NAPANEE—I would like to say that prison has taken its toll on Paul Bernardo.
I would like to report that the monster inside has excreted through his pores, like viscera, and ravaged his face.
At the very least, I would like to assure that the years behind bars, in segregation, have been outwardly unkind.
But no. Astonishingly, the serial killer and serial rapist — serial psychopath — appears little changed from the man who, in 1995, was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for at least 25 years.
He tortured and murdered 15-year-old Kristen French after keeping the schoolgirl captive for three days, the teen enduring unspeakable sexual horrors.
He tortured and murdered and then dismembered the body of 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy, encasing the poor girl’s remains in blocks of cement that were tossed into a St. Catharines lake.
And still that boyish face … the same harmless-looking face he turned to Leslie on the night he spotted the Grade 9 student outside her home in Burlington, locked out, and offered a cigarette, the smokes back in his car, instead forcing her into the vehicle ….
If only the savages among us looked like what they are.
Guilty on two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping, forcible confinement, aggravated sexual assault, and one count of committing an indignity to a human body. All of it, but for the actual killings, captured on video — pre-selfie days, unprecedented for Canadian courts — and played for the jury.
Aided and abetted, in the kidnapping of French, by his odious wife Karla Homolka, his partner in crime and sexual assault and killing. Homolka’s younger sister Tammy violated, too, as she lay drugged and unconscious — the added-on “manslaughter” charge.
The Scarborough Rapist, ultimately admitting to 14 increasingly violent sexual attacks, resulting in Bernardo being designated a dangerous offender, making the possibility of parole, ever, highly unlikely.
But who knows?
I wanted to see what he looks like today, the only reason for attending a hearing at the Napanee courthouse on Friday morning, where it was known in advance that Bernardo would appear only by video link from nearby Millhaven Institution.
It was a set-date for trial on a charge of possessing a weapon, described in the police information as a homemade shank composed of a screw and a pen for a handle, for the purpose of committing an offence.
What does it matter to Bernardo, a criminal footnote to his record, should he be found guilty, except as one further strike against him at any future parole bid? As a dangerous offender, a classification reserved for the most violent criminals, he can be kept incarcerated by the state until he rots to death.
This hearing sputtered to a start, court officials struggling with the technology of beaming Bernardo into the courthouse from the “Keeper’s Hall” at Millhaven and then all but giving up, Justice Geoffrey Griffin prepared to set a trial-date without participation by the defendant, if his lawyer (who sent a representative) was agreeable.
And then suddenly the screen came to life.
And there was Bernardo, grinning, wearing a blue T-shirt, his hair a darker shade than the styled blond of 23 years ago, a mousy brown.
Older, obviously, middle-aged at 53, but very much a recognizable Bernardo.
Apologies from Griffin, who wondered how long Bernardo had been sitting in that small room.
“Over an hour.”
But, hey, that was an hour he wasn’t sitting in his lockdown cell.
Bernardo assured that he could see the courtroom, as we could see him.
That was creepy.
Arched an eyebrow when Griffin suggested a trial date in late October.
“Your honour, I have a parole date in October and I would like to have the matter dealt with before then. Is that possible?”
Bernardo became eligible for day parole in 2015 and eligible for full parole this past February, marking a quarter-century since the date of his arrest.
While that distressing possibility hovers over the French and Mahaffy families — and the multiple other sex assault victims — Bernardo has on several occasions over the past year withdrawn and postponed parole court dates. The hearing is now tentatively scheduled for October, as he said.
Bernardo and Homolka — she has been free since 2005, upon completion of her 12-year sentence, an outrageously light punishment secured in a notorious “deal with the devil,” remarried and is the mother of three – is arguably the most heinous of serial murderers in Canadian legal history, certainly the worst of his era (before the likes of Robert Pickton, Russell Williams and Luka Magnotta came along, perhaps to be overtaken in the annals of crime by Bruce McArthur, who is charged with eight murders, allegedly preying on victims in Toronto’s Gay Village).
It’s unknown whether the other cretins receive fan mail, as Bernardo has. One of his ardent media-seeking devotees, Michelle Erstikaitis, who described herself as Bernardo’s “super-fan,” has since been declared a dangerous offender, too, most recently charged with attempted murder after pushing into the U.S. consular office on University Ave., allegedly swinging a knife that narrowly missed a security guard’s throat, and allegedly shouting: “ISIS is coming to kill you!”
Another sycophant — “Paul’s girl” tattooed on her ankle — who claimed, a few years ago, that she had become engaged to Bernardo, although there’s no evidence of prison nuptials.
How he must quicken to the ardor of deranged groupies!
A trial date on the weapon charge has been set for October 5.
“There you go Mr. Bernardo,” said Griffin. “You will be brought to court in person.”
Bernardo: “Okay, thank you, your honour.”
See ya, sack of s–t.