Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Paul Bernardo must be kept behind bars

I was in my 20s and living in Toronto when Bernardo was committing his crimes

I was more than relieved when Paul Bernardo was denied parole last week.

I was in my 20s and living in Toronto when this convicted killer and rapist and his wife were running loose and committing their crimes, and I’ll never forget the fear that gripped the city at the time.

Bernardo’s crimes over several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s sparked widespread terror and revulsion, particularly in the Scarborough area of Toronto where many of the crimes took place.

As well as numerous vicious rapes, Bernardo and his then-wife Karla Homolka kidnapped, tortured and killed Leslie Mahaffy, 14, before dismembering her body, encasing her remains in cement and dumping them in a nearby lake.

The couple was also convicted of killing Kristen French, 15, in 1992 after keeping her captive for three days.

It was a long time before Toronto police finally cracked the case and brought the horrible duo to justice, and the trauma it caused in Toronto at the time was unbelievable.

I lived in the northern part of the city and had friends living in Scarborough, which I affectionately called “Scarberia” for the distance I had to travel to visit them.

My travels to see my friends involved taking numerous streetcars and subways right through Scarborough where Bernardo perpetrated many of his nefarious crimes.

While most subway and streetcar stops in Toronto were typically a hive of activity well into the night, those stops in Scarborough were virtually empty.

I remember late in the evening waiting for subways in Scarborough when the only other people in sight were usually young guys like me.

I don’t recall seeing many women at the stops at night, other than those travelling in large, tightly-packed groups and looking nervous the whole time they waited for transit.

Girl friends of mine were reluctant to go out at night, even in areas far from Scarborough, although they were assured they would be with other people and protected.

I had lived in Toronto for several years by this time, and there was never an incident in which I felt my personal safety was ever threatened, even though I spent a fair amount of time travelling around the city at all hours of the night.

As I was pretty young and ignorant, it occurred to me for the first time in my life that women generally have a lot more to fear from violent crime than men.

That made me angry, and I followed the case in the press with great interest in the hopes that the police would get to the bottom of the terror that was plaguing the city and make some arrests.

When that finally happened, people started coming out again at night, and the street and transit stops in Scarborough began to slowly fill back up again with lively crowds in the evenings.

Seeing that monster being considered for parole after 25 years made my skin crawl.

I’m glad the parole board had enough sense to send him packing back to his cell in solitary confinement, at least for another two years when he will be eligible to apply for parole again.

Donna French, the mother of Kristen French, argued at the parole hearing that Bernardo should never see freedom again, and I agree with her.

I don’t think he can ever be rehabilitated, and the risk to the public is too great for him to run loose again.

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