Canada in a frenzy over serial killers

Canada’s placid and innocent society was shattered with the release from prison of the country’s most notorious female sex killer this week.

News satellite vans and reporters camped out for days outside the Ste-Anne-des-Plaines penitentiary north of Montreal, waiting for Monday’s release of Karla Homolka (35) who raped, tortured and murdered teenage girls with her ex-husband Paul Bernado.

Instead, they received a news release from prison officials announcing: “As of today, Karla Teale/Homolka is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Correctional Service of Canada.”

Suddenly, Canadians were confronted with the horror that serial killers are among them.

The North American nation has been gripped by accounts of pig farmer Robert “Willy” Pickton mutilating dozens of prostitutes in Vancouver where he is awaiting trial.

There have also been several grisly unsolved murders of sex trade workers in Edmonton and Kelowna, some of their bodies found burned in fields.

And Homolka’s release has revived outrage over a deal prosecutors made in 1993 that put her in prison for 12 years for her part in the abduction and sadistic murder of two St Catharines, Ontario schoolgirls.

Two hours after leaving prison, Homolka told the French-language television network Radio-Canada: “I often cry. I can’t forgive myself. ...
I think about what I did and how I don’t deserve to be happy because of that.”

Her lawyer, who is trying to secure police protection for her against death threats and get an order preventing the media from hounding her, told reporters earlier: “She’s terrified, she’s panicked.”

“I don’t want to be hunted and I don’t want people to think that I am a dangerous person who’s going to do something to their children,” Homolka said.

But her television appearance failed to pacify the public’s outrage that prosecutors made a “deal with the devil” in 1993 to get her to testify against her partner in crime and ex-husband Paul Bernardo. It also triggered fears she may strike again.

Homolka, who recently changed her name to Teale after the fictional serial killer in a 1988 movie, played the role of a battered wife for jurors, forced to join her husband in a mad binge before home video tapes were discovered that showed her reveling in her crimes.

The couple were also accused of drugging, raping and killing Homolka’s 15-year-old sister Tammy on Christmas Eve in 1990.

Homolka pled guilty to two counts of manslaughter while Paul Bernardo was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder.

Officials placed extraordinary restrictions on Homolka after her release because they believe she is still dangerous, including having to report monthly to police and avoid contact with violent offenders, but critics wanted more.

During her incarceration, she dated fellow convict Jean-Paul Gerbet, a French man who strangled his ex-girlfriend, and a woman who re-offended after her release in order to return to jail and resume her affair with Homolka.

Meanwhile, a special police task force recently announced that they were looking for a “serial offender” responsible for the deaths of 41 prostitutes and 31 missing persons in Edmonton, Alberta since 1975.

Their profile of the suspect—someone who drives a truck and enjoys outdoor activities—drew ridicule because it described most men in the western province.

But the news renewed speculation that a serial killer may also be responsible for a handful of recent murders in Kelowna in the picturesque Okanagan valley nestled in the Rocky Mountains.

The country’s vast wilderness and long distances between urban centres make it easier for killers to hide corpses and harder for police in different jurisdictions to connect their crimes, according to researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

The western city of Vancouver is where Canada’s two most prolific serial killers acted: Clifford Olsen murdered a dozen children decades ago and Robert Pickton is accused of slaying half of the 60 missing prostitutes and drug addicts on a police list.

But Canada is not breeding scores of criminal minds as many fear, said criminologist Neil Boyd.

“Society doesn’t create people like Paul Bernardo or Clifford Olsen,” he said.

In fact, homicides have fallen here in the past decade due to changing demographics—more elderly baby boomers, fewer young men who are most likely to commit violent crimes, Boyd said.

“Serial killing can never be described as run of the mill, but there is nothing particularly unusual or different about serial killers in Canada or elsewhere,” he said. ‒ Sapa-AFP

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