‘Absolutely no talk’ of moving Paul Bernardo to minimum security: corrections head

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Published November 27, 2023 at 3:57 pm

The commissioner of Correctional Service Canada says there is “absolutely no talk” of moving notorious serial killer and rapist Paul Bernardo to an even lower security level, following his transfer into a medium-security prison.

Anne Kelly testified at a parliamentary committee today about the decision to move Bernardo from a maximum-security prison in late May.

The move set off a political firestorm, with federal Conservatives demanding that the Liberal government ensure his return to maximum security.

The federal government maintained that the decision to transfer him was made by the independent prison authority and politicians could not interfere.

Bernardo, 59, is serving an indeterminate life sentence for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 15-year-old Kristen French and 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy in the early 1990s near St. Catharines, Ont.

He has also been connected to at least 19 rapes or attempted sexual assaults between 1988 and 1990 in Toronto and Mississauga. During this time he became known as “the Scarborough Rapist.” Bernardo was brought in as a person of interest in these attacks but was later released without charges.

He began to spend a great deal of time with his girlfriend, Karla Homolka’s, family. He became obsessed with Homolka’s 15-year-old sister, Tammy. The pair drugged and raped Tammy on Dec. 23, 1990 in the Homolka’s St. Catharines home.

During the assault, Tammy choked to death on her own vomit as a result of the drugging. However, her death was initially believed to be accidental. It was later learned the pair filmed this and their subsequent attacks.

The pair began to look for new rape victims around the time they got married. Bernardo came across Mahaffey in Burlington on June 15, 1991 and abducted her. He and Homolka raped and tortured Mahaffey. They killed her after her blindfold began to slip off. They then dismembered her body, encased her in cement and disposed of her remains in Thorold’s Lake Gibson.

Bernardo and Homolka got married two weeks later.

Next, the pair came across French in St. Catharines as she headed home from school on April 16, 1992. They worked together to kidnap French and went on to put the girl through much the same treatment they gave Mahaffey. However, French was never blindfolded leading prosecutors to argue Bernardo and French always planned on killing her. They then dumped her body in a ditch in Burlington.

Each of the three murders had taken place the day before a family holiday; Christmas, Father’s Day, and Easter. The couple spent each with Homolka’s parents.

Bernardo was interviewed by police again in May 1992 but he was not arrested until Feb. 1993, following months of investigation and surveillance. The couple filmed all of these murders. However, the tapes were well hidden and investigators did not find them until a plea bargain was reached with Homolka for a 12-year sentence. She was released in 2005 and now lives under a new name in Quebec.

On the other hand, Bernardo was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years. He was later designated a dangerous offender, meaning he will most likely die in prison. He spent a decade at the maximum-security Millhaven Institution in Bath Ont. but was moved to the medium-security La Macaza Institution in Quebec in May.

A review of the decision released in July found officials followed proper policies and said Bernardo had long met the criteria to be reclassified as a medium-security prisoner but was only moved after he proved he could integrate with other inmates.

The Canadian Press with files from Liam McConnell.

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