Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo failed in his second parole bid on Tuesday after the parents of two of his victims recounted the enduring pain of his twisted crimes and warned he should never be released from his life sentence.
The hearing officers of the Parole Board of Canada took about an hour before denying Bernardo release, saying they were not persuaded that he no longer posed a substantive risk of reoffending.
“Your understanding and insight remain limited,” Maureen Gauci, one of the hearing officers, said in delivering the decision.
“It was evident today that you continue to exhibit behaviours that are counter-productive to the development of insight. You have not shown the risk of offending can be managed in the community.”
Gauci promised full reasons for the decision within 15 days.
In impassioned victim-impact statements to the board, the parents of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy branded Bernardo as an incurable, sadistic psychopath who, despite decades behind bars, still poses a formidable threat. A persistent and “evil dark cloud” continues to haunt their family, Donna and Doug French told the hearing.
“For those who say time heals, they don’t know the excruciating pain that comes from such a horrific loss,” they said. “Time doesn’t heal the pain; the pain is a life sentence.”
Similarly, Debbie Mahaffy talked of the pain of having to face another hearing in which Bernardo was making a bid for freedom less than three years after his previous failed attempt.
“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,” Mahaffy said in a statement read by lawyer Tim Danson. “What does resting in peace mean when you have to relive these horrors every two or so years for the rest of our lives?”
Bernardo has been serving a life sentence for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French, 15, and Leslie Mahaffy, 14, in the early 1990s near St. Catharines, Ont. Now 56, he became eligible for parole more than three years ago but was denied release in October 2018 after the hearing officers deliberated for about 30 minutes.
His parole officer said Bernardo had made no progress or completed any programming since that first hearing.
Bernardo was planning to relocate to Kelowna, a 3,000-kilometre distance from Ontario, where he committed his crimes. He had lined up residency with the Kelowna organization, Bridges to New Life, which works with parolees to reintegrate them back into society.
In response, a fast-talking Bernardo spoke of his “stress and anxiety” at having spent more than 10,000 days without meaningful human contact, saying he had been subject to cruel and unusual punishment. He insisted he was a different person now from who he was in his 20s, saying he now knows who he is.
“I have a lot of empathy for my victims and others,” he said. “I am no longer preoccupied with fantasies. Without a doubt, I’m low-risk. I have fought all deviant sexual behaviour for two years.”
Bernardo, who said he realized he could not be like a “normal person,” denied being a psychopath or sadist. He tortured his victims only to “punish” them for defying him or not fulfilling the sexual demands to which he said he felt entitled.
“I expected to be catered to,” he said. “I was a male chauvinist pig.”
Bernardo’s deviant sex crimes over several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, some of which he videotaped, sparked widespread terror and revulsion.
Among his acts, he and his then-wife Karla Homolka kidnapped, tortured and killed Mahaffy, of Burlington, Ont., in June 1991 at their home in Port Dalhousie, Ont., before dumping her cement-encased remains in a nearby lake.
They similarly kidnapped and, after ignoring her agonized entreaties over three days, killed Kristen French in April 1992.
Dubbed the “Scarborough Rapist,” Bernardo was convicted in 1995 of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault among other offences. Most of his going-on three decades in prison have been in solitary.
“I hate him for what he did to me,” one woman whom Bernardo attacked in 1988 told the board on Tuesday. “I want him to get the help he needs and then I want him to rot in jail.”
Both the French and Mahaffy families argued the designated dangerous offender should never be released. He would surely commit new egregious crimes against children if ever allowed out, they said.
“There is no known cure for sadistic psychopathy,” Debbie Mahaffy said.
The families also argued his right to a parole hearing every two years is unconscionable. They said it should be every five years at least.
Bernardo ultimately admitted raping 14 other women. He was also convicted of manslaughter in the December 1990 death of Homolka’s younger sister, Tammy. The 15-year-old girl died after the pair drugged and sexually assaulted her.
Homolka pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served a 12-year prison sentence before release in 2005. She went on to remarry and become a mother.
“I believe I ruined her life,” Bernardo told his parole hearing, adding she was nevertheless as guilty as he was.
The French and Mahaffy families have also challenged in court their lack of access to reports or other evidence Bernardo relied on to make his case for release — even those referred to during his hearing. The parole board maintains inmate privacy trumps disclosure. A Federal Court decision on the case has been under reserve since February.