Paul Bernardo Karla Homolka video tapes
Destroying the evidence is destroying the evidence:
nothing more, nothing less
Just before Christmas, 2001, when no one was paying attention, the Bernardo/Homolka video tapes were destroyed, paving the way for the future capricious destruction of evidence. Who is protected by this act and who really cares? The answer to both questions is probably nobody. At least right now. Except maybe people who market this stuff will now be able to charge more money. Certainly the value, both in terms of money and curiosity has greatly increased.
Future historians will have to speculate about just how demented Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka really were. An exercise kind of like speculating on how awful Auschwitz was. Except to holocaust deniers like Ernst Zundel, we can point to the evidence.
With Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, there are many who will be comforted that their efforts to create unspeakably sick documents for posterity have been thwarted. The belief that these two people were an aberration outside the scope of human behaviour is probably wrong. These two were prettier, more solipsistic, sadistic and extreme than most. But they fall within a continuum of human experience. There may come a time where such acts as theirs will truly be unimaginable. We're not there yet.
-- Sheila Steele, Mar. 11, 2002
Web archive of Bernardo case sparks legal fight
The families of murder victims Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy will use every legal means available to stop an author from posting material from the Paul Bernardo trial on the Internet, their lawyer said Wednesday.
"This is exactly what we have been worrying about for years," Tim Danson said in an interview. "The families are very upset. You have no idea of the impact this has on them. The unknown puts them in a state of fear and panic. Here we are, right in the belly of the problem we feared."
Mr. Danson said that when he sees the material that writer Stephen Williams intends to post on his Web site, he will come after him on the basis of violating publication bans or through civil action.
The Toronto lawyer said he also intends to find the name of Mr. Williams's Internet server and persuade the company that it would be wrong - and perhaps illegal - to allow Mr. Williams to maintain the Web site.
"This is a really grey area of the law," Mr. Danson said. "People don't need to see this stuff. But you put it on the Internet, and it's a wicked business. There are a lot of very disturbed people who would enjoy seeing this kind of material on the Internet."
Mr. Williams revealed on Monday that he intends to post virtually all of his enormous archive of police interviews, videotapes and crime-scene photographs on an Internet Web site. He said the public, as well as academics, have a right to see the intricacies of the investigation and prosecution.
"There are many, many pictures that have never been seen," Mr. Williams said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "And, of course, there is 300 hours of videotape - all the myriad police interviews conducted over a two-year period with Karla [Homolka] and other stuff. Believe me, it will be controversial."
Mr. Williams said he expects to post excerpts from videotapes of Mr. Bernardo and Ms. Homolka having sex, including a shocking video in which Ms. Homolka masquerades as her murdered sister, Tammy, for the sexual gratification of Mr. Bernardo.
Most of the material was in "Crown-disclosure" packages prepared for the defence at murder proceedings involving Mr. Bernardo and his former wife, Ms. Homolka.
Mr. Williams, author of Invisible Darkness and Karla: Pact With the Devil, repeatedly has refused to reveal who gave the material to him.
Mr. Danson said Wednesday that the French and Mahaffy families will press the federal government to prohibit the unauthorized use of evidence in "disclosure packages," which Crown prosecutors routinely prepare in criminal cases.
"Right now, it is all governed by internal policies," Mr. Danson said. He said he has warned for years that Crown material could be leaked to people who might post it in cyberspace.
"There were some people in officialdom who felt I was overstating things," Mr. Danson said. "Now, those people are saying: 'Oh.' Well, 'oh' doesn't work. Certainly, I will use the full force of the law - in other words, every conceivable legal means - to respond to this."
All copies of videotapes depicting Mr. Bernardo and Ms. Homolka sexually assaulting and torturing their victims have been destroyed. The house where their crimes took place has been torn down and many of the court exhibits were incinerated in 2001.
However, Mr. Danson said he has no way of knowing which photographs Mr. Williams has. "He has stuff that I don't have."
Mr. Danson said he fielded "tons" of calls from the news media and officials connected with the case who were taken by surprise when Mr. Williams announced his Web site.
"People are saying: 'You must be shocked by this.' I feel like saying: 'Surprised by what? This is the very thing we have been warning about for years.'"
Homolka book to be altered
TORONTO - Author Stephen Williams says changes will be made to the second edition of his new book about sex killer Karla Homolka to address concerns raised by the families of her victims, but their lawyer says it's "too late."
"I've decided to remove one picture and alter another," Mr. Williams said Tuesday.
Last week, the families of two teenaged girls slain by Ms. Homolka and her former husband, Paul Bernardo, called for an investigation into pictures published in Karla: A Pact with the Devil .
Lawyer Tim Danson said he and the families of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy had believed some of the photos in the book - in particular, one showing the concrete blocks in which Mr. Bernardo encased Leslie's body parts after killing and dismembering her - had been destroyed by authorities more than a year ago.
Mr. Danson and the families called on bookstores across Canada to voluntarily remove all copies of the book from their shelves. Some independent bookstores and small chains complied.
"I didn't set out to revictimize the families," Mr. Williams said Tuesday. "If these photos are going to make people grief-stricken and anguished, I'll take them out."
Mr. Williams said a photograph of another teenaged girl known only as Jane Doe - who was drugged and raped by the couple - will be altered even though "no one can identify Jane Doe from that photo ... it's 13 years old."
Karla with Jane Doe, circa June 7, 1991. Photograph by Karla using the automatic timer device
"In the next edition I've asked the publisher to "black out the entire face," he said.
Mr. Williams's publisher said the planned changes to the book are not an admission that the author did anything wrong or violated any court orders surrounding the Bernardo-Homolka legal saga.
"No crime has been committed here except the crimes Karla committed," said Angel Guerra, associate publisher for Cantos International.
Mr. Danson said Tuesday that while he is "very pleased" with Mr. Williams's decision, it's "far too late" to be making the changes.
"The damage has been done, the pictures are out there," Mr. Danson said.
Earlier Tuesday, Niagara police asked Ontario Provincial Police to help with an investigation into whether the book breaks the law.
The book has been the subject of a probe by Niagara police since it was first published in French in December. The province of Ontario asked police to determine if material in the book breached Ms. Homolka's controversial plea-bargain agreement with the Crown.
A clause in the 1993 deal prohibited her from giving "an account directly or indirectly" with anyone in the media or profiting from a book or movie.
"With the scope of the initial review expanded, the Niagara Regional Police Service requested assistance from the Ontario Provincial Police," Niagara police said in a news release.
"Members from the OPP criminal investigation branch have now assumed responsibility for the matter."
Detective-Superintendent Ross Bingley, director of the OPP criminal investigation branch, said the force has yet to begin its investigation.
"The investigation will be around the publication and was there a breach of any publication bans or any agreements reached," he said.
Mr. Williams said he has not heard from the provincial police and hasn't heard from the Niagara force since last year.
He has vehemently defended himself against Mr. Danson's suggestion that publishing the photos could be illegal, saying it is legal to possess and publish the photographs because they are in the public domain.
Mr. Danson said Cantos has threatened to sue him.
"They sent me a very threatening letter," he said. "I will be responding ... they have their facts twisted and upside down."
Mr. Williams's 456-page book details Ms. Homolka's plea bargain and how she's been spending her years behind bars. She is due to be released in July 2005.
Ms. Homolka got a 12-year manslaughter sentence in exchange for testimony against her ex-husband. Mr. Bernardo is serving a life sentence.
Ten years later, 'caustic' Bernardo tapes, other evidence destroyed: lawyer
TORONTO (CP) - Infamous videotapes depicting sex killer Paul Bernardo's vicious rape and torture of schoolgirls Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy have been incinerated. "It was a very emotional moment," said Kristen's mother, Donna, describing how she felt when she watched the tapes being destroyed at a facility in the Niagara region the day before.
"I was thinking of Kristen, and mentally telling her that she didn't have to worry anymore, that no one would ever see these tapes again."
All known copies of the tapes, pivotal evidence in Bernardo's 1995 conviction on two counts of first-degree murder, were destroyed "along with a significant amount of other materials," lawyer Tim Danson said Friday.
Only a transcript of their contents remains.
"With the destruction of this material, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy are now free from this horror and their own dignity and respect have been restored," said Danson, who represents the families.
The process of deciding whether to destroy the tapes began last fall, after Bernardo's last-ditch effort to win an appeal of his conviction fell on deaf ears at the Supreme Court of Canada, said Attorney General David Young.
Young said he became convinced just this week that the tapes would never again need to be viewed by a Canadian court of law.
"I considered the consequences in some considerable detail once again earlier this week and satisfied myself that there would be no adverse consequences," Young said.
"I'm satisfied that the destruction of these tapes will not interfere with any future proceedings in front of a court or parole board."
But there are images of Bernardo's crimes that cannot be destroyed: the ones that have been permanently seared into the memories of the more than 62 people who watched the tapes.
One of them, prominent criminal lawyer Clayton Ruby, had to watch them when his client, fellow solicitor John Rosen, took over Bernardo's defence in 1994.
Ruby, a hard-boiled legal veteran, was barely able to muster a response when asked Friday what viewing the tapes was like.
"I cried," he said.
Ken Murray, Bernardo's original lawyer, was acquitted last year on a charge of attempting to obstruct justice after he recovered the tapes from Bernardo's home and kept them secret for 16 months in 1993 and 1994.
"Caustic," Murray told court in a quiet voice last year as he testified in his own defence.
"They were corrosive; they were horrific."
Ruby, who called the destruction of the tapes "premature," said he was surprised to learn they'd been destroyed.
"I've never heard of it being done like this before," he said. "It's very peculiar."
Crown evidence is normally stored in government facilities and kept for years in the event a case has to be revisited, he added.
"It all goes off into storage in some big government warehouse, and it's stored for years, because they never know when there will be some need for it, such as a miscarriage of justice."
In the unlikely event that someone else should prove to have been involved in the murders, the Crown "may find themselves in the position that they cannot prosecute someone, because they chose to destroy the evidence," Ruby added.
Danson insisted Friday that the only proceedings to which the tapes would be relevant would be a parole hearing for Bernardo, and that transcripts of the tapes would be sufficient.
But the transcripts couldn't possibly replicate the sheer power of the real thing, Ruby said. "One is an antiseptic oral record; the other one is quite horrendous."
As far as the families were concerned, the fewer viewings the better. And there was no better way to limit the viewings than to get rid of the tapes altogether.
"It was such an extreme violation to the girls every time these were viewed," Donna French said. "We knew it was necessary for judicial reasons, but it was still very hard, every time it happened."
For nearly a decade, a storm of controversy has swirled around the tapes, which police failed to discover during a comprehensive search of Bernardo's home after his 1993 arrest.
Murray and his legal team recovered the tapes from their hiding place in a bathroom light fixture, becoming the first people aside from Bernardo and ex-wife Karla Homolka to learn of their existence.
Homolka eventually told police about the tapes and testified against Bernardo as part of a much-maligned plea bargain that saw her convicted of two counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Authorities later said they wouldn't have agreed to the Homolka plea bargain if they'd seen the tapes.
Aside from the horrors perpetrated on French and Mahaffy, the tapes also depicted the rape of a woman identified only as Jane Doe and a similar assault on Homolka's younger sister, Tammy.
Karla Homolka drugged her sister with animal tranquilizer to facilitate the attack; shortly afterward, Tammy choked on her vomit and died. The death was ruled an accident and neither Bernardo nor Homolka were ever charged.
The original plan was to keep the destruction private, but the families decided Canadians who endured the horrors of the trial ought to know the tapes were gone, Danson added.
"I think the country stands as one with respect to this," he said.
"Hopefully at this time of year there will be a lot of people across the country who will be happy with this news."
In Friday's statement, the French and Mahaffy families thanked "the people of Canada for their uncompromising, generous and heartfelt support and encouragement over many years, without which survival for the families would have been impossible."
Timeline of the videotapes
A look at the history of Paul Bernardo's infamous sex-and-torture videotapes, destroyed Thursday on the authority of Ontario Attorney General David Young:
February 1993: Paul Bernardo arrested and charged with 43 sexual offences; retains Ken Murray as counsel.
May 4-6, 1993: Following Bernardo's instructions, Murray and his assistants remove six videotapes from Bernardo's St. Catharines, Ont., home. Bernardo's instructions forbid Murray from viewing the tapes.
May 14, 1993: Deal signed between Crown and Karla Homolka compels her to plead guilty to two manslaughter counts and serve 12 years in prison in exchange for testimony against Bernardo.
May 1993: Bernardo charged with two counts of first-degree murder in deaths of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. Murray views the tapes.
Aug. 27, 1994: Bernardo authorizes new lawyer John Rosen to view contents of file but makes no mention of tapes. Bernardo tells Murray not to disclose the tapes to Rosen.
Sept. 12, 1994: Murray and Cooper attempt to surrender the tapes to the court. Rosen, worried about the consequences for Bernardo, intervenes and agrees to handle the tapes ethically.
Sept. 13-22, 1994: Rosen surrenders tapes to the Crown.
Sept. 1, 1995: Bernardo convicted in murders of French and Mahaffy. Tapes play major role at trial.
March 18, 1996: Judicial review finds deal with Homolka would have been unnecessary had authorities seen the videos.
Jan. 23, 1997: Murray charged with obstruction of justice, possessing child pornography and making obscene material. All but obstruction charges later dropped.
March 27, 2000: Murray's trial gets underway and lasts for nearly seven weeks.
June 13, 2000: Ontario Superior Court judge Patrick Gravely acquits Murray on a charge of attempting to obstructing justice. Tapes are stored in a secret location.
September 2000: Supreme Court of Canada rejects Bernardo's bid for an appeal, prompting Ontario government to consider a family request to destroy the tapes.
December 20, 2001: Tapes incinerated.
Paul Bernardo's heinous videotapes depicting the rapes and torture of his victims have been destroyed.
Quotes about the tapes
"Caustic. They were corrosive; they were horrific." - Ken Murray, Bernardo's original lawyer, at his obstruction of justice trial in 2000.
"There was a look of feral joy on her face. The tapes displayed, in my opinion, Karla as an initiator, a person in control. This was someone who is not afraid of anybody. This is someone who was far more involved than any of us believed." - Ken Murray, referring to Karla Homolka, Bernardo's accomplice.
"It was an extraordinarily emotional time. There were many long nights . . . there was not a moment, then or now, when they're not played over in my mind." - Ken Murray.
"With the tapes, she's a person fully capable of committing murder against another human being. He had no choice but to use the tapes. There was no case without them." - Ken Murray's lawyer, Austin Cooper, at his trial.
"There's no question the holding of the tapes is what resulted in this sweetheart deal and what happens to Karla Homolka is a matter of public concern." - Tim Danson, lawyer for the French and Mahaffy families.
"There are very few people in this country who would want access to those tapes." - Lawyer Alan Young, who defended an author accused of illegally viewing the tapes.
"Public exposure to the type of material contained in the subject videotapes promotes the rape myth ... with the effect of devaluing and dehumanizing women in general, and Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy in particular." - The families of French and Mahaffy in their application to the Supreme Court of Canada to destroy the tapes.
"I'm not aware personally of the contents on the tapes, but we know what it is supposed to contain. Considering the pros and cons, I am totally in agreement with (destroying the tapes)." - Marc Labelle, the lawyer who represents Homolka.
Flaherty mentions destroying Bernardo videotapes
TORONTO (CP) -- The time is fast approaching when sex killer Paul Bernardo's notorious sex-and-torture videotapes will finally be destroyed, says Ontario's attorney general.
Jim Flaherty said Wednesday that the tapes -- which depict Bernardo and ex-wife Karla Homolka raping and torturing murdered teens Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy -- will not be kept forever.
"It's the wish of the families of the victims, and we want to reflect that wish eventually, when it's clear the tapes would serve no further purpose to the administration of justice," Flaherty told The Canadian Press.
"It would be appropriate at that time . . . to eradicate them."
A decision by Superior Court Justice Patrick Gravely in 1996 cleared the way for the Crown to destroy the tapes, but only once they were no longer needed, Flaherty said.
"His order is that the tapes can only be destroyed once they are no longer needed for the administration of justice," he said.
"He has indicated that the issue is the need for the tapes . . . and that's certainly something that the Crown is responsible for."
The tapes were central to three outstanding legal matters which ended this year: Bernardo's appeal of his 1995 conviction, a case against his former lawyer Ken Murray and charges of breaching a court order brought against Toronto author Stephen Williams.
Bernardo, who insists he was unjustly convicted on two counts of first-degree murder, saw his bid for a new trial thwarted by the Ontario Court of Appeal in the spring and the Supreme Court of Canada in September.
Murray was acquitted in June on a charge of attempting to obstruct justice after he concealed the tapes for more than a year back in 1993, after he took on Bernardo as a client.
And in November, charges against Williams -- who wrote a book about the case and was accused of watching the tapes in defiance of a court order -- were dropped altogether.
The Crown abandoned its prosecution of Williams for fear the graphic tapes would have to be played in open court.
Tim Danson, the lawyer who represents the French and Mahaffy families, says he believes it's time to open the debate about whether the tapes can be destroyed.
But he warned that there may be legal ramifications if Bernardo ever seeks early parole or statutory release.
"My opinion at this moment is that they will probably be needed for the administration of justice as long as Paul Bernardo is alive," Danson said Wednesday.
"It's now timely to have this discussion, and I want to reflect on it carefully because I want to consider the kinds of situations that may arise in the future."
It was Danson who convinced Gravely to issue the order in 1996 in an effort to ensure the tapes would not forever remain in evidence.
The contents of the tapes have also been documented in transcripts that detail every single frame, he noted.
It was before they learned about the tapes in 1994 that the Crown offered Homolka a 12-year prison sentence on two counts of manslaughter in exchange for testimony against Bernardo.
By all accounts, the tapes suggest Homolka was a gleeful and willing participant in the attacks, not a battered victim of a brutal, psychotic husband as she portrayed herself in court.
Flaherty said he met "a long time ago" with the French and Mahaffy families to discuss the possibility of destroying the tapes, something they wholeheartedly support, he said.
But with pending civil litigation by the families still outstanding, and the possibility of Bernardo launching a bid for early parole in 2008, the province wants to "go slow," he added.
"We'll consult with the families, the police, officials in my ministry, and any decision will certainly reflect the wishes of the families," Flaherty said.
"I think it's fair to say eventually, in the not-too-distant future, the decision could be taken to eradicate the tapes."
Bernardo has been a hot topic in the Ontario legislature in recent days amid reports that a Toronto production company is planning a film version of the Bernardo saga.
Premier Mike Harris promised Wednesday that the government would not co-operate with the project.
"No government buildings will be used for any film that has anything to do with Paul Bernardo," Harris said during question period.
"There will not be any co-operation from this government, because all members of the legislature have indicated our abhorrence with this crime and any profiting of this crime by way of a movie."
Bernardo lawyer cleared
TORONTO (CP) -- The governing body for lawyers in Ontario abandoned efforts Wednesday to censure the man who first represented sex killer Paul Bernardo.
The Law Society of Upper Canada dropped a professional misconduct charge against lawyer Ken Murray, all but ending a legal tumult that swirled for seven years around Bernardo's heinous sex-and-torture videotapes.
Instead, the society said it plans to draft new rules to govern how its members should handle incriminating evidence that might be beneficial to both sides.
