10. Paul Bernardo Was Almost Apprehended Years Before The Schoolgirl Murders
Between 1987 and 1990, Toronto’s Scarborough district was rocked by a series of vicious rapes. The mystery attacker was targeting women, most of whom traveled by bus late at night. As the attacks grew increasingly violent, a police task force was established as a priority. Plainclothes detectives began to stake out bus stations, and in May 1988, an officer spotted a suspect matching the attacker’s description lingering under a tree. The suspect escaped on foot but was later identified as Paul Bernardo.
Despite the close shave, Bernardo seemed incapable of slowing down. By 1990, police had received three separate tips leading directly to him. The first came from an ex-girlfriend, who shared her experience of Bernardo’s violent sexual behavior with a friend in law enforcement. The second came from a bank teller who recognized Bernardo after seeing a composite sketch of the rapist. The final tip came from Tina Smirnis, the wife of Bernardo’s lifelong friend. Smirnis also saw a likeness in the composite and had been witness to Bernardo’s expressions of sexual deviance.
In November that year, detectives interviewed Bernardo for a total of 35 minutes. They found Paul to be credible; he provided samples for forensic testing and joked about his resemblance to the composite sketch. Bernardo was released, and delays in forensic testing ensured his freedom.