[This episode also provides an update of the 1975 Diane Dery and Mario Corbeil case]
The Bordeaux Prison is a provincial prison / jail in the Montreal borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville.
The prison started construction in 1908 and was completed in 1912 by architect Jean-Omer Marchand to replace the aged Pied-du-Courant Prison, which saw the incarceration and execution by hanging of several Patriotes who had fought the Lower Canada Rebellion. The prison currently houses male inmates sentenced to less than two years’ imprisonment. It also houses prisoners awaiting trial. It is the largest provincial prison in Quebec, housing just under 1,400 inmates.
Before it even opened, the jail made headlines for it’s $2.5 million price tag, an astronomical amount in 1912. The tiny cells caused a public outcry at the time because they each contained a flushing toilet and electricity.
Inmates would disagree. In all, 90 inmates have escaped the jail, including Lucien Rivard, who linked garden hoses used to freeze an outdoor skating rink to climb the walls. Not everyone who entered the jail made it out – 82 people, including three women, were hanged from a balcony. The last hanging took place in 1960.
Now officially called the Montreal Detention Centre, the star-shaped building was meant to be state of the art, and even today, two of its wings remain unchanged.
Chantale Bouchard of the Bordeaux Jail Centennial Committee (the prison celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012) explains:
“It has been the witness of the evolution of criminology in Quebec, it has been the witness of the change of mind, the change of belief…. With the evolution of thinking, of criminology, now social re-insertion is at the heart of the correctional services mission. Bordeaux has been the privileged witness of all this evolution.”
On February 22, 1965 the first sod was turned on a new facility to replace the psychiatric wing of the Bordeaux prison; The Institute Philippe Pinel.
The location of a mental hospital within a prison had long been criticized, and the new facility couldn’t come soon enough. A brief submitted to the Prevost Commission in 1967 said that sanitary conditions in the psychiatric wing were worse than the Quebec zoo, with 150 men and boys living among rats, cockroaches, and bed bugs in the “D” wing. The report went on to say that the “D” wing reeked of food and garbage during periods of extreme heat. That cement walls were crumbling, and furniture and floors were destroyed. Often unruly inmates with no history of psychological troubles at all were housed in the wing because prison staff didn’t know how to cope with them. Inmates with no criminal records were often in cells with murderers. Twenty percent of the wing’s population had committed multiple murders. The Bordeaux psyche wing had ten “dungeon” cells reserved for trouble makers. Though a correctional facility, Bordeaux was actually under the control of the city of Montreal’s Department of Public Works.
The Institute Philippe Pinel – named after the famous French physician who pioneered the humane treatment of the mentally ill – was supposed to solve all the the Bordeaux problems. By 1968 the maximim security hospital at the North East end of the island of Montreal was not even finished when experts were calling for a second facility be constructed to house the remainder of Quebec inmates outside the Montreal area who also needed psychiatric care. At the time it was reported that 23,120 people in Quebec were suffering from schizophrenia, and 28,900 were victims of depressive illnesses. Of the 33,000 provincial hospital beds, almost 23,000 were occupied by patients who were mentally ill.
Before its completion officials boasted that the new Pinal Institute would have no bars on its windows, yet be escape-proof, “It would take a prisoner equipped with a hammer three to four hours to shatter one of the windows.”
Less than a year after opening in 1970, the Institute Philippe Pinel had its first prison escapee.
32-year-old Garrett Trapnell – AKA Robert Anson Brock – considered himself a ladies man, the guards used to joke about all the girlfriends who would come and visit him. On Sunday, January 24th, 1971, just as visiting hours were ending Trapnell – who supposedly didn’t have his wits about him – faked a hostage situation. One of Trapnell’s regular lady visitors , an attractive brunette, slipped him a revolver and he walked out the front door of Pinel with the brunette in tow, then into a black Mustang getaway car parked at the front of the institute, with four guards in pursuit. Police bulletins described Trapnell as “armed and extremely dangerous”, however a guard at the Institute described him as “anything but violent”: “He was depressed at having to celebrate his 33rd birthday in prison.”
That was the story on Monday. By Tuesday, after Trapnell was apprehended in Syracuse, New York things shifted. Turns out the Brunette was actually a blonde named Nicole Forget, and she did not know Trapnell. Forget was working late at the Institute as a stenographer. No one knows where Garrett Trapnell got the revolver, but it was not loaded when police made the arrest. Trapnell was a from Charlotte, North Carolina – my hometown boy – and declared unfit to stand trial after a series of hold-ups in the Montreal area.
When they walked out of the Montreal facility, Trapnell appeared to be looking for an accomplice to make his getaway. When no one arrived, Forget offered him her black Mustang. Trapnell first headed toward the Champlain bridge, but then realized police might be waiting for him. It was Forget who suggested he drive toward Ontario and make the crossing into the States at the Thousand Islands bridge across the Saint Lawrence River. Trapnell insisted he be let off at a gas station in Syracuse at 3 in the morning. He was apprehended shortly thereafter.
We could do a whole hour on Trapnell, but that’s for another day. Look him up, he eventually made the FBI’s ten-most-wanted list. The point is, Quebec officials may have thought Pinel was going to be some impenetrable fortress, from it first opening in the 1970s people were escaping from the place all the time.
In July 1972 three men escaped; Paul Martin, Jacques Lavasseur and Andre Gratton. Then the following summer came the big hostage situation. At 4:30 p.m.on Tuesday, June 12, 1973, two murderers, Normand Champagne and Andre Gratton – he of the escape the previous summer – armed with knives stolen from the Institute’s kitchen, herded three employees, including a nurse, into a control room overlooking the entrance to the complex. Gratton ordered authorities to supply him with $850 in cash and two walkie-talkie sets. He then led the director of the institute, Dr. Lionel Beliveau out the front door of the complex while his accomplice, Normand Champagne remained behind.
With Beliveau driving, Gratton jumped out of the vehicle around the neighborhood of Outremont. If Champagne did not hear from Gratton by 11 p.m., the plan was that Champagne was to immediately shoot all three hostages. With no word from Gratton, shortly before 10 p.m. Champagne demanded that CJMS radio reporter and sometime negotiator, Claude Poirier be brought to the institute to negotiate his release.
Just before 11 p.m. a local ham radio operator began to pick up snatches of the conversations between Champagne and Poirier. The operator then called the Montreal police and asked if they were aware of a hostage situation at the Pinel Institute. Montreal police were left totally blind-sided. It took Pinel officials over 6 hours to inform them of the situation. A Pinel security chief later explained, “We just couldn’t take the chance of telling police and have Gratton caught before he made the call to Champagne.”
At midnight, Champagne freed the hostages, and left the Pinel Institute with Claude Poirier. The reporter drove the inmate around Montreal, dropping him off to visit his mother. Police eventually spotted Poirier’s car and recapture Champagne, who surrendered peacefully. (We assume that Gratton was later apprehended. )
It started to become quite popular to kidnap Director Beliveau. In 1976 he was again held hostage, this time inside his Outremont home. Two convicts, 44-year-old Andre Boyer and his 26-year-old partner, failed to return to prison on a weekend pass. But they knew immediately where to go. To the home of Dr. Lionel Beliveau at 1295 St. Viateur St. (it didn’t help that the newspaper managed to publish the doctor’s address). Beliveau, his wife and four children were held at gunpoint while the two men discussed ransoms sums with Dr. Beliveau ranging from $10,000 to $1 million. Things got heated, and Boyer started shouting and waving his gun around. Things ended abruptly when apparently Boyer’s gun went off and he accidentally shot himself to death.
Another Summer, another hostage event at the Pinel Institute
In a pattern that was now becoming terrifyingly familiar, two young men – who cannot be named because they were both under the age of 18 – broke out of the institute on July, 7th, 1974, holding a pair of scissors to the neck of 27-year-old nurse, Micheline Jacques. On a blockaded stretch of Cavendish Blvd, near Cote de Liesse, their car ran out of gas. For nearly four hours the two men sat in the car with the scissors to Ms. Jacques neck. At first they demanded a revolver, a police hostage, and a police cruiser. Then they added that an airplane to Cuba and some cash would also be nice. Montreal police eventually persuaded the young men to give themselves up, all the while police sharpshooters were stationed in the woods along Cavendish Blvd.
The Prison Strike
In early July, 1977 over 300 members of the Pinel Employees Union walked off the job at the East-End facility, leaving behind a skeleton crew of staff to watch over the 270 housed inmates. Within 24-hours the result was not surprising: teen inmates went on a rampage; destroying furniture, smashing windows and stealing medical supplies. A riot equipped Surete du Quebec force stood at the ready outside the facility, but ultimately it was a picketing band of 40 guards who marched into Pinel and quelled the riot, all to the cheers of the inmates.
“I guess the strikers realized if the situation got out of hand they would lose their protest,” commented an observing SQ officer. “They did a good job… I have to given them credit.”
At issue was staff capacity. The union was asking for additional positions at the institution, “so we can help to rehabilitate these individuals… not simply guard them.” As the strike dragged on things became desperate. Union leaders charged that Pinel administrators were giving patients “unusually” heavy doses of tranquilizers to keep them quiet and maintain order. One inmate – who was transferred to a neighboring facility because Pinel could no longer perform electro-shock therapy with the limited staffing – committed suicide by jumping out a fifth-floor window.
By the end of July union representatives and the administration come to an agreement. Twenty-nine new workers will be provided to the institution. On July 25th The Montreal Gazette publishes a feel-good piece titled, “Inside Pinel: A smile can make it all worth while”
Suspect in slaying is a mental patient
Montreal Gazette – September 7, 1983
A 34-year-old man held on a coroner’s warrant in Sunday’s stabbing-death of a young prostitute was found mentally unfit to stand trial for a similar crime 12 years ago.
Joseph Lavoie, who was released from the Philippe Pinel Institute for the criminally insane last February, is being held for an inquest in the death of Gwendolyn Jones, 21, of Norwalk, Conn.
Lavoie surrendered to police shortly after Jones was found stabbed to death in an apartment at 6920 31st Ave. in Montreal’s Rosemount district.
Lavoie was found mentally unfit to stand trial in the June, 1971 strangulation-death of Lise Provencal 17, of the St. Henri district and was ordered detained indefinitely.
Dr. Lionel Beliveau, director of the Pinel Institute, said yesterday that Lavoie is still under the order.
Beliveau explained that Lavoie, a resident o the institute for 10 years, had been on supervised release for seven months, since February, and “appeared to be doing well.”
Beliveau confirmed that Lavoie telephoned the Riviere des Prairies institute Saturday morning, saying he wasn’t feeling well.
A nurse supervisor talked to Lavoie and instructed him to stay at home until a psychiatrist from the institute contacted him.
“Several attempts were made to contact Lavoie by telephone from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday,” said Beliveau.
“At first Lavoie’s telephone was busy, then there was no answer.
“we’re dealing with people who want, then they don’t want, help.
“If he really wanted help he could have taken a taxi to the institute.
“We would have paid the fare, and he knew this.”
Beliveau said Lavoie’s progress had been closely followed since his release.
“He met weekly with a psychiatrist and he could have been ordered back to the institute if the examination committee deemed it necessary.”
Beliveau said that at any given time 25 to 30 of the institute’s patients are being reintegrated into society.
There were witches living up the street from the house where we grew up. Or so we thought. This is Who Killer Theresa?
Let’s talk about Lysa, Debbie and Vivian Villeneuve, my childhood Halloween heroes.
Hotels: The Shining
Hotel Slaying Launches Hunt For Strangler
Montreal Gazette, June 14, 1950
Discovery of a 37-year-old woman’s body bearing marks around the neck, throat and abdomen, in a downtown hotel room yesterday afternoon touched off a city-wide police hunt for a young man – apparently a sadist – who is believed to have strangled the woman yesterday morning.
Death of the woman – identified through fingerprints as Helen Bomwer, of no fixed address in Montreal, and described as a “street walker” by police – was termed “definitely a case of murder” by Detective Captain Romeo Longpre and Detective Lieutenant Russell Senecal, both men of the homicide squad. Police said the woman was a native of Berwick, Ontario.
Early this morning detectives were combing the downtown district and other parts of the city in an effort to locate a man between 26 and 28 years of age who registered under the name Sweeney at the Grand Central Hotel, 762 Windsor street, around 10 o’clock Monday night.
