It has always dismayed that murderers behind bars, even serial sex predators, have their fan-girl devotees.
No doubt that is its own pathology.
One woman enraptured with Paul Bernardo was, like the object of her warped desire, later designated a dangerous offender herself. She had written threatening letters to the family of one of his victims, stabbed an ex-boyfriend, set her apartment on fire and slashed a security guard at the University Ave. courthouse.
A girl after his own heart.
This was not the female with whom the notorious schoolgirl-killer had conducted an intense highly sexualized six-week relationship in 2014, via letters and phone calls, a hookup that repeated — at least in fantasy — all of Bernardo’s well-documented sexual deviances. Bernardo admitted to prison psychiatrists masturbating himself into a frenzy over thoughts of that woman, resurrecting the crime cycle, albeit imagined, of control and debasement and humiliation.
In a correctional plan update from earlier this year, Bernardo disclosed that his current closest friend is a woman he described as a feminist who “has all the control in the relationship.” Days before his Oct. 17 Parole Board of Canada hearing, Bernardo wrote to the board, claiming a “miscommunication” in characterizing the relationship and, goodness no, he would never be involved in such a one-sided liaison because that would be unhealthy.
“The Board believes that you still view relationships in terms of power and control, reflecting your limited progress in understanding what a healthy relationship should look like,” states the explanatory written decision released Tuesday by the two-member parole board panel which had denied Bernardo’s bid for day or full parole.
The reference to this current relationship is but a brief observation in the 10-page decision summary, a document weighed heavily towards Bernardo’s unsatisfying risk assessment monitoring, psychiatric testing, specialized sex offender assessment and so forth. But it underscores the reality of rehabilitation — or lack of it — for sexual offenders, particularly an individual diagnosed for severe sexual sadism, voyeurism and paraphilia not otherwise specified, as well as narcissistic personality disorder.
He’s a psychopath.
Psychopaths are unlikely to change, ever, no matter the lies and insincere remorse and psychobabble spouted at a parole hearing.
Bernardo’s repentance, if it can be depicted as such, was a long-winded tissue of deception, larded with self-diagnosis of low self-esteem, anxiety disorder, “victim stance thinking” and parent-blaming, though he’s latterly recanted that last part. “You mentioned at the hearing that you have come to the realization that your parents are not to blame. Your discovery seems to be recent as the issue of close family relationships is mentioned repeatedly in your file.”
The “no-contact” offender — meaning he’s in lockdown for 23 hours a day and the range is cleared when he’s allowed out of his cell at Millhaven — claimed to also have had an “aha” moment of insight and responsibility, albeit well into the quarter century of incarceration.
“You agreed with the Board that you displayed several personality traits associated to psychopaths such as being callous, glib, grandiose, cunning, deceptive, manipulative and a liar. You now claim to have changed and say that these traits are not part of your personality anymore. You describe yourself as a nice and compassionate guy.
“You told the Board that your participating in programs helped you appreciate that you had built up all kinds of justifications for your crimes over the years. You profess to understand now that there is nothing that could justify your horrific behaviour.”
The decision notes that, at the hearing, Bernardo avoided speaking about sexual self-gratification and the violent nature of his crimes, not only against the two teenage girls he abducted and murdered but the more than a dozen young women he subsequently admitted raping. Those were his Scarborough Rapist days, including his pre-Karla Homolka era.
“You told the Board you had no intention of hurting the women you sexually assaulted. The Board reminded you that you used a rope and a knife against several of the victims … There seems to be a dissociation between your view of yourself and your criminal behaviour and this is apparent throughout your file as it was at the hearing.”
Adding: “The empathy that you now claim to have for the victims is quite recent considering that you have been jailed for 25 years and have showed little sign of caring for the victims for most of that time.”
What Bernardo, summoning up tears, told the panel a fortnight ago: “What I did was so dreadful. I hurt a lot of people. I cry all the time.”
His continuing objectification of women was certainly evident in a 600-page “autobiography,” written as part of a 2009 treatment assignment, in which Bernardo lingered over the physical attributes of former girlfriends and his two murder victims. Their bra sizes. Intended, he said, to emphasize that the girls looked like adult women and he didn’t want to be mistaken for a pedophile.
Bernardo, 54, clearly realized he wasn’t going to be successful in obtaining even restricted day parole. Not at this time. But he can reapply in two years and every two years after that. What he’s doing, if ineffectively at this moment, is laying down the foundation for future release, probably by assessing where he went wrong with the panel — because he’ll read this written decision also.
While Bernardo’s reintegration potential has been assessed as low, demanding an “extremely gradual release,” the next “logical step,” as noted by a psychologist in a 2016 risk assessment report, would be for the felon to work towards a reduction in institutional security. Meaning, some day being transferred to mid-security penitentiary, with broader freedoms earned.
Although, even now, the “no-contact” regime is not quite as rigid it seems. Bernardo has already enjoyed escorted temporary passes outside the institution for medical appointments. And he’s participated in a group counselling sessions for sexual deviants.
Indeed, just a couple of days before his hearing, Bernardo said he was offered pornography by an unidentified individual.
Virtuously: “I didn’t take it.”
Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno