It started in May 1987 with a string of savage rapes. At least 19 females aged between 14 and 22 were attacked, but while police pulled Bernardo in on the strength of his victims’ identikit testimonies, the handsome salesman was considered too well adjusted to be a rapist.
He committed his first murder soon after.
Tammy Homolka was his fiancé Karla’s younger sister. Seventeen year old Karla—Bernardo’s first girlfriend who indulged his sadistic predilections—wanted to "give Tammy's virginity to Bernardo for Christmas", according to Invisible Darkness: The Strange Case Of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka by Stephen Williams. She planned to drug her 14-year-old sister with animal tranquiliser from the vet clinic she worked at to do so. On July 24, 1990, the pair added it to a spaghetti dinner and waited until Tammy passed out. Bernardo violently raped the teenager while her older sister egged him on and filmed the episode. When Tammy choked on her own vomit, the pair called 911—after hiding the evidence of assault. Her death was ruled an accident.
The apparently accidental death didn’t deter the cruel couple—instead, as a wedding gift, Homolka lured a 15-year-old co-worker home, drugged her and presented her to her husband to rape. Again, she took part in the assault and filmed it.
Their next victim, 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy, had been locked out of her house after missing curfew. Bernardo, passing by, picked her up and together with Homolka, proceeded to torture and rape her over two days. They eventually killed her in the basement of their home, and then hosted a family dinner upstairs. The pair dismembered Mahaffy’s body, encased it in cement and dumped it in a lake. A father and son on a fishing trip discovered a block soon after.
Homolka, a regular visitor to the local hospital thanks to injuries inflicted by her husband, eventually signed her own arrest warrant. After yet another beating, she filed battery charges against Bernardo. Her DNA taken in hospital matched DNA found on their third victim—who in turn had DNA collected—Bernardo’s—that matched to the rape victims from earlier years.
But while the pair were both arrested and charged with first-degree murder, Homolka scored a plea bargain to testify against Bernardo in exchange for a lighter sentence—despite video evidence of the blonde acting as a willing, sadistic participant that only surfaced after the deal was struck. Shown raping and torturing their victims and cheerleading her husband on in the tapes, she spent just 12 years in jail. Bernardo maintains that Homolka committed the murders.
She’s changed her name, remarried and had three children, but Homolka—now known as Leanne Bordelais—isn’t being allowed to forget her crimes. Neighbours in her Montreal suburb regularly put up signs with her victims’ names in full view of her home; reporters regularly knock on her door.
In an interview after her release, she admitted she “had done terrible things”.
“Back then I was 17 years old [in fact, she was 21]. I didn’t know much. I was afraid of being abandoned. I absolutely wanted to have a relationship,” she said.
“I did not have self-confidence. There are a lot of things about myself that I didn’t know then that I know now.”