The woman’s body was found in room 5 , on the second floor of the four-store hotel, shortly before 4 p.m.yesterday. The room was the one which had been assigned to Sweeney less than 24 hours earlier.
A chambermaid – Miss Francois Servant – found the body when she rapped at the door at 3:55 p.m. to ask the occupant if he wished to rent the room for another day.
“On one-night stays, the rooms are usually vacant by 3 p.m., but we always give the occupant another hour if he’s not ready by then,” Miss Servant reported.
“I opened the door expecting to see a man in there, but instead I noticed a woman lying in the single bed with a bedspread covering half her face.
“I lifted the bedspread a bit and nearly fainted when I saw face and neck. I was so unnerved, I ran the wrong way in the hall before finally reaching the manager to tell him: ‘There’s a woman in room five, and she looks dead’,” the Chambermaid added.
First police officials to reach the scene after being summoned by Aime Forte, joint-owner of the hotel, were Capt. Horace Thivierge and two special investigators from station No. 6. When a quick examination revealed marks on the woman’s body, homicide squad detectives were immediately called in.
Before it was taken to the morgue where an autopsy will be performed this morning to determine the exact cause of death, Dr. Rosario Fontaine, provincial medico-legal expert, examined the corpse and said the woman apparently had been strangled to death, “probably in the early hours of the morning.”
The body lay outstretched in the bed. Police said there were skin abrasions on parts of the body, indicating the possibility that a sadist had strangled the woman.
Police said the woman’s clothes were found heaped on a chair. Her purse was empty and there was no clue as to her identity.
Detective Lieutenant Senecal added that police had obtained a description of the “young man” who rented the room Monday night and gave his name as Sweeney.
Police said that the man apparently had stepped out around 11 p.m. that night and had returned to the room accompanied by the woman. Two empty beer bottles were found in the room. Hotel employees and residents said they had not seen the woman enter the building, and had not heard any sounds of a struggle or outcries emanating from Room No. 5.
It was Montreal’s first murder since the fatal shooting of R.C.M.P. Alex Gamman by a frustrated bank bandit on Beaver Hall Hill three weeks ago.
‘I Was Too Drunk and I Got Mad,’ Says Strangler Giving Self Up
Montreal Gazette, June 16, 1950
A dark haired, handsome man walked into R.C.M.P. headquarters in Montreal yesterday and confessed that he had strangled 37-year-old Helen Bomer to death in a hotel room “because I was too drunk and I got mad at her.”
Held by homicide detectives last night as a material witness for a coroner’s inquest this morning in the strangulation killing was Gerard Royer, 36-year-old war veteran employed as a cook by a religious order here since July, 1949…
Detective Lieutenant Russell Seneca, head of the homicide squad, said fingerprints found in the hotel room were identical to those of Royer….
In his statement Royer is said to have told police he had been drinking heavily since he started a week’s holiday last Friday, He said he had “picked up” the Bomwer woman in a downtown hotel, drank a lot of beer with her and then rented a room at the Grand Central Hotel….
Royer allegedly returned to his job the following day, and realized police were on his trail when he saw the murder story in a morning newspaper.
“He said he began drinking heavily to forget the whole thing, but he couldn’t sleep last night,” detectives reported.
“Yesterday he thought of giving himself up and started walking west on St. Catherine street west.”
Walking up to the switchboard operator, he said he wanted to speak to somebody. Constable J.S. Weir was summoned and the man turned to him and asked if he knew about the strangulation killing in a Montreal hotel room this week.
When Constable Weir replied that he was familiar with the case, Royer said: “I am the man who killed the woman. I got mad at her and killed her because we had too much to drink.”…
Royer, who is alleged to have registered at the hotel under his mother’s maiden name – Sweeney – told police he wanted to surrender to police Wednesday afternoon but “I didn’t have enough guts so I took to drinking some more.”…
Police said Royer, a native of Lauzon, Que., enlisted in the Canadian Army in December, 1941. He left the army in 1946, worked in Montreal for some time, went to Toronto, and returned here last July to work as a cook and handyman in a nuns’ residence.
Police said that his only criminal record on file was a 15-day prison stretch for theft while a servant in Quebec 14 years ago.
Royer was convicted of manslughter by jury in October 1950. Justice Wilfrid Lazure handed Royer a life sentence. It is unknown how much time he served.
Woman Found Strangled: Man Sought
Montreal Gazette, July 5, 1952
Less than 15 hours after she and a man rented a room in a downtown hotel, a young redheaded woman was found choked to death yesterday afternoon in what police termed “a likely case of murder.”
Police identified the woman as Betty Stuart, 32, alias Betty Llewellyn, a native of England who came to Canada about a year ago.
Discovery of the woman’s nude body, lying across the foot of the bed, touched off a city-wide manhunt for the man who at 1:10 a.m. signed the hotel registry as “Mr. and Mrs. Green” and gave their address as St. Hilaire, Que.
Police believe the man gave a fictitious name when he and the woman rented a second-storey room at the hotel.
Detective-Captain Henry Bond, head of the homicide squad said the man was “wanted” for questioning in connection with the woman’s death.
Police were called at 3:40 p.m. after Mrs. J. W. Connelly, wife of the hotel owner, and two maintenance men discovered the body.
Mrs. Connelly told The Gazette reporter that at 3 p.m. checking -out time, repeated knocking at the door went unanswered.
The nude body of a woman lay across the foot of the single bed. A blood-soaked towel had been half-stuffed in her mouth. Her face was also covered with blood.
Assisting Captain Bond and first on the scene were Detective-Sargents, Darl McGrath and Marc Maurice, of the homicide squad.
We later learn that “Betty Stuart” was also an alias. Her real name was Elizabeth Marjorie Richards. The murder was never solved. The Autopsy revealed she has died of suffocation, and had multiple fractures to her jaw, and a broken nose.
There is the Back River Murder
On October 5th, 1953 two Quebec Hydro employees discovered the body of an unidentified young woman in the Back River – now known as Rivière-des-Prairies , running between the islands of Montreal and Laval – near the Hydro electric plant and Visitation Island (this is between Ahuntsic and Montreal Nord). The victim was between 25 to 35-years of age, weighed approximately 150 pounds, and had blue eyes, with light brown hair. She had been gagged, and strangled with her own skirt. A 20-pound block of cement was tied with a rope around her neck. Her hands, knees and ankles were bound with half-inch rope. The body was badly decomposed, having been in the water for five to nine months. Two fingers remained on her left hand, from these police attempted to establish fingerprints.
Our last hotel murder from the 1950s, and this one’s a bit of a puzzle:
On Tuesday, May 15th, 1956 a 33-year-old woman registers at a hotel, in what we presume is the Plateau region of Montreal under the name Edith Miller. The woman rents a radio from the front desk. The following evening a bellboy names Andre Bernard goes to her room and collects the rent on the radio. This is the last sighting of Edith Miller.
When maid service attempted to clean the room the following afternoon, they were unable to gain entry to the room. On Friday, May 18th, Bellboy Gilles Gaboriault, accompanied by a young boy, Jacques Bouchard – the 16-year-old son of the hotel chambermaid – climbed along the ledge of the adjoining room overlooking the hotel’s marquee and gained entry through the window.
Once inside Gaboriault and Bouchard made the macabre discovery. The body of Edith Miller – who turned out to be Betty Sloan of 6053 Esplanade avenue – was found lying on the bed, bound in blankets. Two bandage-type gags – one over the mouth and one over the nose – were tied to the back of her head. The room had been bolted with safety locks that could only be opened from inside the room. The rented radio was still playing when the body was discovered.
Today’s story is so good it writes itself. And for some of you from Montreal, you may be aware of the case of Debbie Robinson, and her death as the ultimate bitter punchline. What you may not know is its relation to another case, the unsolved murder of Theresa Pearson. So today’s story begins bitter, turns sweet, then bitter again.
We’re going today to the neighborhood of LaSalle on the island of Montreal, Quebec. Lasalle is a neighborhood on the southwest corner of Montreal. To the west is Lachine, then Dorval, then the West Island. To the north is Verdun, then Pointe Saint Charles.
As I said, many of you may remember the case of Debbie Robinson. What you may not know is exactly one year earlier almost identical circumstances played out in LaSalle, with a much less fortunate outcome. And keep in mind, today’s story is about two young women, and two very different murders.
The story of Theresa Pearson came to me from a friend of her family. This friend contacted me and asked if I could help her dig up any information on the case. After some digging, I told them I was interested, interested enough to do a podcast on the case. They replied, “what’s a podcast?”. So I sent them an example – the case of Francine Da Sylva. After that I never heard from them again. So…
Theresa “Terri” Pearson went missing on Wednesday, May 18th, 1983, one week before she was due to graduate from a secretarial course at LaSalle High School, also known at that time as College Lasalle, located on rue George. Pearson was planning to attend CEGEP in the Fall of 1984. The 19-year-old girl – who never drank, smoked, took drugs or “hung out” – was last seen getting off a city bus after school at the corner of boulevard Lasalle and 90th avenue. Her home – where she lived with her parents – was a two minute walk from the bus stop, a straight shot down Lasalle boulevard, which borders the Saint Lawrence river to Terrace Greenfield. The Pearson’s lived at the end of the cul-de-sac in a duplex at 9339 Terrace Greenfield.
Pearson’s body was found later that day in the underground garage of an apartment building at 9379 LaSalle boulevard. The apartment building is located a little further along, down the street from where she lived, about a 3 minute walk from the bus stop.
Pearson was identified by her Uncle, David Mooney, “I am the uncle. She was hit on her head in the garage of a building at #9379 Blvd Lasalle. I was advised by the police.”
Theresa Pearson’s body was found between two cars by a tenant around 4:00 pm, a few hours after she got off the bus two blocks away at LaSalle and 90e. She was found on her back, and died of a fractured skull and massive brain hemorrhage brought on by 10 blows to the head, possibly by a tire jack bar. Her schoolbag and books were found nearby. Her schoolbag contained $2. Her purse, which police believed contained no money, was missing. There were no obvious signs she had been sexually assaulted.
In the early days of the investigation, police were looking for a red car that was spotted in the alley beside the basement garage on LaSalle blvd. Police later discarded the lead when they were able to track down the owner, questioned him, and became convinced of his innocence.
Police later apprehended another man and subjected him to a lie detector test after concluding, “We didn’t think he was giving the right answers to our questions.” This lead ultimately went no where.
At her funeral that Victoria Day weekend family, friends and classmates seemed “dazed, confused – and angry”. Rev. Maurice Nerny of the Verdun United Church tried to express the grief of the crowd:
“I won’t try to find the words to describe what kind of a person Terri was. You were a part of Terri, and Terri is a part of you. That’s the best way to describe her.”
Theresa Pearson’s Coroner’s Report was signed August 9, 1983. It contained this curious statement:
“To date, despite all the research done by the investigators,
it is impossible to reconstruct the circumstances of this crime and
to identify the culprit (s). A public inquiry would be of no use.”
And with that, the book was closed on the case of Theresa Pearson. It’s been 36 years. Her murder remains unsolved.
Exactly one year later. We’re still in LaSalle. The same college / high school. Another graduation approaching. Another secretarial student goes missing.
18-year-old Debbie Robinson goes missing on Tuesday, May 22, 1984 around 6 a.m. after she had delivered 10 of about 40 papers on her route from her home at 1064 Sylvestre street in LaSalle. Debbie had been a carrier for the Montreal Gazette for about 5 years. The 1983 Christmas edition of The Gazette featured Debbie and a group of other carriers in a full page ad on December 16th:
Her mother, Glenda Robinson describes Debbie as, “a well-liked kid… She cooks, she sews. She would never take a lift with somebody she didn’t know.”
Debbie had just graduated from the secretarial program at LaSalle High School and was scheduled for a job interview with a local insurance company that afternoon. She never showed up.
Her newspaper bag with the undelivered papers were found in the driveway of the duplex where she lived. This duplex was under a 10 minute drive from where Theresa Pearson disappeared one year earlier:
Very quickly the community, police and the media pick up on the uncanny similarities between the disappearances of Debbie Robinson and Theresa Pearson. Both are teenagers from LaSalle. Both disappear close to their graduations, from the same secretarial program at the same school. Both knew each other at school. A student from LaSalle High School comments, “If I was one of the girls planning to take the course next year, I’d be scared.” Despite concerns, police feel the similarities are coincidental.
