They were an attractive, seemingly normal couple, full of smiles in photos taken at their 1991 wedding in the Ontario town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. That happy façade made it all the harder for Canadians to accept the brutal crimes committed by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.
Bernardo was convicted in 1995 of the kidnapping, raping and murdering of southern Ontario teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. Homolka portrayed herself as the innocent victim of a murderous monster. She struck a deal with prosecutors (later dubbed the "deal with the devil") and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the deaths in exchange for a 12-year prison sentence.
But videotapes of the crimes, found after the plea bargain, showed her to be a more active participant. Public outrage about Homolka's sentence had barely cooled by the time of her extremely high-profile release from prison in 2005.
June 16, 2010
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said an agreement has been reached between all federal parties to pass a bill that would prevent notorious offenders like Karla Homolka from applying for a pardon.
June 25, 2008
Anthony Hanemaayer, convicted in connection with an attack more than 20 years previous, is acquitted by Ontario's top court. According to court documents, Bernardo admitted to Toronto police in 2006 that he carried out the knifepoint assault.
June 10, 2008
A judge rules that media outlets can broadcast Bernardo's police interview regarding the Bain case on television and the web.
Dec. 17, 2007
Reports indicate that Homolka left Canada for the Caribbean with the man she remarried, Thierry Bordelais, and her young son. Tim Danson, a lawyer for the victims' families, says he'd be "delighted" if Homolka was gone for good because "she's dangerous."
June 7, 2007
Bernardo meets with police and Crown attorneys to discuss the 1990 disappearance and presumed killing of Elizabeth Bain.
Feb. 13, 2007
Reports indicate that Homolka gave birth to a baby boy at a Montreal hospital.
Feb. 21, 2006
Paul Bernardo's lawyer reveals that his client confessed in October 2005 to at least 10 more sexual assaults. Tony Bryant tells CBC News he doesn't know why his client is admitting to the crimes so many years after the fact, but speculates "the resurgence of interest with Karla's release from prison" may have been the trigger.
Jan. 20, 2006
The movie Karla, based on the crimes of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, opens in 100 theatres across Canada. The Ontario Film Review Board gave the movie a restrictive 18A rating. CHUM Ltd. and Alliance Atlantis pulled the advertising for the movie from their television stations.
Dec. 6, 2005
A Quebec Court of Appeal turns down a request by the province's justice minister to appeal a lower court order lifting court-imposed restrictions on Karla Homolka's freedom.
Nov. 30, 2005
A Montreal judge overturns the 14 conditions imposed on Karla Homolka when she was released from prison on July 4, 2005. The restrictions were ordered under provisions of the Criminal Code after a judge ruled she still posed a risk to the community.
Tim Danson, the lawyer for the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, urges Quebec's attorney general to appeal the decision. He says his clients felt "like they were kicked in the stomach."
Nov. 3, 2005
The Quebec Justice Department releases a statement saying Homolka did not breach the conditions of her release in relation to the August hardware store revelations and she will not face any additional charges.
Homolka finds work in a hardware store in Longueuil, a suburb of Montreal. Her boss, Richer Lapointe, later reveals Homolka's location to the media and releases audio tapes he made of their conversations. Homolka quits her job and goes back into hiding. Lapointe alleges she had contacted someone with a criminal record and came in contact with children, in violation of her release conditions.
July 5, 2005
Paul Bernardo, speaking through his lawyer, says Homolka attempted to murder Leslie Mahaffy on her own to prevent Mahaffy from identifying them after they raped her. Bernardo says it was his intention to release Mahaffy.
July 4, 2005
Karla Homolka is released from prison after serving her 12-year sentence. She is whisked out of the St. Anne des Plaines prison, north of Montreal, where she had been transferred about a month before her release. Reporters wait outside the prison for days to catch a glimpse of her leaving and chase various vehicles they believe are transporting her, without being sure she is inside. A prison official and the lawyer for the victims' families confirm the release.
Homolka's lawyers continue fighting in court to prevent the media from reporting on her life outside prison, including her whereabouts.
