It may not be chilling and more ‘boring’ in a judge’s words than interesting, but the long awaited tape of the questioning of serial killer Paul Bernardo is still revelatory and telling.
The videotape was the subject of a major debate in a Toronto courtroom on whether it should have been released to the public or put on the Internet.
The tape was made on June 7, 2007, when two members of Toronto Police went down to the Kingston Pen to interview the infamous murderer and rapist about whether he was involved in the killing of Elizabeth Bain, a crime originally leveled at her since acquitted ex-boyfriend Robert Baltovich.
Perhaps what’s most noticeable right off the bat is the killer’s self-identification, when he’s asked to give his name for the record. “Paul Jason Teale aka Paul Bernardo,” he declares.
“Teale” is the name Bernardo adopted after a serial killer he admired in the movie “Criminal Law.” It shows he has not given up that image that he relished so much while he was committing his crimes, including the murders of school girls Kristen French and Lesley Mahaffy.
While the tape doesn’t contain any specific revelations it does show a lot about Bernardo’s character. At one point, police begin talking to him about other sex crimes, and he gets upset they’re mentioned in his file and that Peel Police didn’t come and talk to him about them directly. “You guys love doing that,” he complains. “I’m that crazy psychopathic liar.”
“Either I’m lying to you or I’m not … You’re not going to roll forward that I’m some kind of psychopathic liar sitting in jail claiming other people’s responsibilities for other crimes.”
“Either I’m a liar or I’m not a liar. And I’m not a liar and you guys are trying to paint me as one … because if I’m this crazy liar then I’ll just be sitting here lying to you, right?”
He seems obsessed with what the press is writing about him and frequently refers to what he feels are unfair TV news reports about his case and his character.
And then he adds this in a very nonchalant way. “I’m a human being and to say that I’m a dangerous offender and rape and kill and this stuff is fine, for publicity and all this stuff … but when you go to a certain point, I mean it affects me totally. You know I made mistakes, I made mistakes a long time ago. But don’t say that about me, because then you’re the bad guys.”
It’s a chilling statement, calling the murders of Tammy Homolka, Mahaffy and French essentially nothing more than an error in judgment. “I made mistakes 17 years ago,” he goes on. “Okay, fine, I did, but now we’re talking about today.”
When asked if he’d be willing to take a polygraph to prove his statements, his answer is quick, making reference to his former wife and co-killer, Karla Homolka. “You’re opening up cans of worms,” he gripes. “You didn’t polygraph Karla. Have you asked her?
“… I know Karla’s free now. I’m not in the business of putting her in jail, that’s not my thing.”
Finally, almost 12 minutes in, detectives get to the point of their visit.
“Did you kill Elizabeth Bain on June the 19th, 1990?” one of them asks him point blank.
“Well, that’s a loaded question,” he responds. “I mean are we going to go back and go through the time sequence of what happened in my life? I could just give a yes or no answer, but there’s a lot of issues about that.”
He finally gets to a definitive statement. “The answer to that is ‘no,'” he shrugs. “But the 800-pound gorilla is in the room. That’s a life-25 sentence. It really comes down to credibility … But the answer is no to that question.”
At one point, detectives tried to jog Bernardo’s memory about what he was doing around the time Bain went missing. Few of them ring any bells and he finally concludes with this statement. “See what happens when you lock a guy up for 15 years in a windowless cell? Memory gets fuzzy.”
And then police play a piece of an interview with Karla Homolka, in which she indicates Bernardo may have been involved in the case. His reaction is animated. “Paul did it,” he quotes her as saying as a mantra, always trying to deflect the blame off herself. “I didn’t pay attention to any of it. I didn’t watch the news back then, I was too busy doing other things.
“The profile is the serial killer pays attention to all the news media, it’s his narcissistic personality, blah, blah, blah and all that crap. I don’t know anything about this case now. I don’t know if this guy [Baltovich] did it. And I don’t really care.”
He seems especially upset that police have never forced Homolka to get a lie detector test and refers to her “12-year deal, no polygraph required.”
“Hey,” he shrugs. “I’m giving you the truth here. You guys can prove me wrong. Go down there and ask her, you’ll get a no. I keep telling you – no one does it,” he slaps the table in frustration. “I don’t know why.”
In the end he denies having anything to do with Bain’s disappearance and knowing either her or Baltovich.
Did he ever meet her? “I don’t remember,” he answers. He notes that he first heard about the case when he was already in jail and had no knowledge about it before then.
Baltovich and his legal team have always pointed to Bernardo as a viable suspect in the case, because he was known to be around the U. of T. campus operating as the Scarborough Rapist near where Bain disappeared. And witnesses remembered seeing a blonde man matching Bernardo’s description near the area that day.