Though police search empty buildings, warehouses and wooded areas around LaSalle, they classify the case as a “missing person” and “a part of their normal police work”. Within 48 hours the Robinson family is critical of police efforts, voicing concern the police are “keeping too low a profile and aren’t putting enough personnel on the case.”
On May 25th, The Montreal Gazette offers a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the disappearance of their carrier, Debbie Robinson. The case is now assigned to Montreal detectives specializing in kidnap and extortion cases. Almost immediately a $100,000 ransom demand is made by an anonymous caller to police.
Later that evening – On Friday, May 25th, 3 days after she first disappeared – a miracle. Debbie Robinson is found safe.
Angus and Annie Dickson return home from a two-week vacation in Toronto. Checking the basement, Mr. Dickson notices that the door to the basement furnace room is bolted. Unbolting the door he finds Debbie on the concrete floor of the eight by four foot room housing an oil tank. The Dicksons live at 1073 Belec Ave. almost immediately behind the Robinson’s Sylvestre street home, 60 metres from where she disappeared from her front driveway:
Debbie Robinson tells police she had been hit on the head and knocked unconscious while doing her morning paper route that Tuesday morning. She didn’t see her captors, didn’t know how she ended up in the basement closet. She was left with a jug of water and a small milking stool.
Later, Annie Dickson told the press she had an intuition about Debbie Robinson. Having read about the abduction in the Toronto papers, when she got home she immediately sent her husband to check on the furnace room: “I sent my husband down to look… and there she was. She fell into his arms.”
During the nearly 4-day ordeal hundreds of volunteers showed up to search for Debbie including friends, strangers, former Gazette paper carriers, and the mother of a young girl who was brutally raped and murdered in the spring of 1975, Yvonne Prior.
A neighbor of the Dickson’s comments in an interview with La Presse that he was at his residence and parked his car on the street in front of their Belec home all that week; he heard no screams, no noise, and did not observe anyone coming or going from the residence.
By the following week police are tight-lipped about the investigation. Det.-Sgt. Gilbert (Buddy) Gagnon states that until the kidnapping is solved police do not intend to discuss the case further. He calls reports that police will put Robinson under hypnosis to answer questions surrounding her disappearance “imaginative”.
The next day, police announce that Debbie Robinson has agreed to undergo hypnosis and to take a lie detector test. Debbie’s mom says Debbie has “nothing to hide”. All she can remember is that she was struck on the back of the head by two masked men who visited her three times during her captivity.
June 4, 1984 Debbie Robinson is administered a lie detector test by the SPVM . Montreal police won’t say why Robinson was asked to take the “controversial experiment”.
“All I can tell you is that the case is still being treated as a kidnapping”, says Det.-Sgt. Pierre Tetreault.
Debbie says she agreed to take the test to help clear up any doubts about her mysterious abduction. Debbie’s parents say they are “fed up” with the grueling hours of interrogation police have put their daughter through. Debbie begins to breakdown and cry before television cameras which catch her leaving the police headquarters.
In an editorial in the June 4th Montreal Gazette, LaSalle resident P. Boisvert writes that police handling of the case was “monumental in its inefficiency”.
“They gave the people who were out searching for Debbie no help at all. If anything, they hindered our efforts….. The only time there was any obvious police involvement was on Friday evening after Debbie had been found. Then the street swarmed with police. Where were they on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?”
The final insult was on Thursday night when two of my neighbors arrived home at 3 a.m. after having searched all day and night. They came out of their homes on Friday morning and found parking tickets on their cars. What were police thinking of to be ticketing cars on that particular street?”
On June 9th popular Montreal journalist Ted Blackman voices similar complaints in his Gazette column. I’m going to include the majority of the article because it rings a deafening bell in our current climate with Quebec police. See if this sounds familiar:
“Several valid questions were raised after the abduction of The Gazette carrier [Debbie Robinson] in LaSalle.
How quickly did police move? Why did it take some 36 hours for her status to move from “missing person” to “suspected abduction” and only then bring in expert kidnapping detectives? Did this delay preclude a systematic search of unoccupied homes?
In short, was the [Montreal Urban Police] sleeping at the switch and leaving one family’s agonizing predicament to the luck of routine patrols instead of the experienced detail work of specialized detectives?
We don’t have these answers. We don’t have them because every question on the matter was directed by MUC police away from the officers involved and to the department’s public relations office. In this case, to Constable Charles Poxon. [here you can sub in Guy Lapointe, Martine Asselin, or any of the litany of police public relation puppets that have come after him]
Now Charlie Poxon is a fine guy who busts his butt. He takes reporters’ calls, he’s available for radio interviews.
He explained patiently that police followed policy formulated by commanding officers. The Debbie Robinson investigation was handled “according to the book.”
Who wrote the book? Is the book well written? If not, will the authors stand up to its inspection? Poxon is not at liberty to answer under current procedures. All inquiries are directed to him. even if you track down a detective who dissents
“Can’t say a word, call public relations,” a station house cop replies to the most routine query. “They’ll bust me a rank if I’m caught talking to the media.”
In this way, the upper echelon of the MUC police has protected itself from accountability in a way that would astonish the public in the U.S, where elected sheriffs and district attorneys are properly grilled over the efficiency of investigations”
Again, I’ll remind you that was written in 1984.
On June 16th 1984 The Montreal Gazette runs a full page article in their Saturday edition on the fallibility of lie detector tests. “How lie detectors can twist the truth” warns that lack of regulations puts individuals reputations “under clouds”. At the time, there are no fixed standards for lie-detectors in Quebec, and the Supreme Court of Canada said results of such tests are inadmissible as evidence in criminal proceedings. Recall that in the Theresa Pearson case a suspect was apprehended and subjected to a lie detector test, but police let them go.
The following month on July 28th, 1984 the Montreal Urban Community police announce that Debbie’s case is closed. An uncle comments that Debbie is resting at the family cottage and, “She seems to have put everything behind her.”
Police Constable, Normand Belair addresses the situation:
“We have no leads or information that makes it of any interest for us to go forward in the investigation.”
The article closes by mentioning that although Debbie hadn’t eaten for four days, “She refused an offer of food from detectives the night she was found. She was given a lie-detector test – and passed.”
Debbie Robinson went on to a very successful career with an insurance brokerage company. She got married and had a child. Rather than telling you the rest of the story, I’ll read from an article written about Debbie by Montreal Gazette columnist, Peggy Curran. Curran had been following Debbie’s life for over 25 years. On May 3, 2011 she wrote this article It’s an extraordinary story, and I can’t improve on Peggy Curran’s words. I’ll pick up toward the end:
Turning back to the Theresa Pearson case, which is still unsolved. The geography of that case is very tight, very clustered. It gets you thinking that someone who lived in the neighborhood might have committed the murder. Which is why I’m including the address and telephone directories of the people who lived in that area in 1983-84. Maybe someone else can do some investigation, and put the pieces together:
In October 2015 the french Radio-Canada investigative television program, Enquête, uncovered stories of sexual violence toward aboriginal women in the Quebec mining town of Val d’Or, about 500 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
The alleged victims spoke of a pattern involving the Quebec provincial police, the Surete du Quebec over a period of at least two decades.
The woman told of how officers routinely picked up women who appeared to be intoxicated, drove them out of town and left them to walk home in the cold. Some alleged they were physically assaulted or made to perform sex acts.
Bianca Moushoun recounted how male officers would give her beer they kept stored in the trunk of their vehicles. She said the men would later take her to a remote area.
“We went to a road in the woods, and that’s where they would ask me to perform fellatio,” said Moushoun. They paid her “$100 for the service” and “$100 to keep quiet. Sometimes they paid me in coke. Sometimes they paid me in cash, sometimes both.”
Another woman, speaking anonymously, said she was assaulted by an officer in his car on the road between Val-d’Or and Waswanipi, a Cree community about 275 kilometres northeast of Val-d’Or.
“He wanted a blow job. I said no,” she wrote. “He threw me out and grabbed my hair. He left me alone on the highway.”
In the wake of the Enquête report and allegations, formal complaints were launched, and an internal police investigation by the Surete du Quebec was confirmed.
“Fourteen files have been opened for allegations related to the behaviour of our officers,” said Surete du Quebec spokeswoman Martine Asselin. “These are allegations, not charges for now.”
Carole Marcil, a bartender at Le Manoir in Val-d’Or, had heard such stories from aboriginal women many times.
“If they don’t perform fellatio … they get massacred, they show up here with bumps, bruises, punches and burns.”
But “not all” SQ officers in Val-d’Or act that way.
“There are two or three or four bad apples [among them],” Marcil said. That’s it.
Quebec’s indigenous leaders convene, then demand an immediate sit-down meeting with premier Phillipe Couillard.
“We’re giving (Couillard) 24 hours to meet with us and even that is being generous,” said Ghislain Picard, the Quebec regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, “It is a firm limit and when it expires, we will act.”
Quebec’s Cree communities also announce a boycott of businesses in Val-d’Or and say they will no longer hold their annual hockey tournament in the city. The tournament brings Cree families from across the province to Val-d’Or and injects an estimated $4 million into the local economy.
Though the SQ was aware of the allegations brought forth by Radio Canada for at least five months, some of the officers in question were only pulled from active duty after the Enquete broadcast.
Quebec’s Public Security minister, Lisa Theriault (Theriault?) announces eight SQ officers will be placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation, originally to be conducted by the Montreal police.
Later the Quebec government backtracks and says the investigation will be overseen by a civilian observer to ensure its findings are objective.
“There is no trust between our community and the SQ, it’s broken,” says Chief Picard. “Contrary to what many are saying, this is a crisis.”
On the other side, Surete du Quebec officers felt equally offended, and thought there had been a rush to judgement. Public Security minister Lisa Theriault appeared at a news conference in tears, which seemed a bit much, a bit over the top given she apparently knew of the allegations for months. Some of the officers circulated a petition demanding that the Public Security minister apologize to them for apparently siding with the indigenous women.
In an act of solidarity with the suspension of the eight officers, a number of local SQ police refused to show up to work and reinforcements had to be called in from neighbouring communities.
The president of the Quebec provincial police union Pierre Veilleux came to the defense of the eight officers., stating that the crisis sheds light on social problems in Aboriginal communities “who live in great difficulty across the country,” and that “it would be unfortunate if these officers become scapegoats for problems that overshadow their responsibilities.”
In November 2015 Premier Philippe Couillard announces the appointment of Fannie Lafontaine, to oversee the police investigation into the Val-d’Or scandal. Lafontaine is a civilian auditor, lawyer, professor, author and human rights expert, but not the first choice of First Nations chiefs who feel they should have been part of Couillard’s decision making process.
The Couillard government then quickly announces it will provide $6.1 million to improve services to native communities in the Abitibi region.
In the Spring of 2016 more Aboriginal women come forward with similar allegations of abuse involving Sûreté du Québec officers in communities across the province. By now, two of the original eight officers charged with abuse are cleared of wrongdoing, but police won’t say how many women have reported abuse. The new allegations of rape, physical abuse and starlight tours come from women in Maniwaki, Sept-Îles and Schefferville, adding their voices to those in the original report.
While the Lafontaine / SPVM investigation drags on many doubt the police investigation will get very far.
“My first reaction was that they’ll all make sure that this’ll get smothered, it won’t go any further,” says retired SQ officer Jean O’Bomsawin.
A former Ministry of Public Security worker, Isabelle Parent says charges are rare in cases where a police force investigates another.
“Many times, when it gets to the level of the prosecutors, they’ll say they don’t have all the information needed to bring it to court,” Parent said. “So, in the end, there are many levels where it can get dropped so it doesn’t get followed through.”
In the Fall of 2016 the Montreal Police turn over 37 files of documented abuse against Aboriginal women in Val d’Or to prosecutors for review, but Quebec’s director of criminal prosecutions (DPCP) refuses to lay charges in connection with any of the 37 files setting off a wave of criticism from activists and Indigenous leaders.
In a statement, the victims describe feeling “betrayed, humiliated” and expressed “fear of the return of the suspended police officers, fear of reprisals, fear for our own security.” One of the victims, Joyce Thomas comments, “It’s like encouraging the police to continue to do things.”