June 29, 2005
A Quebec judge turns down Karla Homolka's request for an injunction prohibiting the media from telling certain details about her life after she's released from prison.
June 3, 2005
After two days of arguments, Judge Jean R. Beaulieu agrees that Karla Homolka may pose a risk to society after she is released. He places several restrictions on her freedom that are to take effect after she is released. They include:
- She is to tell police her home address, work address and who she lives with.
- She has to notify police as soon as any of the above changes.
- She will also have to notify police of any change to her name.
- If she wants to be away from her home for more than 48 hours, she will have to give 72 hours notice.
- She cannot contact Paul Bernardo, the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French or Jane Doe. She also may not contact any violent criminals.
- She also will be forbidden from being with people under the age of 16 and from consuming drugs other than prescription medicine.
- Continue therapy and counselling.
- Provide police with a DNA sample.
June 2, 2005
Karla Homolka appears in a court in Joliette, Que., as prosecutors argue that restrictions should be placed on her freedom when she is released. It is the first time she is seen in public since she testified against her former husband, Paul Bernardo, 10 years earlier.
May 19, 2005
A law passes through the Senate requiring violent criminals, including Karla Homolka, to give a DNA sample to a national databank. The bill, C-13, speeds through the minority government in part because of Homolka's impending release.
April 26, 2005
Two officers with Niagara Regional Police meet with Homolka to discuss her plans after her release from prison. The details of that conversation are not released.
April 12, 2005
Michael Bryant says Homolka will not be charged with killing her sister when she is released from prison in July.
April 11, 2005
Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant says all provinces should place restrictions on Karla Homolka's activities once she's released in July. Bryant says he will ask a Quebec court judge to impose conditions on Homolka under section 810 of the Criminal Code, which allows for curfews and other restrictions.
Jan. 14, 2005
Stephen Williams, author of two books on Bernardo and Homolka, pleads guilty to breaking a publication ban by posting the names of the couple's sexual assault victims on his website. He receives a three-year suspended sentence and is ordered to do 70 hours of community service.
Dec. 16, 2004
The National Parole Board rules that Homolka must stay in prison for her full term, ending July 5, 2005.
May 4, 2003
Williams is arrested and charged with violating a court order barring publication of courtroom exhibits used in the Bernardo and Homolka trials. Williams had used his website to show a collection of photographs, videotapes and police interviews from the cases.
The English language version of Williams' book, and Karla: A Pact with the Devil, appears on bookstore shelves.
Nov. 13, 2002
A book on Homolka written by Stephen Williams is published in French, containing excerpts from letters between the author and Homolka. Questions arise over whether the book violates a condition of Homolka's plea bargain, which states that she would not "talk directly … or indirectly to the media for a book … or live endeavour." Williams says he didn't speak to Homolka about the crimes, so the argument is moot.
The six videotapes depicting the rape and torture of Bernardo and Homolka's victims are destroyed.
Homolka is transferred to a Montreal psychiatric hospital to undergo treatment.
Nov. 30. 2000
Crown prosecutors drop charges against author Stephen Williams. The charges alleged that Williams broke a court order by watching the Bernardo tapes. The Crown said it didn't want to air the tapes again in court, so the judge dismissed the charges.
Oct. 9, 2000
Homolka is transferred to a maximum-security prison in Saskatoon for a psychiatric examination. Homolka's lawyers attempt to block the move, saying her life would be in danger if she were removed from the prison in Joliette.
Sept. 21, 2000
The Supreme Court of Canada denies Bernardo's leave to appeal his murder convictions.
Murray is acquitted of charges arising from his failure to turn over the Bernardo tapes.
The Ontario Court of Appeal dismisses Bernardo's request for a new trial.
Homolka is transferred to Joliette Institution in Quebec when the Kingston Prison for Women is closed.
Ken Murray is charged with obstruction of justice and possession of child pornography for failing to turn over the Bernardo tapes.
A six-month-long inquiry into the police investigation of Bernardo concludes that the investigation was hampered by dozens of mistakes by individual officers and by rivalries between different police departments. The inquiry concludes that some of Bernardo's crimes could have been prevented if Bernardo's DNA samples had been processed more quickly.
