TORONTO – The fact that convicted killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo resorted to blaming his sadistic behaviour on an anxiety disorder and low self-esteem underlines his lack of insight into his criminality, the Parole Board of Canada said on Tuesday.
In providing written reasons for why it refused to grant him day or full parole at a hearing two weeks ago, the board said it doubted Bernardo had truly come to understand the depravity behind his horrific crime wave in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“You recognized the horror of your crimes but focused mainly on the fact that your behaviour was a result of an anxiety disorder about feeling inadequate since childhood and a lack of self-esteem,” the board said. “You used that self-diagnosis as a mantra to dissociate yourself from your actions.”
Bernardo, 54, who has served more than 25 years of a life sentence for the savage kidnapping and killing of two teen girls, was rejected for day or full parole on Oct. 17. During the hearing, the board heard three victim-impact statements. Two were from the mothers of his murder victims, Leslie Mahaffy 14, and Kristen French, 15, as well as one from one of his many rape victims.
“Your crimes devastated numerous victims and their families,” the board said. “The lifelong impact you had on so many lives is heart wrenching and indescribable.”
In his own submissions to the board, Bernardo described himself as a “very flawed person” who had done “dreadful” things. He said he “cried all the time” over his crimes. At the same time, he said he had never been violent since his arrest and would not reoffend if released.
“I’m so nice to everybody,” Bernardo told the two-member parole board panel. “Everybody is scared but there is no reason to be scared.”
The board agreed Bernardo had behaved appropriately during his quarter century years behind bars, almost all of which he has spent in solitary confinement. It noted he had not reacted violently despite being the target of actual and threatened assaults by other offenders.
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In addition, the board said Bernardo has been respectful when disagreeing with recommendations from his case-management team, and remained even-keeled when experiencing conflict or difficulty. The board also noted he has never tested positive for substance abuse, and has left his eastern Ontario prison under escort for medical purposes on several occasions without incident.
However, Bernardo still goes to great lengths to prove his point when he feels wronged, and has in the past claimed medical professionals had committed fraud and fabricated or falsified documents, the board said.
“You still have work to do to manage your emotions,” the panel wrote. “The board questions your ability to be challenged, which in turn impedes the process of change.”
The board also referenced concerns about a relationship Bernardo had with a woman in 2014. His letters and phone calls were “highly sexualized” and showed similarities to his crime cycle, the panel wrote. Staff were concerned at how quickly he became infatuated with the woman, who devastated him when she broke off communication.
Following his arrest in 1993, Bernardo was diagnosed as a sexual deviant who met the criteria for a psychopath. The significance of the diagnosis, the board said, was that psychopaths are more likely to repeat violent sexual offending.
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In his most recent assessment, in May this year, Bernardo at times spoke in the third person, particularly when discussing difficult issues, the board said. As a result, the psychologist said the inmate showed limited insight into his risk factors largely due to his “self-diagnosed explanation” for his behaviour.
“It is the board’s opinion that you will present an undue risk to society if released.”
A forensic psychiatrist who assessed Bernardo before his trial in 1995 told The Canadian Press recently that Bernardo’s blaming his vile acts on low self-esteem was “rubbish.”
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