Fannie Lafontaine, the civilian auditor who was tasked with observing the investigation as it was carried out by Montreal police, releases her report calling it a “fair and impartial” process.
By now members of the Sûreté du Québec are suing Radio-Canada for airing the Enquete report calling it “biased, misleading… inaccurate, incomplete and untrue,” further stating that it created a hostile working environment for officers in Val-d’Or.
In December 2016 the Quebec government proposes a full blown public inquiry into police relations in Val-d’Or, Quebec.
The news comes after members of the the federal inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls says its two-year mandate isn’t long enough to delve into the questions of Val-d’Or.
The Quebec government states that the commission won’t repeat the criminal investigation into police officers.Instead, it will focus on systemic racism and its causes.
And while commendable, here we see how we are getting further and further from the origins of the story: that SQ officers abused aboriginal women.
Even still, writing about the Oka crisis in 1990, Hubert Bauch said it eloquently, “The Surete du Quebec had compiled a bulging record of operational blunders and gratuitous violence from the demonstrations and the FLQ activities of the late 60s and early 70s, to a series of excessive interventions in this decade in native communities like Les Escoumins, Maliotenam, and Restigouche.” Given their track record of excessive First Nation interventions, it’s not much of a stretch to see that systemic racism against Aboriginal woman would have been a factor in Surete du Quebec Starlight Tours and abuse.
In 2017 the Viens Commission is launched, named after retired Quebec Superior Court Justice Jacques Viens who leads the inquiry. There are the typical interviews and community meetings that go along with these affairs. In 2017, the commission visits every Algonquin nation and two of the three Mohawk communities. In total there are 13 weeks of public audiences in Val d’Or and 81 community visits, with 62 of them public information sessions. The work continues into 2018 with the process due to wrap up on November 30th of that year.
Throughout the Viens process Surete du Quebec officers ignore appeals to remove a symbolic red band from their uniforms which Indigenous witnesses have stated they perceive as “intimidation and provocation.”
Officers in Val-d’Or, in northwestern Quebec, begin wearing the bands after their eight colleagues were suspended following the allegations of mistreatment of Indigenous women.
Police officers attached the bands, inscribed with “144” — the number of the Val-d’Or detachment — to the top of their Sûreté du Québec vests, just above their name tags.
Justice Jacques Viens states, “I have hoped that at some point this practice would be abandoned.”
Michèle Audette, a commissioner on the Federal inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) tells SQ Capt. Paul Charbonneau, who is in charge of discipline and legal services in the provincial police service, that the wearing of the red bands was not helping to promote reconciliation and that he should speak to his superiors about banning them.
In October 2018 a retired Quebec police officer pleads guilty to charges laid against him, in the only criminal case to go forward following the allegations of police misconduct in Val-d’Or in 2015.
Jean-Luc Vollant pleads guilty to sexual assault on Oct. 5. at the Sept-Îles courthouse, after being charged in 2016 for rape, indecent assault and sexual assault, for incidents which occurred during his time working with the local police force, not the Surete du Quebec, in Schefferville in the 1980s.
The two other charges of rape and indecent assault were automatically dropped, due to a provision in the Criminal Code which states a person cannot be convicted twice for the same crime.
By pleading guilty, Vollant avoids going to trial, denying victims their chance to speak publicly within the justice system about their abuse.
There had been one other officer charged with sexual assault and assault with a weapon in the aftermath of the Val d’Or affair. Alain Juneau, worked with the Sûreté du Québec in Schefferville, in the 1990s, but Juneau committed suicide in early 2017, two months after the Crown laid charges against him.
In late October 2018 the person who commanded the Quebec provincial police in 2015 said he had no clue there were any problems of police misconduct at the Val-d’Or detachment, even in the months leading up to a wave of public allegations made by Indigenous women in the region.
Martin Prud’homme testifies at the Viens inquiry that, “Until May 2015, I didn’t have any information or details that led me to think there was a major problem in Val-d’Or.”
Prud’homme’s testimony contradicts that of Jean Vicaire, a police officer who worked with the SQ in Val-d’Or in 2013. In August Vicaire told the Viens inquiry that he had informed his superior of allegations of misconduct that had been reported to him by a local politician.
Vicaire states that he told his supervisor at the time and was shocked when that manager said he was already aware of the allegations, naming a specific officer. Vicaire also testified that his fellow SQ officers had told him of intoxicated Indigenous people being taken on “starlight tours.”
When asked if this was a “phenomenon that is well-known within the SQ?” Prud’homme responded that he had never heard of such a practice before.
On Friday December 13th, 2018 the Viens Commission completed their work, just two weeks late of the November 30th deadline. At the closing ceremony, Viviane Michel, president of Quebec Native Women, and the last person to testify before the Viens Commission, asks the inquiry members to ‘not drown out’ the stories of Val-d’Or women in their recommendations, also stating that without a real apology from police in Quebec, reconciliation will not be possible.
“Their stories must not be forgotten. They decided to make this sacrifice to make sure other women didn’t have to live through what they went through,” says Michel.
The Viens report has yet to be released. It is due this month, September 2019. But Jacques Viens has already stated he will call for better training and education for police in the province of Quebec.
This is Who Killed Theresa?
Music today by RedFox who are on tour this Fall:
Here is the english version of the 2015 Enquete television program about l’affaire Val d’Or:
And this is the french version (it’s better):
In November 1998 a Montreal woman accused an RCMP Constable of sexually abusing her 2-year-old son.
The accusation was investigated, but in 1999 Quebec Court Judge Luc Trudel found insufficient evidence against 39-year-old officer Gerald “Gerry” Theriault to warrant a trial. The judge didn’t believe the mother’s allegations because she had lied several times under oath.
Constable Theriault walked out of the court smiling but lamented, “This lasted 20 months. All that stress that was put on my family.”
After Theriault was charged with molesting and sexually assaulting the child, the RCMP suspended him with pay. Theriault said he would try to get reinstated, but was not optimistic about his prospects:
“My career is finished. You know the RCMP. They don’t like publicity in the newspapers.”
Despite his protests, Gerald Theriault was not being completely honest about his disciplinary history with the RCMP.
This was not the first time Constable Theriault had been in the newspapers. This was not the first time Constable Theriault had been less than forthcoming about his actions.
This is Who Killed Theresa.
Montreal Gazette, November 11, 1994
Search on for missing woman who disappeared near Seaway
The Surete du Quebec is seeking the public’s help in finding an 18-year-old Ste. Catherine woman who has been missing for five days.
Hélène Hurtubise was last seen early Sunday morning by a friend, an RCMP constable.
The constable told investigators he spoke with Hurtubise about 2 a.m. at Highway 132 and 30, near the South Shore community where she lives.
“She called him and asked him to meet her to talk, ” said Surete du Quebec spokesman Mathias Tellier. “After they spoke she drove off and no one has seen her since.”
Police divers will resume dragging the Ste. Lawrence Seaway today near Ste. Catherine, he said.
Hurtubise is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs about 135 pounds and has long brown hair. She was wearing a marine-blue sweater, jeans and black suede shoes.
She was driving a black 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 598-4043.
Montreal Gazette, May 5, 1995
Corpse found in submerged car
Police have relaunched their investigation into the November disappearance of a Sainte-Catherine woman after her car – and a body in it – were pulled out of the St. Lawrence River yesterday.
The black 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix, discovered about 1:15 p.m. by divers, was registered to Helene Hurtubise.
The female body found in the submerged vehicle was badly decomposed, making it impossible to identify as Hurtubise without an autopsy.
The 18-year-old was last seen on Highway 132 in the early morning of November 5th by an RCMP patrol officer she had befriended, Surete du Quebec Constable Mathias Tellier said.
The Mountie told police the woman had phoned him and that they had met and talked for a couple of hours.
The vehicle with the corpse still inside, was transported to the provincial Medic-Legal Institute in Montreal, where an autopsy and forensic tests will be conducted.
Tellier said the discovery was made by commercial divers carrying out the annual spring cleaning of the seaway system.
The operation generally turns up several stolen vehicles that are ditched by joyriders.
Montreal Gazette, November 29, 1995
Cop describes seduction scene
Gerald (Gerry) Theriault testified at the public inquest into Hurtubise’s death that he spent about one hour with her in the early hours of November 6, 1994.
Theriault said he was patrolling his territory around 3 o’clock that morning when he stopped to investigate whether Hurtubise was having problems with her vehicle, which was parked at the corner of Highways 30 and 132 near Kahnawake.
He explained that he knew it was her car because it had been stopped about an hour earlier by one of his patrolmen and that the black Pontiac Grand Prix and its driver were known for breaking traffic laws in order to get the attention of male officers.
Theriault said the two remained in their respective vehicles and chatted to one another through the windows.
After she spoke about another officer she had met, her family, school and job, he said she began discussing her fantasies, which included wanting to be dominated by and wanting to dominate a cop, making love in a cruiser and while handcuffed.
“I tried changing the subject and she kept coming back to her sex life,” he said under questioning by inquest prosecutor Gilles Arsenault. “I warned her that some cops might take advantage of it and she responded that that was exactly what she wanted.”
He said the 18-year-old at one point got out of her car and approached the cruiser, complimenting Theriault on his voice and eyes.
She evenutally asked to sit inside the marked car.
“I thought maybe I could gain her confidence by letting her in.”
The senior officer said Hurtubise never stopped repeating “test me, test me,” so at one point he asked to see her breasts.
He said she complied then put her hand on his crotch.
“She told me there was no danger in having an affair because she would keep quiet and could give me a ‘good ride’.” Theriault recalled. “I told her I wasn’t interested, that I had a child and a partner.”
It was then he suggested she go home, but not before inviting her to join him and other RCMP and Surete du Quebec officers at a nearby doughnut shop next morning at 2 a.m.
Theriault said she left and he returned to the police station.
The coroner’s inquest which was held in Longueuil – Longueuil – continued. Constable Theriault’s testifies that the lease for the home where he lived with his former common-law wife, Nathalie Avril had been signed in the Summer of 1994, long before the disappearance of Helene Hurtubise. But Avril then takes the stand and discloses that Gerald Theriault forced her to sign a back-dated lease because he believed that would prevent police from searching their home in the matter of Hurtubise’s disappearance.
Theriault made her sign it in early December 1994, approximately one month after Hurtubise vanished:
“I didn’t read it before signing because I was under pressure. He told me it was so there wouldn’t be a (police) search of the house and looking through our personal things because of the disappearance of the Hurtubise woman”.
It wasn’t until April of 1995 less than a month before Hurtubise’s badly decomposed body was pulled from the Ste. Lawrence River, that Avril noticed the lease was dated July 1994. By this time the couple had separated, with Avril leaving Theriaut in December 1994.
In addition two police officers offered testimony that conflicted with Theriault’s version of events. Constable Andre Fluet states that he met with Therieault at a Tim Horton’s doughnut shop at around 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 7th, 1994, and that Theriault confided he had had an hour long encounter with Hurtubise the previous day. Recall that in Theriault’s version of events, he had invited Hurtubise to this meeting, so this might have been some half-assed attempt at an alibi.
Fluet also testified that Theriaut initially stated that the November 6th encounter with Hurtubise had been his first with the 18-year-old:
“He later said he had been to her house (before Nov. 6) to answer a call about a prowler”
Constable Denis Boivin added that Theriault appeared nervous at the doughnot shop. Both officers said Theriault spoke of Hurtubise disclosing her sexual fantasies – How she wanted to dominated and be dominated by a police officer, to make love in the back of a police cruiser while handcuffed.
Under cross examination Theriault admitted he used poor judgement in asking Hurtubise to show him her breasts. He also said he never disclosed the “sexual nature” of the encounter to investigators when Hurtubise was originally reported missing because he “didn’t see the relevance”.
Other RCMP officers from Theriault’s detachment testified that they too had encountered Hurtubise, and that she also shared sexual fantasies with them. In fact the patrol officers had been warned by their superiors at briefings before their shifts not to approach Hurtubise and her black Pontiac Grand Prix alone. Hurtubise had earned a reputation among Mounties and members of the South Shore Surete du Quebec for purposely committing traffic violations to get the attention of male officers.