"That's the most difficult decision we'll have to make," said Gavin MacKenzie, chairman of the society's professional regulation committee.
Murray was acquitted in June of criminal charges laid after he concealed his client's videotapes for 17 months, beginning in the spring of 1993.
The infamous tapes depicted Bernardo and ex-wife Karla Homolka raping and torturing teens Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, as well as Homolka's sister Tammy.
During a 27-day trial in St. Catharines, Ont. last spring, Murray said he concealed the tapes because they were critical to Bernardo's defence strategy.
Murray believed they showed Homolka's complicity in the crimes, shattering her self-proclaimed image as a battered wife forced to comply with the sexual predilections of her psychotic husband.
He insisted he had planned to confront Homolka with the tapes on the stand in order to undermine her credibility as a Crown witness.
For his part, Murray said Wednesday he's glad new rules to help guide lawyers are in the works.
"If this ever comes up in the future, other lawyers won't have the same difficulties wallowing through an unknown field," he said.
"It's unfortunate that it took as long as it did, but from here I expect that it can move on."
Members of the committee will include prominent criminal lawyer Clayton Ruby and Alan Gold, head of the Criminal Lawyers Association.
"We're going to come up with guidelines that are clear enough that even the dumbest lawyer on Earth will be able to figure out that you can't do this," Ruby said Wednesday.
"We'll look at that."
Bernardo was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder in the French and Mahaffy deaths and was sentenced to life in prison.
Homolka was given a 12-year sentence on two counts of manslaughter in exchange for her testimony against her ex-husband.
That deal was struck before authorities became aware there was videotaped evidence against the notorious couple.
A judicial review in 1996, a year after Bernardo's conviction, found that Homolka's deal wouldn't have been necessary had authorities known about the tapes.
Homolka could be released from prison as early as next year.
The decision will help Murray find closure, said his lawyer, Mark Sandler.
"He's been practising criminal law for many years . . .and didn't have a blemish on his character or reputation," Sandler said.
"All of a sudden, he was in the public eye, he was vilified, he was demonized."
Murray was ultimately forced to withdraw from the case in the fall of 1994 and found himself under investigation by provincial police and the law society.
Meanwhile, the last chapter in the sordid legal saga of the videotapes is expected to end Thursday when Crown officials request a stay of charges against author Stephen Williams.
Williams was charged with breaching a court order for allegedly viewing the banned tapes and writing about them in his book Invisible Darkness.
Officials with Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General refused to confirm the plan Thursday.
"We won't be commenting on that until we speak to it in court," said ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley.
Latest Homolka book in high demand
TORONTO (CP) - A book about schoolgirl killer Karla Homolka is selling briskly in the Niagara area where Homolka and her husband, Paul Bernardo, committed their horrific crimes.
The English-language version of "Karla: A Pact with the Devil" by Stephen Williams has been selling well since going on sale a few days ago, Tracy Nesdoly, spokeswoman for the Indigo bookstore chain, said Monday. At a store in St. Catharines, Ont., Williams' book couldn't be found on the shelves, customers had to ask for it at the counter.
"The management at that store decided it was most appropriate not to display it," Nesdoly said.
However, that store has sold out of all its copies, she said. Nesdoly declined to say how many copies that store had received.
The book, which features a smiling photo of Homolka holding a wine glass on the front cover, examines Homolka's 1993 plea-bargain for her part in the sex slayings of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy.
The book also explores how she is spending her time while serving a 12-year manslaughter sentence in a maximum-security prison in Joliette, Quebec.
Niagara Region police were investigating Homolka's role in the production of the book to see if she violated her plea-bargain deal with the Crown, which banned her from discussing her crimes with the media or benefiting from the slayings.
Homolka and Bernardo were convicted in the sex slayings of French, 15, and Mahaffy, 14, which took place in an upscale St. Catharines, Ont., neighbourhood.
Bernardo was convicted in 1995 and declared a dangerous offender. He's in prison in Kingston, Ont., without possibility of parole.
