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Crime

Bernardo parole hearing told of ‘crushing and debilitating’ impacts on victims, families

A National parole board has denied Paul Bernardo both full and day parole. The 54-year-old was convicted in the early 90's for killing and torturing two teen girls.

Paul Bernardo was denied parole on Wednesday after harrowing victim impact statements described the “emotional hell” the convicted killer and rapist continues to inflict on his victims and their loved ones.

“We have to relive Leslie’s pain and horror. … The pain, despair and anguish is crushing and debilitating,” said Debbie Mahaffy, mother of Leslie Mahaffy, whom Bernardo tortured and murdered in 1991. “There still exists the incredible void in my heart and soul that time will never heal.”

READ MORE: Convicted rapist and killer Paul Bernardo denied parole

Bernardo, now 54, came up for parole in February, his first chance since he was arrested a quarter of a century ago for the murders of two young women, and applied for both full parole and day parole.

The two members of the National Parole Board panel at the Millhaven Institution only took 30 minutes to deliberate after hearing his case in Bath, Ont.

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“The Board denies day and full parole as you are a dangerous offender. The board feels that your sentence has been tailored to your circumstances,” said Suzanne Poirier, member of the parole board present at Bernardo’s hearing.

WATCH: Reaction to Paul Bernardo parole denial

Others present at the hearing were former victims and family members of those Bernardo and his then-wife Karla Homolka targeted, like Debbie Mahaffy and Donna French, mother of 15-year-old Kristen French, who was tortured and killed by the pair in 1992. Both gave impact statements at Bernardo’s hearing, arguing against his release.

Bernardo appeared in a small room at Millhaven Institution wearing a blue t-shirt and sat at a table, where he spoke softly at first. He addressed the small crowd, saying he was remorseful for his previous crimes.

He often spoke in broken sentences, saying it took him a long time to stop justifying his actions. Now he says he’s accepted his crimes — and it is devastating for him to realize what he did in the past.

WATCH: Paul Bernardo has been denied early release

The first to speak against his parole was a person who said she was sexually assaulted by Bernardo. The woman, who didn’t give her name, says she was attacked at a bus stop, jumped from behind and pulled into the trees.

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“I became a shell of a person, I didn’t have the capacity to love,” said the woman. She has since married, had a child and now lives in fear that her child will experience the same kind of violence.

READ BELOW: Victim impact statements from Debbe Mahaffy and Donna French

When Debbie Mahaffy had the chance to speak, she said that preparing a victim impact statement 27 years after her daughter’s brutal murder was extremely difficult.

“We have to live through Leslie’s and our pain as if it happened yesterday,” Mahaffy said. “This process rips apart all of the healing we have tried to achieve. The effects allows Bernardo to rob us of our beautiful memories of Leslie.”

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In her impact statement, Mahaffy called Bernardo a psychopath and a sexual sadist. She also expressed conflict about appearing at the hearing.

“I do not want my presence or comments to add to Bernardo’s entertainment as surely this process will. I do not want to be in the same room as Bernardo as I so hoped never to have to acknowledge his existence ever again.”

WATCH: Courtroom sketch artist Pam Davies reveals what it’s like to illustrate some of Canada’s highest-profile cases, including the trial of Paul Bernardo

Despite the difficulty, Mahaffy gave a detailed account of her and her family’s painful process of recovery since Leslie’s death in 1992.

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Donna French also spoke at the hearing, and she described the process of speaking 26 years after her daughter’s murder as “gut-wrenching.”

“There are constant reminders every day of our loss. Children walking to school, friends getting married, having children.”

Along with Mahaffy, she vehemently opposed Bernardo’s parole, saying:

“How will anyone ever be able to explain to the family of the next victim that their loved one is dead because a ‘dangerous offender’ was released from prison?”

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Bernardo’s parole officer Megan Smith addressed the board, saying Bernardo first went through a second offender treatment program in 2010, and has been through three similar programs since.

Nevertheless, Smith said Bernardo is still at risk of offending, and recommended that both parole requests be denied.

WATCH: Paul Bernardo’s lawyer confronted outside courthouse

Paul Bernardo’s lawyer confronted outside courthouse
Paul Bernardo’s lawyer confronted outside courthouse

Although his parole was denied on Wednesday, Bernardo will be able to reapply for parole in two years.