The boy next door - an in depth look.
Criminal Behaviours explores the life of Serial killer & Serial Rapist Paul Bernardo.
Name - Paul Kenneth Bernardo
Aka - The Scarborough Rapist - The Schoolgirl Killer - Paul Jason Teale
Born - 27th August 1964
Ethnicity - White - English/Italian
Place of Birth - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Classification - Serial Killer, Serial Rapist
Victim Pool - Females aged between 14 - 25, Targets young women/teenage girls walking/travelling alone.
M.O. - Sexual, Aspects of dominance & control, sadistic.
Charged with -
2 counts of 1st degree murder
2 counts of aggravated sexual assault
2 counts of kidnapping & forcible confinement
1 count of committing an indignity to a body.
Nature of crimes -
Rape/ Rape of a minor
Assault & Sexual assault
indignity to a dead body
Plea and sentencing -
Arrested - 17th February 1993
Sentenced - 1st September 1995
Time to serve -25 years +
Plead - Not Guilty 4th May 1994
Found - Guilty on all charges 1st September 1995
Time Served - 24 years as of March 2020 still incarcerated
Classified as Dangerous Offender 5th November 1995 release is unlikely.
Some names of victims have been changed to protect the identity of these people as not all of Pauls victims want to be known.
This article does not go into depth about the individual crimes Paul committed but it does give a brief overview on some of them.
It will mainly focus on the potential causes and explanations for Pauls overall personality and behaviours that resulted in him committing such acts.
Warning some aspects and images of this article are disturbing, those of a sensitive nature may not want to read on.
Pauls childhood seemed on the outside to be a normal one, he lived at home with his mother and father with two older siblings, Dave the eldest boy and Debbie the middle child and finally Paul the youngest of the Bernardos.
Outwardly the family presented themselves well. They had a nice property, with a pool and plenty of space in a better part of the neighbourhood.
There was Marilyn Bernardo (Pauls mother) depicting the doting housewife who donated her spare time to be a Girl Guide Leader.
Then his father Kenneth Bernardo a well respected hard working accountant during the day and a family man during his time off.
But not all is as it seems, because behind closed doors it was another story, one of neglect, abuse, alcoholism and arguments. In order to understand the home dynamics of Pauls childhood a brief look at his parents situation before his birth is key.
Pauls mother lacked self confidence and would often tell friends she was thankful that her husband loved her enough to marry her. Although friends of hers at the time said she wasn't always like this and her confidence depleted after she married Kenneth Bernardo.
He was a heavy drinker, controlling, physically & verbally abusive towards Marilyn with accounts dating back to just before the birth of their son David (Dave) in 1961, but she would stay with him out of love and in the hopes things were going to improve. She went on to have a second child with Kenneth in 1962, their daughter Deborah (Debbie).
Marilyn was at a low point in her marriage, fed up of being ignored and beaten she started having an affair with an old boyfriend of hers. She fell pregnant and on the 27th August 1964 Marilyn Bernardo gave birth to her third child Paul Kenneth Bernardo.
Pauls birth had complications and he suffered with Aphasia caused by lack of oxygen to his brain, he also had a physical deformity on the roof of his mouth. But other than this he was mostly a healthy child.
Growing up in a middle class home in Guildwood, Scarborough just east of Toronto. Paul was the youngest in the family he was remembered by neighbours as an adorable young boy with gorgeous blonde hair and bright blue eyes.
Although Marilyn had an affair she stayed with Kenneth, the abuse would continue and she became heavily withdrawn and depressed in turn neglecting her children, herself and her home.
This abuse was something the children would witness throughout their childhood. As the marriage became more strained they started to sleep in separate beds. Marilyn converting the basement into her new bedroom while Kenneth remained upstairs in the main bedroom.
The children would go without meals, or clean clothes, Paul got teased as a young child for being smelly because his clothes were not washed regularly and the home itself was generally unclean. This had an effect on his confidence and he became quite isolated meaning he didn't spend as much time as the average child would developing social skills or meaningful connections with his peers.
