|CREDIT: FRANK GUNN, CP|
|Karla Homolka (right) and her sister Lori during Homolka's 1993 manslaughter trial in the deaths of two Ontario schoolgirls.|
Karla Homolka, one of Canada's most notorious killers, longs to become just another Montrealaise next door.
Hoping to block that dream are vigilantes plotting revenge on the Web and reporters staking out her prison, ready to snap pictures as she emerges, then track down and stalk her new home.
Officials aren't saying exactly when she'll leave prison (except that it will be between Wednesday and next Monday) or how she'll be whisked away.
Homolka, who with former husband Paul Bernardo raped and killed two Ontario schoolgirls and took part in the rape and death of her own sister, desires a quiet life in Montreal, where her deeds had until now drawn less attention than elsewhere in Canada, court documents say.
Fearing for her safety, Homolka, 35, plans to avoid being recognized on the outside by changing her name and appearance, according to psychiatric evaluations.
She could conceal her blue eyes with contact lenses or even have her face surgically altered.
But in a city of almost 2 million, you don't have to go under the knife to blend in, said Guy Ouellette, a retired Surete du Quebec biker expert who knows the simple tricks fugitive bikers use to avoid capture or enemy retribution.
Ouellette, a 32-year police veteran, noted most of the Homolka photos the media are using are at least 12 years old, from before she went to jail. And the handful of photos the public has seen of her behind bars are grainy and don't clearly show her face.
Prison officials and police are expected to take extraordinary steps to avoid letting photographers capture new images when she's sprung from jail sporting her new look, Ouellette added.
"You won't recognize her from the court sketches," he said.
"The day she walks out of prison, she could walk on the street and 99.9 per cent of people wouldn't recognize her, even in Ontario." Exceptions are people who might have previously made eye contact with her, he said.
Homolka could take a cue from Quebec's most famous criminals - bikers. Some have had tattoos removed or deflated their bodies by eliminating muscle-building steroids, Ouellette said. Others changed their look.
Paul Fontaine was clean-cut as a top Hells Angel, Ouellette said. When busted last year, after seven years as a fugitive facing multiple murder charges, he had long hair and a thick beard.
Richard Vallee, another leading Hells member, was one of North America's most wanted men when he was nabbed in 2003 after six years on the lam. Facing a murder charge, he had assumed a new identity - mild-mannered scuba diving school owner Guy Turner - and moved around, at one point to Costa Rica. He changed his hair's colour, length and style, and grew a beard.
Ouellette dismissed reports Vallee had also had a nose job. "That's only in the movies," he said. "We looked back 25 years and never found a case of somebody remaking their face to avoid being found."
Even without surgery, Vallee's tactics and fake identity papers were enough to fool Montreal police, who once stopped him but let him go despite the fact he was driving drunk and had a loaded, illegal weapon and a stack of cash. Eight days later, they realized their gaffe and busted him.
Robert La Haye, a Montreal criminal lawyer who has defended high-profile clients, said if Homolka was his client, he'd advise her to change her name and her appearance and if that didn't work, to have plastic surgery.
La Haye said Homolka's biggest fear of being unmasked should stem from the fact she must report her whereabouts to police, under rules imposed for at least her first year out of jail.
"If I was her lawyer, I would immediately send a letter to police asking them, under threat of a lawsuit, not to reveal her identity outside police circles," he said, adding that he would request a court order to the same effect.
Apart from journalists, paparazzi and people angry about the length of her jail sentence, Homolka also has to beware of deranged individuals who might want to hurt or kill her in order to make headlines, La Haye said.
Homolka is expected to rely on friends made in prison and on inmate-support groups. But there's a chance someone in contact with her will one day alert the media to her location.
That's why Homolka will likely forever be looking over her shoulder, La Haye said.
"Because of the nature of her crimes and the enormous media attention, she will always be in exile in her own country," he said. "She will never really be free, she'll never have a guarantee of privacy. That's something she will suffer until she dies."