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Paul Kenneth Bernardo

Paul Kenneth Bernardo

Paul Kenneth Bernardo, known as the “Scarborough Rapist,” is one of the worst serial sexual predators Canada has ever produced. Between 1987 and 1992, this charming and handsome accountant murdered at least three women and savagely assaulted and raped a multitude of others.  Among those he raped and killed was the younger sister of his wife, Karla Homolka, with Karla’s active compliance. Karla received a reduced sentence for agreeing to testify against her former husband and is now out of prison.

John Douglas’s FBI unit profiled the then-UNSUB after the abduction, rape, torture and murder of St. Catharine’s, Ontario schoolgirl Kristin French, and helped in tracking him down. We covered the case in our book, Journey Into Darkness.

Bernardo currently resides at Millhaven Institute in Bath, Ontario, where we hope he will remain for the rest of his natural life, though his sentence does not preclude the possibility of parole.

And it seems as if he might be about to get himself another wife.

The QMI Agency, which owns the Toronto Sun and the London Free Press, has reported that a 30-year-old London, Ontario woman intends to marry Bernardo. She has bought wedding rings and had “Paul’s girl” tattooed on her ankle. The only thing that might prevent her from going through with the nuptials is the reaction of her appalled parents. According to the published story, her father told the Sun “that his daughter is psychologically and emotionally fragile, and lacks street smarts, thus making her the perfect victim for Bernardo.”

Without knowing much more about this young lady – her name hasn’t even been released – John and I think that may be the least of her problems. Free Press reporter Randy Richmond has interviewed the woman several times and says that his sense is that she is genuinely in love with Bernardo. Richmond calls her “intelligent” and “very nice,” which makes this an even greater potential tragedy.

John and I have written extensively about women who fall in love with incarcerated killers. Most recently, we cited the pathetic young woman who wanted to marry Charles Manson who, among other issues, such as the fact that he is a deadly and self-deluding psychopath who will never leave prison alive, is much too old for her.

We have only come across one exception to the women marrying convicted killers profile. That is Lorri Davis, the smart, beautiful and committed landscape architect from New York who fell in love with West Memphis Three defendant Damien Echols while he was on death row in Arkansas. They married, and Lorri led the effort to get Damien and his two codefendants released. But here’s the big difference: Damien was innocent, and Lorri knew it.

Paul Bernardo is, like Manson, a malevolent and cunning psychopath who played on, and preyed on, human weakness and feelings of inadequacy.

Just to make sure we weren’t imposing our own confirmation bias on this situation, we called upon our friend and frequent correspondent Meg Warren, an experienced psychiatric nurse who happens to practice in London, Ontario, and asked her what she thought.

“This woman is not stupid, but sheltered, with low self-esteem and easily manipulated,” Meg agreed. “Sadly, many other women are and are therefore vulnerable to the wrong kinds of men.”

Apparently, this university-educated woman first started corresponding with Bernardo as part of a research project, and in due course he was able to convince her he was innocent.

“If it was a research project and she was being thorough, she would have known he was guilty,” Meg commented. “This guy is very charming, and at least he used to be very good-looking. People like him are very good at what they do. And what they do is attract extremely lonely women who don’t have confidence in their own attributes and social skills. Bernardo has clearly put across to her that he needs a champion, he needs a mother, he needs a wife and he needs a friend. And she is convinced that she’s going to be all of these things to him.”

We might add that it would be a sign of this woman’s naiveté to believe that one person could fulfill all of these roles to another person, even if he weren’t a predatory sexual demon. And one thing of which we can be reasonably assured, having studied his past behavior, is that this guy hasn’t changed or been improved by nearly a quarter-century in the slammer.

“I’m hoping that her parents are on top of this enough that they can talk her out of it,” said Meg.

It would be the greatest gift they could bestow upon her.

And then I’d certainly recommend following up with intensive therapy with someone like Meg who could help her come to understand why she fell in love with a monster.

8 Responses to Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner

  1. I wonder sometimes too, if it’s a sense of empowerment for women who feel very little power in their lives. On some level, they know he’s guilty, but it’s like “I’ve tamed the beast – he’s done horrible things in the past, but he’ll stop out of love for me.” And of course, because he’s incarcerated and likely will be forever, they’ll never have to put it to the test.

  2. Em says:

    In the same way that these scary relationships can form, a woman or man can become involved in any number of anti-social and/or misguided situations in life which might result in harm to others. It’s all very complex how and why this happens I think. We are, after all, individuals with such vastly different makeups through which we interact with the environment that we find ourselves in.

    Having said that it’s always with amazement that I hear about women who fall so strongly for men who’ve committed the MOST horrendous crimes – treating other humans with complete disdain and lack of feeling, treating them worse than animals should be treated.

    Mentioned by Kristin “if I love him, what the hell is wrong with me.” If only more of us would ask this question.

  3. Zeno says:

    It is very scary. How on earth is this guy even up for parole after what he did? He kidnapped,tortured and murdered two strangers.

    Funny you should mention this because I wanted to ask you about his ex wife,Karla. it is scary that she is not only out but married and raising children. She may have been the more submissive of the two killers but the evidence shows she was a willing participant. Canada had to let her out because they made a plea bargain before they found the videos that showed she not only willingly went along but encouraged him.

    Some have argued that she will not commit crimes like this again
    unless she is with someone like Berando but should this woman be not only free but raising children? She helped murder her own sister plus took part in killing two minor. That is just as disturbing as the idea as that Paul is getting remarried.

  4. Kristin says:

    It’s certainly easy to see why someone with low self-esteem who has been sheltered all her life might fall for a mildly sociopathic guy in her dating life. Those sorts of charming men who flatter and cajole and then ultimately hurt the women they say they love are, unfortunately, more common than one might think in the dating scene. But as a university educated woman who should have done her research into his case, she certainly should have been savvy enough to see his guilt! When you are desperate to be loved, however, it is very easy–frighteningly easy, actually– to justify to yourself the actions you are taking on behalf of someone who is, essentially, a monster. The psychopathology of someone who falls for sociopaths or psychopaths (both incarcerated and not) seems very similar to that of a battered woman–the fault never lies with the man himself, but with some other external factor. In her case, it is easier to take the “he was innocent and wrongly incarcerated” route than it is to really look at him and admit that he’s a monster. Along with that realization, of course, would have to come the question: “if I love him, what the hell is wrong with me.” It’s tempting to look at a woman like this and call her a deluded nut- job (or whatever our term of choice) but it’s important, I think, to remember that all human actions flow from a wellspring of our values and beliefs about ourselves–if, deep down, she feels she cannot be loved by anyone other than a psychopathic criminal, we might want to consider feeling pity for her before wondering how the hell she can be so deluded.

    • Very well said, Kristin. What you write certainly underscores Meg Warren’s point. I also wonder if one of the appeals of an incarcerated killer is that he is “safe” – in other words – he is not going to get out and force the woman to live in a normal, demanding relationship.

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