Paul Bernardo and Karla Holmolka (lost murder tapes of serial killer couple; 1990-1991)

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This article has been tagged as NSFW and NSFL due to its disturbing subject matter of real-life murder and sexual assault.
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The serial killer couple Paul Bernardo (left) and Karla Homolka (right).

Status: Lost

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka are a former serial killer couple, of who between the years of 1990 and 1992, took part in the murder and rape of at least three minors (those being Leslie Mahaffy, Kristen French and Karla's younger sister Tammy) in the Canadian province of Ontario.[1] Bernardo himself had been linked to several more rapes and murders prior to this, with his crime spree beginning in 1986, of which led later to the exoneration of Anthony Hanemaayer, of who had wrongly been convicted for a crime that Bernardo had committed (a 1987 assault of a 15-year-old girl), leading to the former having his conviction overturned in 2008.[2]

During the couple's trial in 1993, Karla Homolka would enter a plea bargain whereby she would testify against Bernardo, in exchange of a shorter sentence. During that time, she claimed that she was a victim of Bernardo as well, as he would force her to participate in the crimes of Bernardo, all the while being psychically and mentally abused by him and being forced to take part in the murder of her sister Tammy.[3]

Beyond the deal itself being controversial on its own - being dubbed the 'Deal With The Devil' by much of the media[4]- another reason that it caused much outrage was the fact that six videotapes of the pair committing their acts were discovered, of which showed that Homolka was a far more willing participant to these events than she was letting on.[5]

Content of the Tapes

On the tapes themselves - of which are said to be 3 and a 1/2 hours in length overall[6] - it documented the crimes committed against the aforementioned victims, as well as the further sexual assault of a fourth victim who survived known as 'Jane Doe', and later went on to testify against Bernardo. Beyond this, it also showed the couple having sex with a prostitute in Atlantic City and drugging another unknown victim.[7]

Tapes Discovery and their use in the Trials

During the initial search warrant on Bernardo (of which lasted 71 days), the only initial tape that they could find was the one relating to 'Jane Doe', all the while the police were restricted from discovering any further tapes by tearing down the walls of Bernardo's property, given that his connection to the murders at that point was weak, hence the initial restrictions on the warrant itself.

However, the other tapes were later discovered 16 months after the plea deal had been made (found in Bernardo's house, in a ceiling light fixture in the upstairs bathroom).[8] Ken Murray, Bernardo's original lawyer, after viewing the tapes resigned from his role in 1994, worried about the ethical problems in relation to them, and continuing to work with Bernardo. In response, he also handed them over to his successor John Rosen, whereby he 'kept the tapes for about two weeks and then decided to turn them over to the prosecution'. The tapes were later shown in the trial against Bernardo.

Following the conviction of both Bernardo and Homolka, there was much backlash by the public and media in Canada, given the seemingly light sentence for such crimes that Homolka committed. This was further highlighted by how the prosecution came out and stated that the plea deal would never have been agreed to if they had surfaced prior to it being finalised.[9]

After serving 12 years in prison for manslaughter, Homolka was released in 2005, and currently lives in the Canadian province of Quebec, and has done so since her release,[10] where her presence continues to stir up controversy.[11] Bernardo is still in prison to this day, where he has been attacked by other inmates several times.[12]


Since the trial came to an end, the tapes in question were destroyed. In 2001, Canadian authorities deemed that the tapes had no use for the foreseeable future, leading to their destruction.

The move itself had a mixed response, with some negative feeling in the legal profession, with solicitor Clayton Ruby (a colleague of Murray's) admitting to crying upon hearing the news, but called the move 'premature' and 'peculiar'. However, there was much positive feeling among the likes of the relatives of the victims and the aforementioned Murray, the former including Donna French (Kristen's mother) who mentally thought of Kristen and how she mentally told her that she 'didn't have to worry anymore', due to the destruction of the tapes meaning no-one else would see them.[13]

Only the transcripts of the tapes survive to this day,[14] unless any copies of the originals are ever found, albeit the former are not publicly available.


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