Murder causes devastation for victims’ families, and public outrage when sentences are deemed too lenient. Many argue ‘life should mean life’. Yet, once killers have spent their time behind bars, and are judged no danger to the public, they’re free to start afresh. For fear of revenge attacks from vigilantes, a handful of perpetrators are granted the right to new identities on release.
In 2010, then UK Justice Secretary, Jack Straw said anonymity orders would be granted when the ‘physical safety, indeed the life of somebody being released, could only be preserved if they are given a new identity’.
Reportedly costing £250,000 per identity to the UK taxpayer, ‘Lifelong Anonymity’ orders are rare. Just four individuals have been granted lifelong anonymity in Britain. Maxine Carr, ex-girlfriend of 2002 Soham murderer Ian Huntley, 1968 child killer Mary Bell, and 1993 child killers, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson…
1. UK: Jon Venables and Robert Thompson
At 10, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson snatched innocent 2-year-old James Bulger from a Liverpool shopping centre, in February 1993.
Sickening details emerged of how they’d tortured James before leaving him to die on a railway track.
The crime shocked the nation, bringing calls for extreme punishment.
And Venables and Thompson became the youngest murder convicts in the UK. Both were sentenced to life.
But, eight years later, they were released on parole having never spent time in an adult prison.
The decision caused public outcry, and the threat to their lives was deemed so great they were granted new identities, as were their families, on condition they never returned to their hometown.
Venables breached the terms of his parole, having visited Liverpool nightclubs and football matches.
Then, in July 2010, Venables was charged with child pornography offences, and sentenced to two years in prison.
And, in 2013, Jon Venables, now 32, was handed his fourth new alias, bringing the public bill for protecting the murderer to a reported £1million.
Only a handful of officials are aware of Thompson and Venables’ original identities.
2. Canada: Karla Homolka
In 1995, Canadian serial killer, Karla Homolka, now 45, and her then husband, Paul Bernardo, now 51, were convicted of raping and murdering two teenagers, Leslie Mahaffy, 14, and Kristen French, 15.
The two were also revealed to have previously drugged Homolka’s younger sister, Tammy, and raped her. Tammy, then 15, choked on her vomit and died the next day.
Homolka told investigators Bernardo had abused her, and that she’d been an unwilling accomplice.
As a result, she struck a deal with prosecutors for a reduced prison sentence of 12 years in exchange for a guilty plea for manslaughter.
This was dubbed by media as ‘The Deal With The Devil.’
Bernardo was convicted of kidnap, rape and murder.
He was sentenced to life, with no hope of parole for 25 years.
Meanwhile, Homolka had portrayed herself as a victim to the murderous monster.
But videotapes of the crimes, found after the plea bargain, showed her to be a more active participant.
The high-profile case caused outrage about Homolka’s lenient sentence.
After serving 12 years, on 4 July 2005, Homolka was released as a free woman.
She’s had several new identities, including Karla Leanne Teale and Leanne Bordelais.
She first settled in Montreal before moving to a Caribbean island, Guadeloupe.
Homolka’s whereabouts became public when a journalist, Paula Todd, published a book ‘Finding Karla’, in 2012.
She was revealed to have a new husband Thierry Bordelais – the brother of Homolka’s lawyer – with whom she’d three children.
The news was met with anger and fear by many Guadeloupe residents. Although one lady, Clemence, 66, offered sympathy: ‘She has rebuilt her life… I wonder if we should just leave her alone?’
But, in October 2014, Homolka hit headlines again when her sister, formerly known as Lori, revealed she was now living in Quebec.
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3. Australia: Clifford Bartholwmew
It was supposed to be a quiet Father’s Day dinner, on 6 September 1971.
Instead, in a jealous rage, Clifford Bartholemew, then 40, ruthlessly gunned down his wife, Heather, before targeting nine family members in cold blood at a remote farmhouse in Hope Forest.
Clifford slaughtered not only his wife, but his sister-in-law Winnis Mary Keane, 26, and eight children between 19-years-old and 18 months.
The brutal bloodbath, labelled by the press the ‘Hope Forest Horror’, was Australia’s worst mass murder at the time.
After his arrest Bartholomew claimed he’d suffered ‘five months of mental torture’ caused by the belief his wife was having an affair with a 22-year-old Vietnam War ex-serviceman staying at the farm.
His bloody shooting spree came after he’d intercepted a letter from the soldier.
Police later determined Heather had not had an affair.
Yet Bartholomew leapt to conclusions, and entered the property around 1am, armed with two rifles and a rubber mallet.
Heather was struck first with the mallet, then shot dead.
As the remaining family members were roused by the noise, he systematically shot them all.
The youngest, his nephew, Daniel, 18 months, was the last to be shot dead.
Bartholomew had sat down to drink a beer before realising his nephew was still asleep. So, he’d reloaded his gun, and shot Daniel as he lay in his cot.
The shocking crime led Bartholomew to be sentenced to death in November 1971, which was later reduced to life.
However, he was released after eight years, having served just nine months per murder.
Police, prison officers and the public criticised the decision.
On 11 December 1979, then head of the SA Parole Board, Justice Mitchell, made the only public comment about why the murderer was being released, stating it was ‘appropriate’ and that Bartholomew had been a ‘model prisoner’.
Bartholomew was given a new name and identity and was last reported, in 1991, to be living in Adelaide.
It’s unknown if Bartholomew, who’d now be 85, is still alive.