To make matters worse Pauls father Kenneth had started to sexually abuse his sister Debbie, it was not something that went unnoticed by Paul and his brother, nor Marilyn. Kenneth would even sit on the sofa during family film nights while Marilyn and the boys watch on, he would molest his daughter under a blanket. Deborah would have to draw the curtains when she got dressed because Kenneth would try to look in and masturbate by the window. She would sleep with empty cans and food wrappers in her bed and strewn around the room so that if he tried to get into her room she would hear him and wake up.
Kenneth had also been reported to the police by a neighbour after she saw him in a parked car in his pyjamas trying to peer through her windows.
Paul as a young adult
Around the age of 15 Paul discovered he was the product of an affair, after his mother told him this she began to outwardly reject him, and would call him names like "the bastard child from hell". This deeply affected Paul he in turn rejected his mother completely and referred to her as "it" to his friends.
Despite all of this chaos and depravity at home during his early teens Paul would appear to friends and peers as though he was doing okay, he had a close set of friends at school but was liked by most people, he made an effort to look presentable and clean, he was relatively well liked by girls, and was maintaining good grades.
Nothing in his public life would suggest he had come from the home he had.
However his close friends would get glimpses into his home life observing snippets of the chaos and abuse he lived in.
During the summers of his teen years he would work as a summer camp counsellor who was very "kind, gentle and helpful to children" - Vronsky.P(2015) becoming very popular there.
He would later go on to be involved with Christian television broadcasting and earned himself a good reputation as a baby face with a kind heart.
However there were still some clear red flags that all was not well with Paul, he had been amassing a collection of pornographic images since around the age of 10, as he got older these images were not enough to satisfy him and he desired more realistic depictions of women.
Neighbours caught him on a few occasions peeping through women's windows, one even commenting like father like son after reporting him to the police.
By the age of 19 Paul had gone on to study in accountancy at the University of Toronto like his father Kenneth and aspired to get a job in a local accountants firm. While a student he dated a young lady who would later testify in court regarding their sex life being abnormal and heavily based around scripted violence, featuring things such as strangulation with chords and sodomy at knife point.
Paul was smuggling cigarettes on the side as a way to make money he made regular trips across the border and even when working as a qualified accountant he would still supplement his income with his shady dealings.
Karla and Pauls story begins on October 17th 1987, at the Howard Johnson Hotel. A 23 year old Paul and his friend Van met Karla then 17 and her friend Debbie at a bar in the hotel while they were attending a veterinary conference. The same night Karla and Paul have sex. They exchange numbers and arrange to meet up again.
This was something Pauls friends would later claim was unusual as Paul never seemed to get attached to the girls he dated or had sex with.
A possible explanation for this is that Paul is whats classed as a high dominance male. These males are very rarely attracted to females for any amount of significant time unless that female is also a high dominance female, which Karla was, she was known by friends to be tough, popular, attractive, straight talking but fair.
Over the next few months Karla and Paul start dating.
Paul would drive to see Karla a few times a week and they became inseparable.
She was said to of adored Paul and it seemed he felt the same way about her.
Karlas family accepted Paul with open arms and were very happy for their daughter despite the 6 year age gap they felt Paul was well suited for her and had good prospects being an accountant. Shortly after this he would move into the Homolkas home with Karla living with her, her siblings and her parents.
They had a very adventurous sex life Karlas friends had noticed handcuffs in her room and questioned her about them. She explained to them that Paul liked to play games in bed. A few of her friends recall she was very comfortable in talking about their kinky sex life. He seemed to be making her happy so they didn't question it.
On the 9th of December 1989 Paul and Karla are on a trip and visit Niagara Falls where Paul proposes to her. Although it seems his life was going well he was cheating on Karla at points in the relationship and had also begun to stalk and rape young girls at bus stops early on in his relationship with Karla. At this point Karla was not aware of this behaviour.
She becomes more aware of his lust for young girls after spotting him peeping through her 12 year old sister Tammys bedroom window as she's getting changed.
A scene somewhat reminiscent of his father Kenneths past behaviours towards Pauls sister Deborah.
His relationship overall with Karla was a rocky one, outwardly appearing like the perfect couple but again behind closed doors it was a story of chaos, abuse and sexual deprivation.
