Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome: Why some women are attracted to men like Paul Bernardo
Published Friday, July 4, 2014 9:35AM EDT Last Updated Monday, July 7, 2014 12:57PM EDT
The young, university-educated woman who reportedly plans to marry notorious schoolgirl killer Paul Bernardo may be suffering from what’s known as the “Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome,” according to one psychologist.
The clinical name for the syndrome, hybristophilia, has been noted in cases where someone is attracted to people who have committed horrible crimes, registered psychologist Oren Amitay told CTV’s Canada AM Friday.
“It’s where somebody has love and affiliation for people who do bad things, reprehensible things,” he said.
The syndrome affects more women than men, Amitay said. According to published research on hybristophiliacs, many of them write letters to prisoners in hopes of developing a relationship.
The Toronto Sun reported Thursday that a 30-year-old woman from London, Ont., has been corresponding with Bernardo since last fall and plans to marry him. CTV News has not been able to verify the report.
The unnamed woman told the Sun that Bernardo, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for the rapes and murders of schoolgirls Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, is a “kind man” and a “Christian.”
The woman reportedly told her friends that Bernardo, now 50, is innocent and was a “bystander” in the murders.
Amitay told Canada AM that sounds “almost narcissistic,” given the mountain of evidence against Bernardo that led to his conviction and life sentence.
The woman seems to believe that “she is going to prove everybody else wrong, she is going to save this man, she is going to find the good guy underneath all the bad,” he said.
According to the Sun, the woman’s father described her as “emotionally fragile” and vulnerable in the aftermath of a bad relationship. That likely set the stage for her to “imprint” on Bernardo, whom she saw as a powerful and caring man, Amitay said.
The fact that Bernardo is a “master manipulator” likely only exacerbated the problem, he said.
Karla Homolka, Bernardo's ex-wife, struck a deal with prosecutors in 1993 to serve 12 years in prison for manslaughter for her role in the crimes.
She and Bernardo had also drugged and sexually assaulted Homolka’s younger sister Tammy, who choked to death on her own vomit.
Homolka was released in 2005, and now lives in the Caribbean with her husband and three children.