Diver found car, dead teen in 10 minutes – after 14 tries by SQ
Mike King, Montreal Gazette – December 1, 1995
A commercial diver did in 10 minutes what provincial police divers were unable to achieve in 14 attempts – locate Helene Hurtubise’s body and car in the St. Lawrence River.
“After about 10 minutes in the water, I found the Grand Prix,” Rejean Chagnon told coroner Anne-Marie David about his May 4 find in about 10.5 meters of water…
Evidence presented to David on Monday showed that Surete du Quebec divers unsuccessfully searched the same area around Baillargeon pier in Sainte Catherine on 14 different occasions during the seven months Hurtubise was missing….
Chagnon and diving partner Pascal Dufresne, conducting an inspection along the South Shore pier as part of a federal contract made the grim discovery of the 18-year-old woman’s badly decomposed body floating inside her car. One of the legs was sticking out of the driver’s side window…
Asked… whether it appeared the window had been broken, Chagnon reported that it seemed both windows in the two-door vehicle had been lowered.
Conveniently, two fellow RCMP constables now come forward and describe an almost identical encounter with Hurtubise as the one described by Constable Theriault in the early morning of November 6th.
Fellow Mounties Richard Lemay and Dany Beland say that Hurtubise also shared her sexual fantasies with them too. According to Lemay and Beland they had a “meeting” with Hurtubise in their police cruiser near a field in the early morning of Oct. 31, 1994. Hurtubise lifted her shirt and showed them her bra. According to the officers, she then climbed into the front of the cruiser and grabbed Lemay’s crotch. At was at this point that two officers said they kicked Hurtubise out of their patrol car, then proceeded to destroy the videotape from the cruiser-equipped camera.
Coroner Anne-Marie David’s inquest into L’Affaire Hurtubise ended in December 1995 and left more questions than it answered. Her summary, which came in a 73-page report filed in February 1996, shouldn’t be too surprising. Coroner David concluded there was not enough evidence to demonstrate a suicide, an accident or a murder.
“Helene wasn’t abducted, strangled, or drugged. The autopsy showed no traces of violence” wrote David. “Theriault had no motive to kill her, but neither did Hurbudise have reason to take her own life.” Although that isn’t quite true. The Pathologist, Claude Pothel stated he could not determine the cause of death because of the advanced state of decomposition. That’s not the same as saying, she wasn’t murdered.
In the report, Coroner David acknowledged that scratches / friction marks or points of depression on the rear bumper of Hurtubise’s Grand Prix were troubling, possibly being an indication that the Grand Prix had been pushed by another vehicle.
In her summary coroner David writes:
“The undersigned concludes, unless there are new facts to support another hypothesis, the implicit accident hypothesis, another vehicle that hit the Grand Prix, is the only hypothesis it is possible to provide because it is the only hypothesis that is consistent with all the evidence.”
If someone ran Helene off the road at Quai Baillargeon one has to ask, why?
In 13 days of dives along the 1.3 kilometre-long Baillargeon pier Surete du Quebec divers managed to recover 40 vehicles, but not Helene’s Pontiac Grand Prix.
Surete investigators also reported that Constable Gerry Theriault had undergone a polygraph investigation in December 1994, but that he passed the test conclusively, thus proving his innocence.
Helene’s parents reaction to the report was understandably dismissive:
“What am I, green?”, stated Johanne Hurtubise. ( “Suis-je grassette?” ) “In my opinion, this does not make sense… We were kind of expecting this because there were too many lies and contradictions” during the inquest.
Johanne Hurtubise acknowledged that Helene had problems with her behavior, and that they had consulted psychologists, but she was not suicidal. Friends and family disclosed that Helene was known to sleep with cops. She had several names and phone numbers of police officers in her journal. One entry read, “Meeting with Mr. RCMP” and “Richard and company” on November 3rd.“
“The police waged a public campaign to slander the reputation of an individual… Lâche les policiers (The police are cowards)” concluded Madame Hurtubise.
In reviewing the coroner’s report, I think there’s one key element of Corporal Theriault’s testimony that the media missed. During the end of their encounter, when Helene is back in her car, Theriault says that Helene says she was going to drive home, but she was going to get there by using “the sea route”:
“So, she tells me that she is going to go by the sea. By saying that to me, she has a big smile on her face. And I say, Why do you go by the Sea route? At that time, I did not know where she was exactly where she was [talking about]…. So she tells me, I always go by that, it’s okay, there are fewer traffic lights, not a lot of people”
I think this is a lie. In fact coroner David states at one point, “Constable Thériault’s testimony is full of lies.” As a patrol officer, Theriault would have known exactly where she was talking about. This is Theriault’s attempt to suggest that Hurtubise drove in the direction of Quai Baillargeon, then had an accident and drove off the pier. Or became depressed when Theriault didn’t follow her and intentionally drove the Grand Prix into the Saint Lawrence. What Theriault doesn’t realize is that by making this suggestion, by disclosing this conversation, he unwittingly, psychologically now places himself in the event space where Helene died.
Reviewing the geography of the incident reveals some very telling details. Just look at a map of the locations.
Look at Quai Baillargeon where Helene’s car was pulled. Then look at the road that leads to that quai – the only road that makes the quai accessible, the Sea Route – it’s the service road right along the frontier of the Kahnawake reserve. Then consider Constable Theriault: an RCMP officer who would have been responsible for patrolling that frontier. He would have driven that road many, many times:
That geography tells me everything that I need to know about this case:
So I’ll give you a scenario. Theriault and Hurtubise have there encounter at the junction of routes 132 and 30 on the border of the Kahnawake Indian Reserve, this part is true of Therieault’s story. It’s a place where cops often stop to talk across cars driver-to-driver. Things play out somewhat according to Theriault’s acount. She flashes her breasts and grabs his crotch. Then they decide to take things a little further. But they can’t carry this out oat this location, it’s a busy highway. So they both come up with the quai along the Sea route; Helene knows it because it’s a shortcut to her home (not so many trafic lights). And Theriault knows it because he’s been patrolling that industrial area for his entire career with the RCMP detachment. In fact the coroner’s report tells us he had been patrolling that very area earlier in the evening, “Later, around 2 in the morning he started to patrol the roads and highways encircling the territory, which takes from 20 to 25 minutes at night. “ So how can Theriault testify later that he didn’t know where Helene was talking about by “the Sea route”?
They drive together to this location. During the day the quai is buzzing with activity, but in the dark of the morning? It’s nothing but rail cars, shipping containers, salt domes, lift cranes.
They fulfill Helene’s fantasy of rough sex. Handcuffs and dominance in the back of the patrol car. Things get out of hand. Domination leads to strangulation, then death. You didn’t mean to do it. No one wanted that outcome. But then what do you do? You’re a cop. You’ve got responsibilities. You’ve got a kid. You open the windows. Line up the Grand Prix with the edge of the quai. You take the patrol car and push the Grand Prix into the Saint Lawrence.
We may never truly know what happened on the early morning of November 6th, 1994. It’s always troubling when one force investigates another in these affairs. Yesterday’s SQ captain can become tomorrow’s SPVM chief. A cop with the Lennoxville police may end his career with the Surete du Quebec.
It’s interesting to note that all of these matters were playing out at the same time as several of the cases we’ve recently covered; Melanie Cabay, the biker war, Matticks, operation Carcajou. It was a time of a deep moral crisis within the ranks of Quebec police. As the Poitras Commission questioned, “Who is policing the police?”
In all of this, the Sainte Catherine’s police were strangely silent. Recall that for 5 months Helene Hurtubise was a missing Sainte Catherine’s person. The case should have been under their jurisdiction. Yet as early as December 1994 we have the provincial police, the Surete du Quebec administering the lie detector test to RCMP constable Theriault. And very quickly coming to a determination that he was innocent. Perhaps the Ste Catherine’s police was too small to have a professional polygrapher on staff. Perhaps not.
I do know this, I wouldn’t be driving around the South Shore in the early morning of November with all my windows rolled down. I think officers with the Delson detachment of the RCMP and the Surete du Quebec knew exactly where Helene’s black Pontiac Grand Prix was all through the winter of 1994-95. And they made damn sure it stayed there until it, and everything in it was thoroughly decomposed.
The real smoking gun in all of this was coroner Anne-Marie David. In her analysis David takes the police at their word, every awful, disreputable thing that they say about Helene Hurtubise, with no one standing by to step up for her. If L’Affaire Hurtubise has a fog of war quality to it, coroner David definitely had a hand in that. Her nebulous, inconclusive determination is typical of her 20-year career working for the coroner’s office in Quebec in the 1980s and 90s. If an inmate hung himself or was found drugged-to-death in his cell, corner Anne-Marie David, more often than not, concluded it was a suicide. If there was a police involved shooting, coroner David typically concluded that the officer was not at fault.
The most notorious example was the May 1995 shooting death of 23-year-old Martin Suazo. After allegedly robbing a store on Ste. Catherine’s street, Suazo was fatally shot while on his knees, about to be handcuffed, and surrounded by about a dozen Montreal police officers. David was highly criticized for her handling of the coroner’s inquest, refusing a public outcry for her to step down from the case. 2 1/2 years later coroner David concluded that Suazo died of an accidental gunshot.
Yves Manseau of the non-profit, Citizens Against Police Brutality charged that David’s report was biased in favor of police, and it ignored several points raised during the inquiry:
“It’s obvious that coroner David has a favourable bias in favour of the police force and police profession:”
Plus Ca fucking change.
“Of course there have been blunders within the SQ. But we have to look at things clearly here. The government may be trying to get a message to the SQ as to who’s boss. But the primary impression I have is that ordinary people are being taken for fools by a government that’s trying to convince them public commissions solve problems.
Since the ’60s, we’ve been having public inquiries and what do we have to show of it? Nothing. It’s always been the same damn thing. Commissions take place long after the events that sparked them, usually after measures have already been taken to make sure the events don’t recur or when most of the people involved are no longer in the same position. And when at last they produce a report, those results are usually consigned to the wastebasket. “
Andre Parent, Allo Police, 1997
The specific commission in question by Georges-Andre Parent was the Poitras Inquiry. Former chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, Lawrence Poitras, had been charged by the Quebec provincial government to look into the investigative practices of its police force, the Surete du Quebec. Specifically there were allegations of evidence tampering during a drug investigation, and indications that the SQ’s high command attempted to derail an internal investigation into the matter that has simply become known as The Matticks Affair.
This is Who Killed Theresa?
Today I am going to attempt to CANsplain to you what was the Matticks affair and the Poitras commission. And – I know – some of you will say, “John, no, don’t do it, it’s a suicide mission” . This might be – in parts – some dry stuff, I’ll try to keep in moving and entertaining. But it’s important stuff, the implications and meanings had and still have far reaching effects. Like most things, I’m not going to tell you everything, you have to do some of the work because Matticks and Poitras informs and is informed by a lot of the cases we’ve focused on in the last few years on the website and in this podcast.
Places can be characters in stories. Buildings and bridges can be characters. The Saint Lawrence is a character. Montreal is a character. In today’s story, the institution itself, The Surete du Quebec, and its representation in the city of Montreal, the looming headquarters overlooking the Jacques Cartier bridge at 1701 Parthenais is a character. In this episode there isn’t a couple of bad apples on which we can focus and vilify, the rot comes from the entire institution.
We will get to the Matticks Affair, but first some background. As we saw with L’Affaire Dupont, this was not the first time Quebec police had been called into question for their practices. L’Affaire Dupont consisted ultimately of three separate inquiries spanning four decades. Just two years prior to Poitras, in 1995, there had been an inquiry into the SQ’s conduct when they conducted a raid on the entire police force of the town of Chambly over allegations of corruption and links to organized crime. There had also been an inquiry in 1983 into the death of SQ Corporal Marcel Lemay during an exchange of gunfire at the Mohawk barricades during the Oka crisis in 1990. Finally, many were voicing concern that Poitras was a duplication of efforts as there had just been in 1996 an inquiry which assessed the efficiency of investigative branches of all Quebec police forces. The Bellemare commission concluded that police detectives needed to be better educated, better trained, and more closely supervised.