Karla would begin to join in with Pauls crimes seemingly in an attempt to keep him interested in her this begins when she becomes extremely jealous of the attention Paul is giving her little sister Tammy. Resulting in them planning to rape Tammy while shes unconscious something that would ultimately cause Tammys death and spark the beginning of a series of murders involving Paul and Karla.
To learn more about the couples dynamics and crimes checkout The Barbie and Ken Killers
Missed opportunities and red flags
On a number of occasions Paul Bernardos name was bought up to police in relation to physically and sexually aggressive behaviours.
As well as being a good fit for com-posit sketches released at that time of the suspected Scarborough rapist.
Despite this he still went undetected for nearly 4 years, something that over time would seem to increase his confidence when committing the crimes making him become more brazen, nearer the end of this spree he was snatching girls openly in broad daylight.
January 1988 - informal statement. A young female we will call Ms. A approached a friend for some advice on a man she had been dating since the early months of 1987. He had become aggressive towards her and the incidents were getting progressively worse, he had assaulted her on a few occasions some requiring her to attend a hospital and others involving a knife he was also making some worrying sexual requests.
She approached her friend who was also an off duty police officer about this man she had been dating who she had loaned money to. She wanted to end the relationship and recover the money but was afraid. Explaining to her friend that because he has assaulted her in the past she had concerns he may do something to her if she tried to leave him.
Once hearing what Ms A had to say about this man she made a supplementary report to the Toronto police the report reads as follows
"METROPOLITAN TORONTO POLICE SUPPLEMENTARY REPORT, SEXUAL ASSAULT 22 Jan 1988 Possible suspect: Paul Kenneth Bernardo, 24 yrs, 21 Sir Raymond Dr (Guildwood & Galloway M/W, 6", 180 lbs, light brown collar length hair, clean shaven, mole under nose, slightly crooked nose, ukn. eyes, no accent; no scars/tattoo. wears: right hand gold ring with 3 diamonds; possibly a high school ring with red stone. drives: white capri unk. lic. knife: stiletto type (blade not folding) in dark leather case." Dated Jan 1988
On two other occasions Paul was reported by those who knew him personally after they saw his uncanny resemblance to the composite sketch released in the paper of the Scarborough rapist. One of those people being his closest friend Van.
On the first occasion friends had reported their concerns to the police, they interviewed him and took samples for DNA testing and he was released with no further action taken.
It would take 2 years for those samples to be run through CODIS where they came up as a match with sample found at the crime scenes of the Scarborough rapist.
The second time being a few years later where his best friend could no longer deny that Paul seemed to fit the media reports and he reported him, the police again attended his home took at statement and left with no arrest made.
Due to many missed opportunities Paul was able to carry on his spree of terror, most likely inflating his sense of self and confidence due to the fact he was seemingly getting away with his crimes easily, even with Police investigation into him.
This breakdown will focus only on behaviours and situations that there is evidence or testimony of.
It is not a diagnosis but a possible explanation of Paul Bernardos behaviours and crimes based on what is currently understood about his crimes, his past and his time since being incarcerated.
All sources of information are available at the end of the article in the reference section.
Paul’s crimes were premeditated, planned, methodical and occurred on a frequent basis progressively getting worse in severity spiking after the murder of Tammy Homolka.
They happened in a variety of locations beginning in his hometown, some taking place in the USA others in Canada, but the majority taking place in his town of residence, including in his own home. Although he remained somewhat geographically distanced from the majority of the rapes he committed, he chose to commit 2 of his most heinous crimes in his own home.
He took time to cover up his crimes and hide evidence. He took extra steps to make sure most of his rape victims didn't see his face or find anyway of identifying him.
He also kept trophies (the tapes), which is something serial killers will often do, usually leaving a direct link between them and their victims. This is somewhat contradictory behaviour, due to him taking the time to cover up the rest of the crimes to avoid detection, but then also keeping part of the crime scene close to him. However, it is something that happens in many crimes of this nature.
Paul displays a significant number of traits and behaviours linked with psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder. One of the things that can make people like this so dangerous, is their ability to fit in. They can become almost chameleon like and learn to blend into the crowd, or to go unnoticed. An example of this is Gary Ridgeway, who for decades went undetected, due to his ability to come across as a regular, everyday, harmless person.
