After widespread condemnation, Amazon apparently removed a fiction book self-published by Paul Bernardo from its online stores. Bernardo is a Canadian serial killer and rapist known for the highly publicized sexual assaults and murders he committed with his wife Karla Homolka in the early 1990s. As “The Scarborough Rapist”, 18 rapes are attributed to him. Bernardo was put under surveillance when his DNA came back a match to evidence collected in the rape cases, 26 months after his DNA sample was submitted for testing. In 1995, Bernardo was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years for the earlier rapes and subsequent deaths of Tammy Homolka, Leslie Mahaffy, and Kristen French. His wife, Karla Homolka testified against him after a accepting a plea offer of a 12-year prison sentence. She was released in 2005. Bernardo was declared a dangerous offender in 1995 and is deemed a psychopath with a score of 35 on the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) test–the benchmark of psychopathy measurement.
The ebook authored by Bernardo titled “A MAD world order” was published in June 2015 and recently came to light when complaints started to surface. The fictional title, about Russia trying to regain superpower dominance, drew criticism from families of victims as “bad taste” and “an insult to his young victims”. According to Tim Danson, the lawyer representing the schoolgirl victims, “My biggest question is whether the novel directly or indirectly references any of his offences,” Danson said. “If not, then there is likely nothing illegal because he is not profiting from his offences.”
But such argument is not entirely true. Paul Bernardo is a notorious criminal who had committed highly publicized crimes. Whether or not his work of fiction contains direct or indirect references to his offenses are beside the point. His name has significant marketing brand value based on his crimes. It can be argued that it is this personal brand that has contributed to significant sales on Amazon, judging from the book’s sales ranking on November 14, the day before the book was apparently removed from Amazon’s catalogue. One can only assume that the 43,000 signatures that a petition on Change.com amassed and the almost 100 negative book reviews, together with threats to boycott Amazon in Christmas sales, prompted the book giant to act.
Bernardo has recently applied for day parole in the Toronto area, which may be jeopardized by the attention that the book saga ignited. Without mincing word, the victims’ lawyer declared Bernardo as “once a psychopath, always a psychopath“; strongly opposing any privileges for the convicted serial rapist and murderer.