Quebec loves its Public Inquiries
Quebec has seen no shortage of public inquiries, or calls for public inquiries. Here’s some past bromides:
Who remembers Premier Godbout’s 1943 call for an inquiry into hospital nurseries? Or what about the call for a securities inquiry when The Royal Trust Company moved assets from Montreal to Kingston on the eve of a general election? What about the Wagner report into police’s use of excessive force during the 1964 Queen’s visit to Quebec City? Remember the Otto Lang inquiry into fully bilingual air traffic control? Didn’t think so.
My personal favorite is the Malouf Commission’s public inquiry into the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
I’ll set the stage. It’s 1977 and Quebec is waking up to the fact that they didn’t get what they paid for. Mayor Drapeau’s second act to Expo 67 was supposed to cost tax payers $120M, but the price tag for the Olympics reached $1.6B. The Parti Quebecois are fresh off their first provincial win and Rene Levesque launches an inquiry into the Games, appointing Justice Albert Malouf to head a three-man commission. Among the findings:
1. All construction contracts over $1M had to have special government approval. This safeguard was circumvented by contractors who simply asked for multiple contract increases under $1M.
2. The project was completely controlled by one man, French architect Rober Taillibert.
3. The company that won the contract for parking with a bid of $3.7M filed multiple contract increases and ended up getting paid $9.7M. And the contract was not executed until 6 months after the Games were completed.
4. The chief contractors, Formes du Quebec-Stationnement Viau, Les Formes du Quebec Construction, Sabrice Ltd, Dube and Dube, Bombardier, Roski Ltd, Stratinor, all ended up earning profits disproportionate with the services rendered.
5. Roski Ltd., a subsidiary of Bombardier, won a contract for providing seats for the Games even though its bid did not meet the specifications set by the City of Montreal.
The whole mess is best summed up by Ian MacDonald who in a 1978 Gazette column wrote,
Government-appointed commissions in Ottawa and elsewhere often conform to the Canadian dictum of solving a problem by making it go away, Quebec inquiries typically assume a spectacular life of their own.”
MacDonald goes on to confirm what we already know; Public Inquiries are spectacularly staged acts of political theater. They cost a lot, and usually wind up scapegoating the wrong people, and sidestep solving real problems.
In the Case of the Malouf Commission, the recommendations came on the eve of the Montreal municipal election. It found fault with Mayor Jean Drapeau, and largely excused everyone else, including the Liberal provincial government in power at the time of the Games, much to the dismay of Rene Levesque.
AND DRAPEAU STILL MANAGED TO WIN THE ELECTION.
Back to Matticks, Poitras, and the Surete du Quebec
Allo Police editor Andre Parent, who always had a knack for seeing the big picture, continues with a brief history of the Surete du Quebec:
“Back in the ’50s, they were [Premiere] Duplessis’s police force, it was as simple as that. In the ’60s, they called in police from the RCMP (to reform the SQ’s practices) and some distance from the politicians was established. But then the Parti Quebecois came along and maybe wanted to have their “police nationale” (in an independent Quebec).
Finally, before they went from one brand of political interference to another the SQ cut itself off and said ‘we’ll no longer be at the mercy of politicians’ and found a way to work outside (government) control”
And now we have to ask ourselves if the SQ is not functioning as a state within a state, when it reached the point where no one felt they had to tell the public security minister they were moving in at Oka.”
So what… was… the Matticks Affair?
In May 1994 police charged two leaders of the West End Gang, Gerald and Richard Matticks, and five others, with importing 26.5 tonnes of hashish valued at $360 million that was hidden in a container ship called Thor, sailing under a Norwegian flag from Uganda and Mozambique that was docked at the Port of Montreal. A joint effort with the Surete du Quebec, RCMP and Montreal police, Operation Thor was initially ruled a great success, and was highly publicized in the media. At the time it was reported as being the largest drug bust ever conducted in Canada.
Operation Thor did not go as planned. Police initially placed the container ship under surveillance with the intention of sweeping up suspects when they showed up to pick up the containers. The plan went sideways when no one showed up to claim delivery.
At this point, police decided to seize the drugs and mounted a large scale police operation consisting of a series of raids on homes and businesses in hopes of gathering further evidence that would link more suspects to the drugs. Police seized an impressive amount of documents and evidence, including $800,000 in cash from the home of Gerald Matticks.
One piece of the evidence were shipping waybills that were said to have been seized from the offices of a customs brokerage, Werner – Philips International. It turned out that in fact these waybills had been planted by police. The documents had actually been faxed to the Surete du Quebec three weeks before the raids by a Canada Customs official. The Surete du Quebec claimed it was all a “genuine mistake”, but Judge Micheline Corbeil-Laramee wasn’t buying it.
Reviewing the evidence, Judge Corebeil-Laramee threw out the case on the grounds that the four waybills gathered by investigators had probably been tampered with, and planted, upon which Quebec’s Public Security Minister, Serge Menard demanded a full explanation from the Surete du Quebec.
Menard preferred an external inquiry, but the Surete du Quebec decided to handle the matter through internal affairs.
In the summer of 1998 Bernard Arsenault, Louis Boudreault and Hilaire Isabelle are appointed to conduct an internal probe to, “shed light on the responsibility of members of the Surete du Quebec in respect of a drug importation case better known as the Matticks Affair”.
Even before the first witnesses were questioned, the investigation was doomed to failure. Isabelle would later testify that at a cocktail party later that summer he was accosted by top SQ officials who tried to intimidate him into backing off from the investigation. Isabelle reported the incident to the head of the SQ, Serge Barbeau. Barbeau does nothing, later arguing unconvincingly that he did not want to interfere with the investigation.
Frustrated with their pointless mission, Arsenault, Isabelle and Boudreault would eventually file a motion in Quebec Superior Court asking for a public inquiry. The three lost their court bid, and were rewarded by being suspended indefinitely with pay. Eventually Barbeau steps down as head of the Surete du Quebec, and is temporarily replaced with a civilian, Guy Coulombe, who launches the Poitras Commission.
As for the original Surete du Quebec officers from the Matticks raids in 1994 – Pierre Duclos, Michel Paltry, Dany Fafard and Lucien Landry – were suspended and eventually charged with perjury and fabrication of evidence. In the summer of 1996 they are all acquitted.
The Poitras Commission
The Poitras Commission consisted of three members, Lawrence Poitras, Louise Viau and Andre Perrault. Their initial investigations studied many past inquiries, not only local affairs such as the Oka crisis, the Chambly report, Bellemare’s SQ inquiry, but extending outside the province; the Campbell report on the indictment of Paul Bernardo, the Wood report on New South Wales Police, the Giuliani and Barton report concerning corruption among New York Police. The public hearings commenced on April 14, 1997 and consisted of testimonies and the filings of 891 exhibits and 65,000 pages of evidence.
The final report, released to the public on January 28, 1999 consisted of a 4 or 5 volume book entitled, “Report of the Public Inquiry Commission appointed to inquire into the Surete du Quebec – Toward A Police At The Service Of Integrity And Justice”.
“A crisis of values has shaken the Surete du Quebec from the beginning of this decade. The concepts of loyalty, integrity and equality are poorly understood. Any criticism of the organization or its practices made by a member seems suspect.”
- The Surete du Quebec didn’t have a mission statement.
- Witnesses were often threatened. One investigator said to a witness: “I’ll tell you something about how it works at the Surete du Quebec. Drugs get planted in your car, the police are called and you’re screwed.”
- Police officers were pressured into “testilying” in court so as not to lose a case.
- The report painted a picture of a police force that was reluctant to use new investigative procedures.
That a “law of silence” existed in the force similar to that found in organized crime.
- The report blasted Operation Carcajou – a joint police task force set up to end the biker war that started in the summer of 1994 – as a colossal waste of money. The commission wrote that Operation Carcajou was characterized by dysfunctional relationships, clashing egos, and bureaucratic in-fighting with the Monteal only interested in making a power grab, and the RCMP and Surete du Quebec only interested in ensuring that the blame for the continuing biker war fell on the other service.
Some of the 175 recommendations:
- A civilian oversight board.
- In response to a comment made by Public Security Minister Menard that “there’s a strange conviction (among SQ officers) that to apply the law and justice you must sometimes go around the law.”, a 24-hour legal counseling service should be set up to advise police officers what was legal and not legal.
- More resources be allocated to ensure proper training and that criminal investigators have university degrees.
The Poitras Commission left more questions than it finally answered.
The report ended with the ominous words,
“Who is policing the police?”
Whether any of these recommendations were implemented, who can say? Quebec police are not accustomed to displays of transparency. The better question is, in the aftermath of Poitras, did anything change? It’s a matter of opinion.
Lessons learned: If they didn’t listen to Lawrence Poitras, if they didn’t listen to 50 years of advocating from the Dupont brothers, then how were they ever going to listen to me?
The saga of Poitras 20 years later still feels like a shadow play. Quebec spent about 5 years and $30 million dollars on the whole affair, what did anyone get for it? It fees like a kitten with a ball of yarn. What was everyone ultimately talking about anyway? Certainly not just a 1994 drug bust in the Port of Montreal. Was that a stand-in for something else? There’s 175 recommendations here, but most of them were never implemented, including the main recommendation calling for civilian oversight. The hearings have the feeling of Kabuki theatre, everything staged and choreographed. Is there some hidden language here that was never deciphered? Who has the decoder ring?
Ever feeling like you’re missing major portions of the puzzle?
We may never get to the bottom of Matticks and Poitras, but let me try to summarize how this is all symbology of how the entire crime / justice engine churns in Quebec:
The Italian mafia controls the importation of drugs coming into the city. The Irish mop controls the ports and the receiving of drugs, and the bikers are in charge of distribution. In addition, the Mafia controls construction, and the bikers get prostitution. The politicians are beholden to all three because they are supplied with drugs and prostitutes (and kickbacks from construction), and constantly find themselves in compromising situations, or possibly set ups orchestrated by the underworld, or by rival politicians. The politicians are also beholden to the police, who constantly have to bale them out of this compromising situations. So your politicians are simply puppets working for the interests of the criminal industrial complex, and at the mercy of a police force who now answer to no one, and are more powerful than the leaders that are supposed to govern them.
Back in the day, the offices of Allo Police were right across the street from the Surete du Quebec headquarters on Parthenais, about where their car impound lot is today. So that tells you…
The Surete du Quebec is like a series of Matryoshka dolls, peel the onion and smaller version of the same doll is revealed.
We spent 30 million dollars over forged documents and some intimidating words at a cocktail party?
It’s like we’re are chained to the cave. Watching silhouettes on the rock wall. And who watches those watchmen?
On November 10th, 1969 Detective-Sergeant Louis-Georges Dupont of the Trois Rivieres police force was found dead in a field on the outskirts of town slumped across the front seat of his unmarked police vehicle. Dupont had been missing for five days, it was rumored he was suffering from depression. He had been shot twice through the chest and his death was hastily ruled a suicide.
There were many problems with this theory:
- Dupont’s Colt .38 service revolver was recovered from the vehicle, but his fingerprints weren’t on the weapon.
- No bloodstains were found on the interior of the car.
- Though the coroner ruled he had been shot in the chest, the bullet wounds clearly showed that the holes on the front of Dupont’s body were larger than the holes in his back, indicating he had actually been shot from behind, thus marking suicide the implausible / impossible.
- At the time of his death, Dupont was in the midst of an investigation about police corruption within the Trois Rivieres force. The two detectives who investigated Dupont’s death were two of his superior officers. The corruption report that eventually came out of Dupont’s investigative work recommended that the two detectives be fired.
Today we will be delving into the questions and mysteries of what has simply come to be known in Quebec as, L’Affaire Dupont.
We do not have the time to go into every detail about L’Affaire Dupont. There’s a lot of information already out there on this case, but the majority of it is in french. So this is a summary of some of the main points in the 50 history of this case. Everyone in Quebec knows this case, and there are people who have studied it for years, not the least of which is the Dupont family. I don’t really care to answer the question, was it murder of suicide? For me to re-investigate what has already been thoroughly – maybe even exhaustively – investigated would be repetitive, pointless and boring. I’m less interested in the mystery, and more intrigued by the family’s long, episodic journey to obtain justice.
The Trois Rivieres police force had actually been the subject of two separate investigations by the Quebec Police Commission; the one in 1969 for which Louis-Georges Dupont was working on, and a later investigation in 1982.