Because of this adaptability, people with these traits tend to be quite charming and easy to talk to. They will seem friendly and inviting lulling a person into a false sense of security.
This is where psychopaths differ to sociopaths. A sociopath is less likely to feel comfortable and less able to adapt their personality to fit into a variety of social situations, which would be easily manageable for a person with psychopathy. A psychopath, in many cases, will be in control of whatever is happening at that point whereas a sociopath would be less adaptive and more rigid in their approaches to socialisation.
Studies show that factor 1 psychopaths can cognitively identify with empathy and sympathy in a controlled, non-reactive situation, meaning they have the ability to temporarily appear as though they have compassion. This gives them some leeway into building superficial connections with people, making them appear normal and trustworthy and is a learned behaviour.
"Certain elements of psychopathy, in particular, those related to factor 1 including deceptiveness, manipulativeness, and callousness, may play a role in facilitating affective mimicry. Successful affective mimicry (drawing from Frank1988and Jones2014) would allow these individuals to appear more trustworthy than they would appear otherwise, which may help them to manipulate and deceive others for their own benefit. Of course, affective mimicry is only one of many possible strategies for avoiding detection (Jonason and Webster2012)" - Book, A. et al.(2015)
Paul does this on many occasions in interviews. He comes across as friendly and diplomatic while the whole time he has an underlying agenda. He demonstrates this during a police interview in 2007.
In this interview, Paul is very much in control of the conversation. For instance, he is questioned regarding the unsolved case of Elisabeth Bain. He is asked if he killed her, at which point he redirects, explaining why it’s pointless for him to answer, and turns the interview back to a question directed to the investigator.
He does this for several minutes, a cat and mouse technique in which he manages to avoid answering the original question. He does this throughout the interview, and it takes him a total of 18 minutes before he finally gives them a straight answer to the question he is asked.
He stays calm throughout the interview. Rather than answering questions, he spends most of the time giving explanations into why he should not be questioned about this, considering they never believe what he says anyway.
Detective Hoover asks Paul, “Did you kill Elizabeth Bain on June the 19th 1990?” Paul’s reply is somewhat long winded, and ends with him deflecting the question onto issues of credibility between him, the State and Karla:
“well that’s a loaded question I mean are we gonna’ go back and go through the time sequence of what happened in my life? I could just give a yes or no answer but you know there’s a lot of issues about that, you know the Karlas’ or my role, or who did what, where, when that’s why I said did you guys you know, go down there to get a polygraph to see if she’s telling the truth?” . . .
“I’m not making frivolous points here, I mean and now you’re asking me after you said Peel Regional said I’m lying about this and then you’re saying I’m lying about my profile, you’re saying I’m lying if I’m better or not, now you’re saying hey did you kill this person I mean well you’re saying I’m lying here; here; and here, I could say I didn’t but, I mean you already said I’m lying” – Paul Bernardo (2007)
These are tactics used to discredit a person. Paul is attempting to discredit the investigation by implying the detectives are confused about his credibility and use it when it suits them. If this was true, Paul may view this as a flaw in their investigation and try to take advantage of this.
Paul is a very manipulative person at times and seems to try to talk and charm his way out of things, giving the impression that he may understand the other person’s feelings when the truth is, he doesn’t care and is only interested in what he will gain from the process. When he eventually realises they are not going to give into his ideas that his statement is pointless, he begins to finally answer the questions directly and efficiently.
Paul is very much focused on himself. While incarcerated, he has expressed in police interviews that he feels somewhat mistreated and knows he’s “made mistakes” in the past, referring to his 14 counts of rape and 3 counts of murder, but thinks he should be given the benefit of the doubt at times. This is a very typical display of a person who has no empathy, sympathy or acknowledgement for the damage they have done to others. He feels somewhat entitled, although he is imprisoned due to his own heinous actions, actions he has yet to show remorse for.
As explained above, those with psychopathic traits are able to mimic emotions and feelings they don’t have themselves in order to make others feel as though they are more normal emotionally. These are constructed emotions and are superficial. They will only display these behaviours when there is some form of benefit or gain to them.