Before Crown attorneys knew there were videotapes portraying Homolka as a willing participant in the crimes, they struck a deal for a 12-year sentence on two counts of manslaughter.
In his book, Williams questions the wisdom of keeping Homolka in prison instead of granting her parole, for which she was eligible last summer after serving two-thirds of her sentence.
He argues that had Homolka been released in 2001, authorities could have controlled her reintegration through required visits with parole officials and possibly with an electronic bracelet to trace her whereabouts.
"When 2005 rolls around, she'll be free as a bird, no strings attached, and absolutely no one will be able to touch her," Williams said in an interview last year.
His book does not lack controversy, but nothing has kicked up as much dust as Williams's 18-month correspondence with Homolka, much of it quoted in the book.
The French and Mahaffy families' lawyer, Tim Danson, has suggested Homolka violated the terms of her plea bargain by communicating with Williams.
Families urge bookstores to remove book on sex killer Homolka from shelves
TORONTO (CP) - Bookstores across Canada should remove all copies of a new Karla Homolka book from their shelves, and anyone who bought a copy should destroy the graphic photographs inside its covers, says the lawyer for the families of two schoolgirls who were raped and murdered by Homolka and Paul Bernardo.
"The Mahaffy and French families plead, plead with the owners of every bookstore in Canada and elsewhere to voluntarily remove Mr. Williams's book from their bookshelves," Tim Danson told a news conference Friday.
Danson said he and the families had believed some of the photos in the book Karla: A Pact with the Devil, by Stephen Williams - in particular, one showing the concrete blocks in which Bernardo encased Leslie Mahaffy's body parts after killing and dismembering her - had been destroyed by authorities more than a year ago.
"Now, contrary to our understanding of the law, Mr. Williams and his publisher have had the cruel audacity to publish a picture of Leslie's body parts," Danson said.
"Bookstore owners have a moral and legal duty to ensure that they are not assisting in the violation to which we speak today."
Indigo Books and Music Inc. does not intend to pull the new Homolka book from the shelves, said Indigo spokeswoman Tracy Nesdoly. Indigo owns 277 Chapters, Indigo, Coles and SmithBooks stores nationwide. Every store received at least one copy of the book, which is selling for $24.95.
"In Quebec, the book has been selling for several months now," Nesdoly said.
"There was no indication from the federal government or the police or anybody that there was something wrong, and the distributor and publisher have reassured me they have sought legal advice as well. As far as we know, we're not breaking any laws whatsoever."
The manager at one Chapters store in St. Catharines, the hometown of Kristen French, decided not to restock the book after selling out of it. Local residents, however, can buy the book online or at other nearby Indigo stores.
One Toronto bookstore chain heeded the families' pleas Friday, yanking the books after 10 days on the shelves.
"Out of respect toward the families, I have decided to withdraw the title from sale," said Frans Donker, owner of the five Book City stores.
"This is the first time in my 27 years of book retail I have decided to remove a title from sale."
Donker said he bought "very, very few" copies of the book - three for each store - and has sold a total of three since the book was published.
"I'm a parent. I can understand what this family has gone through over the last 10 or so years, and now to suddenly see pictures they thought had been destroyed must be very hurtful and very painful."
Several independent stores decided not to carry the book even before it was published.
"If someone asks me for it, I'll order it," said Cathy Legate, owner of Vancouver's well-known Duthie's Books. "I wouldn't go out of my way to carry it."
Danson said Mahaffy's mother, Debbie, was too distraught to attend the news conference Friday, although Danson read a statement from her. Debbie's husband, Dan, was present, but did not speak.
"In a flash, all of Debbie and Dan's healing and progress has vanished ... Once again Leslie Mahaffy's memory and dignity has been egregiously violated."
Danson reiterated his call for a police investigation into how Williams obtained and published the crime scene photos. He said their publication violates various court orders surrounding the Bernardo-Homolka legal saga.
A composed Donna French, Kristen's mother, told the news conference that the latest developments have caused further pain to her family.