Little is known about the 1969 inquiry as apparently it was a closed door affair. But the second inquiry – the 1982 inquiry – was a public event held across the Saint Lawrence river at the court house in the small town of Nicolet. People would line up in the morning then stampede the place to hear shocking testimony about the 100-man Trois Rivieres police force.
There were accusations of perjury, intimidation of witnesses, false reports, armed robbery, attempted murder, fabrication of evidence, conflicts of interest, in short everything to suggest that the police force wasn’t there to protect residents, but actually posed a threat to them.
Details of the corruption were reported by David Johnston in the December 13th, 1982 edition of The Montreal Gazette. One of the most shocking testimonials came from a detective who revealed that police staged two armed holdups in 1976 to improve crime-resolution rates. The detective, Denis Leclerc, testified how he and a civilian accomplice gave two boys revolvers loaded with blanks, then instructed them to carry out two corner store robberies. When they exited the holdup, police quickly pounced on them, injuring one of the 16-year-old boys who was accidentally wounded by police gunfire. After his testimony, former detective Leclerc was escorted back to prison because he was in fact now serving a 10 year sentence for the attempted murder of a local woman.
Testimonies continued. Several officers admitted that they owned and operated bars in Trois Rivieres, regularly allowing minors into their establishments. “It’s no big deal”, offered Constable Martineau, who also admitted to operating a company that distributed cheese and sausage to local taverns and brasseries.
Officers confessed that they kept revolvers seized in weapons arrests for personal use, that police paid off informants with drugs, that residents were often extorted for cash. A stripper confessed that she had performed at the detectives offices at the Trois Rivieres HQ, while policemen boasted that they would regularly sleep with prostitutes at the station. The force turned a blind eye to the 250 prostitutes working the downtown corridor – at the time Trois Rivieres had a population of 45,000 – and it was alleged that senior officers controlled and possibly even ran sex worker operations in the town.
The 1982 inquiry was headed up by Judge Denys Dionne, a burly man who in 1978 headed up a different public inquiry into organized crime in Montreal. For that he was severely beaten outside his Peel street home by four thugs.
In the Trois Rivieres inquiry testimony became so embarrassing that the Quebec police union attempted, unsuccessfully to obtain a court order banning reporters and the public from the Nicolet courthouse. The president of the local chamber of commerce, W. Daniel Villeneuve chocked the whole matter up to a pet theory often heard in Quebec; bad apples:
“What’s unfortunate is that a few people are spoiling the reputation of a whole police force. Remember, there are still a lot of good, honest policemen here.”
Which brings us back to Louis-Georges Dupont. Now you can stop me whenever any of this starts sounding familiar. In the years after his death, Dupont’s family – chiefly lead by his two sons, Jacques and Robert Dupont – began privately sleuthing into Louis-Georges Dupont’s death.
Some of the Dupont brothers’ findings included:
- That their father was killed by lead bullets, but the ballistics report on Dupont’s revolver only referenced metal-tipped bullets.
- Several of the original medical legal documents from Dupont’s file had gone missing.
- The Dupont’s hired two pathologists from outside Quebec – one from Vancouver and one from the United States – who concluded that the blood stain patterns and bullet wounds clearly pointed to a murder.
The Dupont sons knew nothing about police work and the Quebec justice system, but they grew to become experts over the course of their investigations.
Asked to describe the Quebec justice system Jacques Dupont replied without hesitation,
“It’s like driving a bicycle down a road and someone keeps coming out of the bushes to push a piece of wood into the spokes of your wheels… You ask a direct question, and they turn around and lead you into another subject.”
For nearly a decade the Dupont family lobbied four successive provincial public-security Ministers – Herbert Marx, Claude Ryan, Robert Middlemass and Serge Menard – demanding a special commission take a second look at the ruling of suicide. All four ministers refused the request. So the family asked the Quebec Superior Court to order such an inquest on the grounds that the ministers’ refusals constituted a breach of public duty.
Justice Ivan St. Julian agreed with the family and ordered public security minister Serge Menard to open an inquiry. The investigation into L’Affaire Dupont began in the summer of 1996. Testimony was heard from over 50 witnesses. Before the process had even concluded Justice St. Julian – who by this time was merely an observer of the proceedings – publicly remarked that Dupont had been murdered and added, “since 1969, everything has been done to avoid casting light on this dark affair.”
The family even went to the extremity of having their father’s body exhumed and re-examined by Dr. Michael Baden, a forensics expert who had worked on the O.J. Simpson defence team.
In the end it was all for nothing. In December 1996, in her 176-page report presiding judge, Celine Lacerte-Lamontagne ruled that Dupont’s death was “more compatible” with suicide and “incompatible” with murder. Undeterred the Dupont family vowed to keep on fighting.
One of the most controversial matters in this case concerned the two-volume report of the 1969 inquiry, the first inquiry. Remember we are now talking about three inquiries; the one in 1969 that Dupont was working on, the 1982 inquiry, which was the public event and the courthouse in Nicolet that helped shed light on the 1969 inquiry, and the 1996 inquiry to determine the cause of death of Louis-Georges Dupont.
The first volume of that 1969 report had been made public, but the second volume – the one that contained Dupont’s investigative work and testimony – had been put under a publication ban for 160 years. I’ll say that again, the Quebec government ruled that a report into the corruption of a municipal police force cannot be seen by anyone until 2129.
So picture this. Fast forward 159 years. It’s 2128; we’ve achieved world peace, reversed climate change, put some people on mars. We found Atlantis, D.B. Cooper, Jimmy Hoffa, Kruger’s millions, the Nazi gold train. Oak Island is no longer a mystery. Who Killed Theresa? is now He Killed Theresa…
… but we still don’t know the thoughts and conclusions of a detective-sergeant from a small Quebec town concerning his police force.
Earlier we referred to the fact that Dupont may have been suffering from depression, however who wouldn’t be if he knew what he’s alleged to have known. Dr. Roger Caron testified that he had prescribed tranquilizers to Dupont 11 months before his death, and that Dupont had “personal problems” unrelated to his police work. Others testified that Dupont had debts and was under financial strains. Dr. Rejean Letourneau said he treated Dupont seven times for depression in the three months prior to his disappearance on November 5th, 1969.
Still others suggested that the strain was work related. A lawyer for the police union who worked with Dupont, Guy Lebrun, said that Dupont had a difficult job during the 1969 inquiry because he was responsible for verifying all allegations of corruption made against his colleagues, and then reporting back to the police union of his findings.
In the Dupont inquiry, the family was seeking $300,000 in compensation as well as a widow’s police pension which obviously would have been denied in the case of a suicide. While the father was alive the Dupont’s could have been described as middle class. After his death all that changed, the family continued to live together as the boys matured into adults in a modest rented apartment, with many of them collecting welfare.
When his body was discovered, a suicide note was found in the patrol car. A handwriting expert confirmed it was Dupont’s handwriting. The note is addressed to his wife, Jeanne d’Arc, and reads,
Jeanne d’Arc, You will see the lawyer Yvan Godin and notary Gilles Gareau (sp) for all the documents. I love you very much. I ask for your forgiveness. Louis-Georges
To me, it doesn’t matter as much whether it was murder or suicide. Either way the same forces appear to have driven Louis Georges Dupont to that outcome.
At the 1996 inquiry Dupont’s wife, Jeanne d’Arc had testified,
“Before my husband died, he was very upset, terrified, He said he was being followed and he was afraid someone was going to kill him. He told me, “It’s not safe for me, it’s not safe for you, and it’s not safe for our children.”
From the dashboard of his car Claude Larouche stalked the 7-year-old girl on her way to school. Larouche parks the car in front of École Philippe Labarre. He then approaches the girl and tells her he is looking for some money he dropped on the sidewalk. It’s an old trick, Guy Croteau used it when he assaulted a girl in St. Jean sur Richelieu. The day she disappeared in 1997 Cedrika Provencher was said to have been seen with a strange man who had lost his puppy.
The girl stops walking and dutifully begins searching the sidewalk for the lost money. Larouche takes advantage and shoves the girl into his Chevrolet Cavalier. When she puts up a struggle Larouche hits the girl on the head to subdue her – shades of Ursula Schulze here.
Eventually the girl escapes. She is able to identify the man by a rosary hanging from his rear view mirror of the Chevy. In June 2005 43-year-old Claude Larouche is sentenced to 40 months in prison for that October 10th, 2003 kidnapping and assault in that Montreal Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood.
By 2007 Claude Larouche is released from prison. In 2009 he will repeat virtually the same scenario, this time with fatal results.
When he was arrested on November 6, 2009 for the first-degree murder of 37-year-old Natasha Cournoyer, Claude Larouche’s neighbors described him as a “nice family guy”.
Larouche worked as a carpenter. He was short and stocky, by 2009, the 47-year-old Larouche was balding. Larouche was living with a woman in an Ahuntsic duplex, Caroline Bastien, and her two teenage boys. He had a criminal record that extended across the province and all the way back to 1984, including Repentigny, Jonquiere, St. Eustache, Chicoutimi, Trois Rivieres, Joliette, and Montreal. He was due in court in February 2010 for theft charges extending from an arrest in Quebec City.
Caroline Bastien was living with Larouche at the time of the kidnapping of the 7-year-old girl. In the 5 years since that trial the details of that case changed. The girl was walking toward a friends house, not school. It was 7 a.m.. She helped him search for the money, he shoved her into the front seat of his car. The girl fled to a nearby house. Larouche chased her but stopped and fled when the resident opened the front door. Larouche was caught, not from the rosary, but because the occupant was able to i.d. his license plate.
Natasha Cournoyer worked for The Correctional Services of Canada. She was last seen alive the evening on October 1st, 2009 when she left her office in Laval and headed for the staff parking lot around 8 p.m..
She was reported missing the following day around 5 p.m.. When police arrived at the corrections office they found Cournoyer’s boyfriend, Michel Trottier, in a panic in the employee parking lot. Cournoyer’s grey Mazda 3 was still there. A crime scene technician noticed odd marks and streaks on the vehicle, suggesting signs of a struggle. Police found discarded articles of women’s clothing in the nearby bushes. Constable Celine Cecile, the first to arrive at the scene, was convinced they’s find Cournoyer’s body in the trunk of her car. All they found was a pair of inline skates.
The investigators begin to focus on the surveillance videos from the corrections facility. Around 6:35 p.m. a van pulls into the parking lot and parks in the rear adjacent to where Cournoyer’s Mazda was parked. Around 8 p.m. Natasha Cournoyer is observed leaving the Place Laval facility. She crosses the empty parking lot, disappearing into the abyss and darkness. Shortly thereafter the headlights of the van suddenly turn on. The van later moved to another spot in the parking lot.
Technicians recover Cournoyer’s identification and credit cards along the embankment of northbound highway 19 leading out of Laval. Detectives seize the registers of two motels overlooking the Laval parking lot, the Motel Lido and the Motel Ideal. Police later discover the name and driver’s license number of Claude Larouche in the register of the Motel Lido. Larouche also wrote down the make and model of his vehicle, a Ford Windstar van.
Police put a trace on Cournoyer’s cellphone. They discover it had been receiving calls and texts at the Motel Lido on October 1st, 2009.
On October 6th, 2009 the body of Natasha Cournoyer is found in a field next to a dirt road in the Montreal east end neighborhood of Pointe aux Trembles. The dirt road lead to a boat launch on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, in a brush-covered area near the intersection of Notre Dame St. E. and 36th Ave. A local resident commented that the road was often used by drug dealers, and that stolen cars were often abandoned there. The resident commented,
“It’s like hell, a real garbage dump. I’m not surprised at all that a dead body was found there.”
Later the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Natasha Counroyer’s body, Andre Bourgault determined that she died of strangulation, and that a series of marks on her neck were signs that she struggled and tried to pull the killer’s hands off her neck before she died. She also suffered eight or nine impacts to her head made by a blunt object or surface. Bourgault finds evidence that Cournoyer’s wrists and ankles had been bound, and that linear marks stretching from both ends of her mouth were signs she had been gagged.
On October 16th, 10 days after Cournoyer’s body was discovered, police bring Claude Larouche in for questioning. He denied any involvement in Cournoyer’s disappearance and death.