The way you would be able differentiate between a person who genuinely feels things such as compassion, to someone who is only displaying it superficially, would be to look at their patterns of behaviours. Things such as how frequently have you observed them showing compassion to others? Is that action prompted by a social pressure, or is it something they did unprompted? Is this a new thing for them, a one off? Do they gain from their show of emotion? These kinds of observations can distinguish a person’s overall intentions to others and give insight into how they manage their emotions in relation to personal gain or true selfless giving.
This is a trait Paul recently displayed at a hearing for day release in 2018 where he claimed that he cried “daily” over the things he had done to his victims, in attempts to present evidence of remorse for his crimes.
Historically there is no record of this. To date he has not apologised for the things he has done, nor are there any records suggesting that he has displayed remorse elsewhere or afterwards. These are ‘one off’ claims which he is using as a tool to try to gain from.
Not only is this selfish, it is also very cruel to the victims of the families. It is yet another display of him using their daughters’ lives and deaths as a tool for personal gain, not the actions of a person with true empathy or sympathy for the victims of their actions.
Paul was denied the day release and under no circumstances will he be released for any amount of time in the near future, or quite possibly, ever.
Developing the mask
The need for control and dominance is a continual pattern in Pauls life something we see developing early on. His maternal care and relationship with his mother is mostly non existent and becomes even more disconnected as he grows older, the primary examples he is given by the man of the house Kenneth is that women are objects you can use and abuse no matter their age (in relation to his abuse of Deborah)
The long term effects of this start to manifest. It appears to begin during his early teen life and remains a key point in regards to the choices he will make in the future and his internal battle with having complete control of his situation and the people in his life.
We know very early on his home-life was chaotic which spilled over into his school life, he was teased about his appearance and unsightly smells something at that time he had no control over, something that also really impacted his behaviour causing him to feel isolated and rejected.
It is know from studies into isolation in adolescence that prolonged periods of isolation and feelings of rejection can have a detrimental effect on a child's ability to socially develop in a healthy way causing their future relationships to feel fractured and somewhat disconnected.
However not all children who experience isolation and rejection early on will become socially isolated and unable to function in social situations as they grow older.
"In contrast, it would appear that there is no “normative” pattern for changes in social withdrawal over time. That is, some children appear to be consistently and stably non-withdrawn while other children, at least in the present study, exhibited increasing or decreasing patterns of withdrawal that were predicted by earlier family and child characteristics." Booth-Laforce, C., & Oxford, M. L. (2008)
Due to his age he was dependant on his primary caregivers to provide a stable home. His experiences were linked to negative outcomes resulting in him becoming isolated and withdrawn. At one point he runs away from home for a few days & no one in the family attempts to look for him seemingly no one cared, he later returns of his own accord.
Children in situations like this also learn how to self regulate their emotions making them able to suppress specific needs such as human affection in turn it can impact their understanding of things such as compassion and relationships. This can make them quite detached people with distorted ideas of what intimacy is and how to respond to it socially.
As he gets older the physical evidence of the effects of this start to decrease, it seems he is developing his social coping mechanisms as he becomes more independent and we see that outwardly his appearance changes, he becomes well turned out, his grades are consistently good he focuses on maintaining a superficial identity of a well put together intelligent and charismatic young man who could very easily appear to come from a loving stable home. And it gets him positive results.
These are the first indications that he is developing a need for control and what he perceives as stability because he can manipulate the outcome avoiding feelings of rejection while also gaining friends and fitting in. A technique that would later help him go undetected.
He has learned how to adapt his behaviours to fit in with a situation he may not naturally fit into, this is a demonstration of the chameleon like qualities that can develop over time for a person who has experienced prolonged neglect in an attempt to take back control and regain confidence Contributing to the likelihood of a person developing antisocial type personality traits.
Language and communication
The way in which Paul constructs his use of words and the language he uses when discussing his crimes are typical of someone with traits of psychopathy.
His words are directive, instrumental and purposeful. He discusses his assaults in a flat matter of fact way, like you would if you were explaining your morning routine.
This is a demonstration of the disconnection between his crimes and his emotions. Its shows that he doesn't consider his victims to be anything more than objects that he can use to attain a goal or desired outcome.
They were merely just part of a plan, a means to an end.
In a comparison he see's them as of no more importance than the cheese he sliced for his sandwich earlier that day.
