London woman fell under Paul Bernardo's spell
LONDON, Ont. - Evil can creep out from behind bars, past the guards and gun towers and barbed wire.
Evil can creep out and seize the heart of a woman, just as it seized so many women before.
Serial rapist and killer Paul Bernardo has somehow managed to start a relationship with a 30-year-old London woman that was apparently leading to marriage.
How in the world could this happen? How in the world can we stop it?
It's no surprise Bernardo is trying to lure in another woman. He spent much of his adult life attacking women physically, sexually assaulting at least 14 and killing at least three.
Stuck behind bars for life, he has resorted to attacking a woman's very mind.
He has a predator's instinct for finding a target. He is smart enough to know that any woman who writes a friendly letter to him must -- by that very act -- be vulnerable.
Each letter the London woman wrote to him the past few months provided further proof of her vulnerability, and further opportunity to draw her in.
You're beautiful, he told her, which suggests the attractive blonde sent him a photo.
He hit all the right notes with a troubled, religious woman looking to give and receive unconditional love.
I'm innocent, he said. I'm a Christian. I am guilty only of being present when the women were killed. Aren't Christians supposed to forgive?
She seemed powerless to resist the charms of the good, nice Christian man.
It appears we are also powerless to stop him.
"The principal goal is public safety," Correctional Service Canada (CSC) states as its mandate on its website.
Two methods ensure that safety: Rehabilitation for prisoners who will complete their sentence and "proper control of offenders."
Proper control does not prevent, apparently, a serial killer and rapist of women from courting another woman.
"CSC has no jurisdiction over whether two people can obtain a marriage licence as marriages are governed by provincial legislation," a spokesman said in an e-mail.
The mind reels at the thought of this wedding going through, of happy conjugal visits for Bernardo.
In three interviews, Toronto Sun reporter Sam Pazzano and I asked the woman at least 17 times about her relationship with Bernardo.
She deflected us time and time again. Her answers: "Do I have makeup all over my face? ... Can I call my parents because I don't want to get in trouble with anybody? ... I am kind. If you ask any of my friends, that is probably one of the things I am most guilty of, being a nice person ... I have this exact same tape recorder. "
A tough court reporter, Pazzano was frank with her about Bernardo's crimes. He reminded her that Leslie Mahaffy, Kristen French and Tammy Homolka will never get their wedding days and that their families have nothing to celebrate.
The woman cried at times during interviews and insisted she did not want to hurt anyone.
Neither Pazzano nor I are fully convinced the facts of the case will persuade her to call off the relationship.
But the fact this story has surfaced may very well be the best chance she has to save herself.
Her parents had no idea what she was up to until contacted by us.
Her friends suspected something was up but weren't sure what.
In getting the story, Pazzano and I have caused some anguish for her parents and friends.
They are suffering. But they are on high alert as well. Her mother and father are determined to stop the relationship.
As one friend wondered, what if no one had found out before it was too late?
At least now people can try to stop her before she goes too far, she said.
"Maybe, some good can come out of this."