Out in the Open

Living in the shadow of a notorious killer

Anthony Hanemaayer did not sneak into a 15-year-old girl's bedroom at night and threaten her with a knife. But he did go to jail for it. Years later, notorious killer Paul Bernardo confessed to the crime.
Anthony Hanemaayer walks outside court in Toronto, Wednesday, June 25, 2008 with his parents Peter and Wilma Hanemaayer. (Canadian Press/Joshua Clipperton)

"It will stay with me forever, for as long as I live. I can never leave that past."

In 1989, when Anthony Hanemaayer was 19-years-old, he pleaded guilty to break and enter and assault with a weapon.

"The crime was, apparently, I broke into a house in Scarborough, Ontario, went through the window, entered a 15-year-old girl's bedroom, jumped on her back with a knife [and] threatened her. Her mom woke up, entered the bedroom [and] scared the intruder away," says Hanemaayer.

The young girl's mother had no luck identifying the intruder from police mug shots, so she started her own investigation. It included calling a construction company working nearby with a description of the man she says she saw in her daughter's bedroom. Hanemaayer worked construction at the time and fit her description.

Though Anthony Hanemaayer maintained his innocence, he says his lawyer told him if he didn't plead guilty and take the deal of less than two years in jail, he could face eight to 10 years behind bars.

When the girl's mother testified that Hanemaayer was the man, he says everyone in the courtroom looked at him as if he was guilty.

"It was very terrifying being accused of something you didn't do. I feared that I was going to spend 10 years in jail, so I took the plea. It just felt like my whole life was ripped away."

Hanemaayer spent 18 months in jail.

Almost two decades later, Anthony Hanemaayer was exonerated. Serial rapist and murderer Paul Bernardo confessed to the crime and revealed information only someone in the room would have known.

"Being acquitted never really changed anything for me. Even to this day, people still believe that I am the one.

I believe I am in Paul Bernardo's shadow... When they see me, it's the first thing they think - Paul Bernardo. Or Paul Bernardo, they see me. I don't want that shadow on me."