They were their to fulfil a hunger and nothing more and become useless to him after the fact, in this case the hunger would be his sexual gratification.
Studies have found these verbal and emotional disconnections to be a typical use of language in people with traits of psychopathy especially when trying to describe emotionally fuelled situations they will pause more between words while they try to connect the emotion to the word something that doesn't naturally come to them.
"Psychopaths (relative to their counterparts) included more rational cause‐and‐effect descriptors (e.g., ‘because’, ‘since’), focused on material needs (food, drink, money), and contained fewer references to social needs (family, religion/spirituality). Psychopaths’ speech contained a higher frequency of disfluencies (‘uh’, ‘um’) indicating that describing such a powerful, ‘emotional’ event to another person was relatively difficult for them." - Hancock, J.et al. (2011)
The biological considerations
When looking into a criminal like Paul Bernardo all angles must be considered when establishing a possible reasoning for his choices and crimes. One of these considerations is the potential biological explanations for things such as violence. And how certain combinations of biological and social factors can contribute to a person being more likely to develop violent tendencies in later life.
An example of this are the Studies carried out by Adrian Raine an expert criminologist & researcher.
Raines study on 4,269 males from birth to adolescence, found that those males who had a combination of both birth complications and maternal rejection were more likely to grow up to be violent offenders.
"The results were striking. . . the first three groups did not differ significantly from each other, with rates of violence at about 3 percent. It was the fourth bio-social group - the one with both the biological and social hits - that had the highest rates of violence. This group had three times the average of the other three groups" Raine, A.(2013)
However the limitations of this study mean it can only really be applied to white males as the sample size was largely this, but in this instance in regard to Paul who fits this sample criteria it could be applied as a possible factor or contribution to his behaviours later on in life.
How would this relate back to Paul Bernardo?
When we look at the circumstances surrounding Pauls conception (illegitimate child the product of an affair), his mothers overall attitude towards him being of resentment; which is outwardly displayed as he gets older and learns of his real father; his obvious verbal disrespect of his mother showing he reciprocates this resentment.
Plus the fact he also had birth complications suffering Aphasia from lack of oxygen to the brain during his birth. (This lack of oxygen to a newborns brain is something we already know can affect the development of a healthy brain causing mild to severe health problems in the future.)
You can see he would easily fall into this category, potentially laying the foundations for a person like Paul to develop violent tendencies.
This does not by any means provide a definite explanation as to why Paul became the person he is today, it merely gives us a suggestion that his particular biological and social situation could of laid the foundations in his early life that would make him more susceptible to carrying out acts of violence later in life.
In conclusion there were many indicators in Paul's childhood that would suggest his social and emotional development was affected negatively by the things he experienced in early life as well as some of the biological implications of his infant life possibly having a prolonged effect on the his developing brain.
These things would then manifest themselves within Paul as a variety of distorted and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self regulating his emotions, his distinct hatred and disrespect of women most likely stemming from his interactions with a seemingly uncaring mother who saw him as no more than an illegitimate burden, mixed with the sexual depravity displayed in the home by his father.
This systematic exposure to varying abusive behaviours resulted in a cold numb person who developed ways of controlling their own emotions and also other people through mimicking emotions and behaviours he lacked in his family life such as affection and adoration.
Just like we saw with Karla he wowed her with gifts and words of beauty, making her feel so special that she felt she would do anything to keep him and got overwhelmingly jealous at the thought of another woman having him, something that eventually leads him to violence and sexual depravity in order to contain that control he has established over her.
He seems excited sexually by the act of dominance and control rather than the act of sex itself, but at the same time its taking more and more extreme behaviours to meet this desire and feel satisfaction suggesting he was also becoming numb to his own actions having to seek out greater stimulation to get the same level of sexual gratification. Meaning his sexual behaviours would of only escalated as he seeks out more and extreme ways to gain gratification.
Karlas involvement in the crimes seem to be only a minute aspect of the case as a whole, Paul would of continued to rape women even if Karla wasn't involved. Its hard to say if he would of killed without her involvement but still important to note that his crimes were escalating regardless of Karlas input.
Overall making Paul Bernardo a very Dangerous man.
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