a house in Port Dalhousie and moved in soon after Tammy’s funeral. Paul continued to earn money by smuggling cigarettes and other merchandise across the border. The money was lucrative but Karla was concerned that it would bring unwanted attention from the police.
Bernardo spent a lot of time away from their new home and continued raping women and girls he found walking home at night-time. One evening, Homolka called Bernardo’s mobile phone and told him she had a gift waiting for him. Bernardo arrived home and discovered a pretty teenage girl unconscious in their house. Karla had coerced Tammy’s girlfriend Jane over and drugged her. She had thought that if she could find virginal victims for her fiancé then he may stay home and perhaps treat her better. Bernardo enjoyed his gift. He first made Homolka perform cunnilingus on their sleeping victim, and then raped the girl before sodomising her. But Karla’s plan did not work; it did not stop him from going out and raping victims.
On Friday 14 June 1991, Leslie Mahaffy spent the evening with friends and ignored her parents 10 p.m. curfew. Her parents had asked her to be home early and to remain in a group. The Scarborough Rapist had been attacking victims more frequently and they were naturally concerned for their daughter’s safety. But Leslie did not share their worry and 10 p.m. came and went. It was not until 2 a.m. that Leslie decided it was time to head home. When she arrived at her front door she found that her parents had locked her out, in an attempt to teach her a lesson.
Bernardo spotted Leslie. He grabbed her at knifepoint as she walked by. He drove her to his house, where he forced her to strip naked as he filmed the terrified girl. He blindfolded the teenager and made her lie down. As he went to penetrate her vaginally he climaxed. Bernardo was furious at himself for ejaculating so quickly and took his anger out on the young woman, beating her savagely across her back and head. Karla heard the commotion in the lounge-room and went to see what Bernardo was doing. According to Homolka, ‘We raped a little girl down here in my room. You went out and you found her. Got her. Brought her back to the house, brought her downstairs. I was shocked. I gave you that. I let you do that because I love you. Because you’re the king’. Bernardo was pleased that Homolka had woken up; he now had two women under his control.
He grabbed the video camera and directed his fiancé to engage in various sexual positions with their captive. Bernardo then sodomised and raped Leslie before murdering her. Her remains where encased in concrete and thrown off a bridge on Lake Gibson. The same day the girl’s body was found, the couple were married.
On 30 November 1991, five months after Leslie’s murder, 14-year-old Terri Anderson disappeared. The young girl’s naked body was found in the waters of Port Dalhousie six months later on 23 May 1992, a month after the body of the killers’ third victim was found. Though no charges were ever laid for the murder of Terri, many investigators believe that Bernardo and Homolka were to blame.
Kristen French was abducted on 16 April 1992 and taken to the killer couple’s home. For two days she was subjected to rape, sodomy and torture before the couple murdered her. Her body was found in a ditch near the Port Dalhousie lake two weeks later.
By February of 1993, Bernardo, as the Scarborough Rapist, had raped dozens women and had murdered several teen girls, yet police were no closer to catching him. That was until Paul brutally beat Karla. She called the police and charged him with assault and battery. Using Karla as a punching bag proved to be Paul’s fatal mistake. The physical abuse had been going on for years, but this time he blackened both her eyes, knocked out several teeth, and fractured several ribs. Homolka called the police who investigated the matter, taking the badly beaten woman to the hospital. Toronto detectives interviewed her at length as she began to tell them about the life she had led in the control of her sexually abusive husband. Piece by piece, the rapidly materialising jigsaw depicting Paul Bernardo as a serial killer were falling into place.
When Karla’s favourite uncle arrived at the hospital she whispered to him that Paul was the Scarborough Rapist and he had killed Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Bernardo was arrested on 10 February and charged with the Scarborough rapes and the murders of Leslie and Kristen. Karla became afraid of being pursued as an accomplice, so Karla made a deal where she would plead guilty to being an accomplice and received twelve years in penal servitude for each of the two victims in exchange for giving police the evidence they needed against Bernardo. Had the videotapes been viewed before the deal was made, a completely different outcome may have been achieved.
Twenty-five-year-old Homolka was convicted in 1993 of manslaughter and sentenced to twelve years in prison. She was released from prison in July 2005. The Canadian government placed restrictions on her parole and she has been in the media many times since her release. Reports claim the woman, who helped murder at least two girls, is now a mother.
Thirty-one-year-old Bernardo, in the face of the evidence from his wife, pleaded not guilty. His defence was that both girls had died while he was out of the house. He claimed that Homolka was responsible for their murders. However, he was found guilty of the murders and admitted to fourteen sexual assaults. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison, under a ‘dangerous offender’ classification, meaning he is to never be released. He has since been questioned about several other disappearances but he has refused to admit to any further murders.
The St Catherines home once owned by Bernardo and Homolka was torn down following the sentencing of the killers.