"Knowing that there are more pictures out there - we are again on that emotional rollercoaster ride," she said.
Williams has vehemently defended himself against Danson's accusations, saying it is legal to possess and publish the photographs because they are in the public domain.
"If you want to take one picture in isolation of everything else that's in the book, of course that picture could appear to be grotesque and sensational," Williams said Friday from his home in Mount Forest, Ont.
"But the pictures in the book . . . provide a pictorial narrative of Karla Homolka's life and they reinforce one of the central themes of the book, and that theme is the dichotomy between how Karla Homolka appears, how she speaks, her level of intelligence, her soft-spokenness, her literacy, her social skills . . . and the atrocity of her deeds."
But Danson said their publication breaches previous court orders, especially a picture that shows one of Homolka and Bernardo's young rape victims with a small bar over her eyes but the rest of her face plainly visible. A publication ban protects the victim's identity.
"Jane Doe is clearly identified in this picture and the use of a black mark through her eyes" does not conceal her identity, he said.
Danson also accused Williams of libelling Vince Bevan, now chief of the Ottawa police force, who was in charge of the Niagara Regional police force when French and Mahaffy were murdered.
"I was stunned into numbness, as were the families, as I read in Mr. Williams's book the numerous and malicious attacks on Chief Bevan. (Bevan) is a man of principle and integrity."
Karla: A Pact with the Devil, published in French in the fall and in English last week, is Williams's second book on the Bernardo-Homolka case. He was charged and acquitted of violating court orders while writing his first book.
At the request of the province of Ontario, Niagara police began investigating the newly published book as soon as it was available in French to determine if material in it breached Homolka's plea-bargain agreement. A spokesman for Ontario Attorney General Norm Sterling said his ministry is not involved in the investigation for now.
Williams's 456-page book details the 1993 deal and how Homolka has been spending her years behind bars. She is due to be released in July 2005.
Homolka got a 12-year manslaughter sentence in exchange for testimony against her ex-husband.
Bernardo is serving a life sentence.
Statements delivered by Donna French, mother of rape and murder victim Kristen French, and by lawyer Tim Danson on behalf of Debbie and Dan Mahaffy, parents of victim Leslie Mahaffy, at news conference to recall copies of Karla: A Pact with the Devil, by Stephen Williams:
"It is only since the videotapes, along with other evidence, have been destroyed that we have finally been able to pull our lives together again. Now, knowing that there are more pictures out there we are again on that emotional rollercoaster ride."
- Donna French
"To those who do not know this already, we would like to say that during the time that Kristen was missing, after she was found and during the trial, the Green Ribbon Task Force, and especially Vince Bevan, was our life line. He always showed compassion and sensitivity toward our family yet at the same time was always professional. Vince went to great lengths to ensure that we were kept informed and he made himself available to us day or night."
- Donna French
"It is cruelty in the extreme that subsequent to that court order Williams has published a copy of one of the police photos of Leslie in death, and in doing so he has exhumed her once again, exposed her again and has treated her and her family with disdain and disrespect."
- Debbie and Dan Mahaffy
"When we looked upon the photo of Leslie in Williams's book we could see just as clearly the contents of that cement block and every other cement block shown and even the ones that are not in this photo. Those terrifying images and sounds of her abduction, torture, death and disposal, which we had carefully filed safely away, came flooding back and have possessed us once again."
- Debbie and Dan Mahaffy
"We believe that it is important at this time that we publicly thank Vince Bevan and every officer of the Niagara and Halton Regional Police Force and every officer on the Green Ribbon Task Force. It was our privilege to observe, learn and understand what exceptional police work was done as they undertook and successfully completed their investigation into the deaths of Leslie and Kristen."
- Debbie and Dan Mahaffy
"Williams's misrepresentations, distortions and omissions of facts, misconceptions, misinformation and his ad nauseum accusations and insinuations with respect to Vince Bevan personally and the police community in general are but more examples of Williams's incredulous untruthfulness."
- Debbie and Dan Mahaffy