An Ontario Court judge rules that videotapes showing the rape and torture of Bernardo's victims must be destroyed when they are no longer needed for legal purposes.
Bernardo is declared a dangerous offender, meaning he will likely spend the rest of his life in jail.
Sept. 15, 1995
Bernardo is sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years.
Sept. 1, 1995
Bernardo is found guilty of all nine charges against him, including two counts of first-degree murder for killing French and Mahaffy.
June 29, 1995
Homolka testifies against Bernardo.
May 18, 1995
Bernardo's trial begins.
Ken Murray quits as Bernardo's lawyer and hands Bernardo's videotapes over to his successor, John Rosen. Rosen turns the videos over to police later in the month.
Homolka pleads guilty to two counts of manslaughter and receives a 12-year jail sentence. Her pleas and the statement of facts agreed to by her lawyer and the Crown are both covered by a publication ban ordered by the judge to ensure a fair trial for Bernardo.
June 28, 1993
Homolka's trial begins.
The plea agreement between Crown prosecutors and Homolka's lawyers is finalized.
May 6, 1993
Ken Murray, Bernardo's lawyer, gains access to Bernardo's home. Murray retrieves the videotapes from above a ceiling light fixture in the upstairs bathroom. He would keep the videos in his possession for 16 months.
Feb. 19, 1993
A search warrant is executed in the Bernardo home. During the 71-day search of the St. Catharines house that follows, police fail to find videotapes containing the recordings of the rapes of Mahaffy, French, Tammy Homolka and at least one other girl.
Feb. 17, 1993
Bernardo is arrested. An inquiry into the Bernardo case would later find that officers in charge violated Bernardo's charter rights by not allowing him to call a lawyer despite his repeated requests, making his initial eight-hour interrogation inadmissible as evidence.
After Bernardo beats Homolka with a flashlight, leaving her with two black eyes, she leaves their home and files charges against him.
The Centre of Forensic Sciences begins DNA testing of the samples Bernardo provided in 1990.
April 30, 1992
French's body is found.
April 16, 1992
Bernardo, with the assistance of Homolka, kidnaps Kristen French from a church parking lot. After raping, torturing and killing her, they leave her body naked in a ditch, her hair cut off.
June 29, 1991
Bernardo and Homolka are married in a lavish ceremony. Mahaffy's dismembered body is found encased in concrete in Lake Gibson near St. Catharines.
June 14, 1991
Bernardo kidnaps 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy from outside her house. With Homolka, he rapes and murders her.
Feb. 1, 1991
Bernardo and Homolka move into a rented house in St. Catharines, Ont.
Bernardo picks up a young female hitchhiker, brings her back to the Homolka home and rapes her in Karla Homolka's bedroom. He drops her off on a back street.
Dec. 23, 1990
After a Homolka family Christmas party, Bernardo and Karla Homolka drug Tammy Homolka with animal tranquilizers Karla stole from her work. Bernardo and Karla Homolka rape Tammy while she's unconscious. Tammy later chokes on her own vomit and dies. Bernardo tells police he tried to revive her, but failed, and her death is ruled an accident.
Nov. 20, 1990
Bernardo provides hair, blood and saliva samples to Metro Toronto police as part of their Scarborough Rapist investigation.
According to Bernardo's testimony, he and Karla Homolka serve her younger sister, Tammy, a spaghetti dinner spiked with Valium stolen from Karla's workplace. Bernardo rapes Tammy for about a minute before she starts to wake up.
Bernardo loses his job at accounting firm Price-Waterhouse. He would later turn to cigarette smuggling to make money.
Dec. 24, 1989
Bernardo and Homolka are engaged.
Oct. 17, 1987
Karla Homolka, 17, meets Paul Bernardo, 23, at a hotel restaurant in Scarborough, Ont.
A young woman is raped in Scarborough, Ont., the first in a chain of rapes committed by the person the media dubs the Scarborough Rapist. Paul Bernardo would later admit to the sexual assaults of at least 14 women in southern Ontario. At one point, Bernardo faced 53 charges related to the rape – and in some cases, murder – of young women.