At a second meeting at Larouche’s home at 1490 Prieur Ste. E. in Ahuntsic he tells police he didn’t know Cournoyer except for what he read in the newspapers. Larouche admits that often used the Motel Lido, as well as one other in Laval, because he found them affordable, but couldn’t recall if he stayed at the Lido on October 1st. By now police already know that blood found in the Lido Motel room, and in Larouche’s Windstar van match Cournoyer’s DNA.
On November 6th, 2009 Claude Larouche is arrested and charged for the first-degree murder of Natasha Cournoyer.
At his trial in the Spring of 2011, Larouche admits to the killing, but claims it was an accident. In Larouche’s version of events he was waiting for a drug dealer in the corrections facility parking lot on October 1st, 2009 when suddenly Cournoyer appeared and ended up in his van:
“She hit me and got in the van… I don’t know why. Maybe she fell… 50 per cent I put her in and 50 per cent, she got in herself.”
Larouche continued, claiming Cournoyer agreed to go with him to the Motel Lido. Once there Larouche claimed she showed him her breasts, removed her pants and said she would give him a blowjob if they could leave right after. Larouche had consumed large amounts of crack and cocaine, and continued to do so in the Motel room, which he had rented for $45 for the night. After the blowjob Larouche claimed that Cournoyer threw her shoe at him. A struggled ensued, and they both found themselves on the floor. Larouche continued to the jury,
“I had both hands around her neck”
Larouche then claimed he cleaned up the blood, cleaned up the room, put Cournoyer’s body in his van and drove back to his home in Ahuntsic.
The next morning, when Larouche opened the van door and saw Cournoyer’s body sprawled out is the back of the van covered with the motel bedspread, he was surprised,
“Tabernacle, she didn’t leave!”
Larouche then drove to the boat launch location in Pointe aux Trembles, dumped the body and disposed of the bedspread. Returning to Ahuntsic, he cut up all of Cournoyer’s credit cards, and threw them out his van window as he drove.
Now, in an already bizarre tale, this next part is truly surreal. Larouche told the jury he returned to the dump site the next day to cover Cournoyer’s body with a blanket because he was afraid she would freeze. He returned two days later on October 4th to remove the blanket. At the beginning of the day’s testimony, Larouche’s lawyer, Richard Rougeau told the jury that his client never meant to harm or kill Natasha Cournoyer.
As the trial continued, the prosecution offered a very different version of events. Claude Larouche was on the hunt the night of October 1st, 2009, but the hunting ground wasn’t the parking lot of Corrections Canada, but a bike path that ran adjacent to the rear of the lot. A man walking a dog testified that he observed a man who was stalking a female jogger approximately one hour before Cournoyer exited her office. The man quickly disappeared when he spotted the witness with his dog. Natasha Cournoyer became Claude Larouche’s Plan B.
In late June 2011, Claude Larouche is convicted of the First Degree murder of Cournoyer. Through the course of the trial it is revealed that Larouche attempted to murder an escort in a Montreal motel just weeks after Cournoyer’s death, and that police suspect him in the unsolved murders of three other women, one of the cases dating back to the early 1990s.
Which brings us back, full circle to Melanie Cabay, the unsolved murder in Ahuntsic from 1994. This is a transcript of an email I received in late November 2009, just weeks after Claude Larouche was arrested for Cournoyer’s murder:
“My story is complicated and mixed with weird synchronicities that I don’t feel comfortable explaining to others, especially the police.
When I was 19 years old, I lived in Ahuntsic with my parents. A quiet residential area that felt unsafe to me, as a teenage girl (there were a lot of weirdos roaming around). One night after celebrating St-Jean Baptiste day at my brother’s place, Friday, June 24, 1994, I came back home late. My parents were gone for the weekend. As I went up the front stairs of the house, I saw a man standing about 20 feet from me, in a park entrance (behind some bushes and small trees), right beside my house. At first I noticed he was barefoot and only wearing something resembling a diaper (stay with me here). He had a “crew cut” and the first thought that came to mind was that it was some sort of student initiation. But I quickly noticed he was alone and didn’t look like a student. As I was trying to comprehend what I was seeing, he started undoing what he was wearing while staring at me. I hurriedly opened the door and got inside. I ran up the stairs and I went straight to the window to see if he was there, but he was gone.
He really gave me the creeps. That night I slept with a knife under my pillow.
The next day, my brother called me to tell me that the girlfriend of his friend’s brother had disappeared. She had left her boyfriend’s house, a block away from my parent’s, two night before, Wednesday, June 22nd, and never came home. It was Mélanie Cabay. I then told him about the man I had seen and how bizarre the scene was.
Posters of Mélanie were put up everywhere in the city and my neighbour told me that the night of her disappearance she saw a girl resembling Mélanie sitting on a bench in that same park entrance (I hadn’t told her about what I had seen).
Two weeks later Mélanie’s body was found in Mascouche. A woman then went to the police to report that she had been attacked in the same area where Mélanie’s body was found, by a man who had hired her services as a prostitute. She said she thought the guy was going to kill her. She made a composite picture of the man that was published in the papers. The resemblance with the man I had seen was striking.
Eventually, about a month later, the police came to the neighborhood, door to door to ask for information about Mélanie’s disappearance. I told them what I had seen, they left with my copy of the composite picture of the man.
As you may have guessed by now, the man looked a lot like Claude Larouche.
I still have a composite picture I made 4 years later with a computer software, of the man I had seen that night. As I compare it with Larouche’s picture, again the resemblance is striking.
Now I wonder if I should tell the police. I called Mélanie’s mother a week ago but she didn’t call me back. I haven’t talked to her in 10 years and I don’t want to insist considering the pain she has been through. I’m reluctant to call the police because there are events that happened ‘around’ Mélanie’s disappearance and is not directly connected. You know how bad the police are about making “links” especially if they seem “farfetched”. But I think they should check out a possible link between Larouche and Mélanie’s murder.
Like Nathasha Cournoyer, Mélanie had been hit on the head and was strangled. She was found naked with only her socks on. So I guess I’m asking for your advice as to what I should do? Should I show the composite picture I made to the police? (If you’d like to see it, I can send it to you). Or should I just assume Mélanie’s mother will (if she didn’t already) contact the police to make sure they look into a possible link between Larouche and her daughter’s murder? “
The first matter we should address is Larouche’s location in the summer of 1994. In April 1993 he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman he knew. He was sentenced to a one year prison term and two years of probation. Given time served, etc… it is conceivable that Larouche was released into the community and serving probation in May of 1994, one month prior to Melanie Cabay’s disappearance.
We already know that Larouche lived in Ahuntsic at the time of his 2009 arrest, at 1490 Prieur Ste. east. This location is about 9 blocks from the north face of Ahuntsic park, the same park where Cabay would have walked along the park side on her way to the bus stop in 1994. That’s still a long way in distance. It’s an even longer distance in years, 15 years from 1994 to 2009.
But wait. Larouche lived in a lot of places in the decades leading up to his 2009 arrest; St Eustache, Jonquiere, Repentigny, and… even a second address in Ahuntsic.
In 2000 Claude Larouche was living at 10458 rue Peloquin, this is one block from Ahuntsic park, two blocks from Rachel’s stalking event at that home on rue Fleury. The stalking event is exactly one block from where Cabay borrowed the grey sweater from the former boyfriend, Fleury and Basile Routhier.
So was this Claude Larouche? Is Cabay and Rachel some sort of double event where Larouche did not get the type of gratification he expected from Cabay, and went right back on the hunt two nights later on the Ste Jean Baptist holiday?
Click here to visit the interactive map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1J_3WrD0X_IyGkM29Kqq_v8MyExFRL46V&ll=45.55800082967871%2C-73.66598662551883&z=16
There are problems with this theory. Rachel’s composite does look like Larouche, but the 2009 Larouche, what did he look like 15 years earlier in 1994? Did he look the same? Those squinty eyes with the close cropped hair?
Also recall that there was a second composite made in the Melanie Cabay affaire, the picture drawn of the attacker from the Cabay Mascouche dump site, this does not look like Larouche. Or does it? It doesn’t look like 2009 Larouche, but again, what did he look like in 1994? Some have said that if you cut the hair and shave the moustache, you get Larouche: inset eyes, broad jaw.
Maybe, maybe not. Would Larouche have violated his parole and committed the brazen abduction of Melanie Cabay? Back then to the Rachel composite; so did Larouche cut his hair, shave his moustache the day after killing Cabay? Maybe. Maybe that’s exactly what he did. Difficult to say.
Some might say the locations are too close. You don’t hunt that close to where you live. To which I say? It depends. The problem always is making sweeping generalizations based on criminal theory then using them as a catch-all for every occasion, while ignoring at the same time that we are talking about people here, with behaviors, and behavior is unpredictable. If you could predict economics based on behavior ( and there are those who say you can, they make lots of money from consulting) we’d all be millionaires. But we’re not. Because… behavior is unpredictable. Sometimes people do the opposite of what we think they will do. Sometimes people improvise.
And recall the 1988 disappearance of Melanie Temperton, last registered at the Metro Motel, a block and a half from Ahuntsic park. A motel used by escorts, very similar to the ones frequently used by Larouche. Claude Larouche had a long history of taking escorts to cheap motels and abusing them. His psychiatrist described him as “a sadist who likes inflicting pain.” Did then 27-year-old Claude Larouche abduct Melanie Temperton, using an M.O. similar to the Natasha Cournoyer murder? Did he also abduct Melanie Cabay 6 years later, pushed her in his van, then driving her to the Metro motel, before disposing of her body north of Montreal in Mascouche?
Larouche was a carpenter. Cabay’s body was found beneath a pile of detritus, construction materials… This is important. If you’re a construction worker, and your working a job, and the job ends… you’re asked to get rid of a bunch of surplus shit. So you dump it in the woods. Then later you return to those woods. Because that’s where you dump shit? So you dumb a body there. Because it’s familiar. Because it’s what you know. Repigney?
You have to believe Quebec police have considered all this. And if any of it were true, they would have acted. But with all cases it comes down to the burden of proof. In the case of Temperton, there is no body. Melanie Temperton was never seen again. With Cabay, you would have to believe there was dna, and that police tested that dna against Larouche. Unless there was no dna, or they destroyed the dna, or they somehow contaminated it.
So that would leave an eye witness or Larouche’s confession. Even with a life sentence, even with the declaration of dangerous offender, there is always the chance of rehabilitation and release. I highly doubt Claude Larouche would admit to anything in the affair of Melanie Cabay.
Some things to ponder as we observe the 25 anniversary of Melanie Cabay’s unsolved murder.
From her high school graduation photo Melanie Cabay looks tall and statuesque, maybe even a bit stiff and stuffy. She wasn’t. Cabay stood 5 feet tall, barely weighed 100 pounds. If you look at candid photos of her, the picture changes. She appears casual, confident, mischievous.
Melanie was independent. On the early morning of her disappearance – June 22nd, 1994 – she was at a friends watching a Robert Altman movie. Around 1:45 a.m. she left with a former boyfriend. At the corner of rue Fleury and Basile Routhier, along the eastern face of park Ahuntsic, she asks for his sweater – it was cold that June morning – before walking south west to catch a late night bus at the corner of Fleury and Berri back to her mother’s place. In July she planned to move in with her father in Pointe Aux Trembles. She was going to travel with a friend to Virginia that summer. She had purchased tickets to the July Montreal jazz festival.
“Melanie is 19 years old,” said her father, Phillipe Cabay, “She could go where she wanted whenever she wanted.”
Standing there at the bus stop at Berri and Fleury, across from Ahuntsic park, in her Yes t-shirt and former bo’s grey sweater, at age 19, she was every inch a young 1990s version of Theresa Allore – star voyager, the last of the independents.
Melanie Cabay was found 2 weeks later in a wooded area by an off-road motorcyclist near Mascouche, about 25 kilometres northeast of Montreal. She was found naked, the body too decomposed to make a positive identification on a Tuesday afternoon, July 5th, 1994. The motorcyclist, Michel Chartier said he was on a dirt road when he detected a foul odor around 1 p.m. The smell lead him to a pile of roofing shingles.
“I noticed a white piece of material sticking out from under a pile and i thought it might be a dog or a big raccoon.”
He lifted up the shingles with a stick and discovered a body lying face down, clad only in a pair of white socks. The body was found about half a kilometre from a road near highway 640 at Montée Dumais, and surrounded by other construction materials like bricks and wood.
Cabay was strangled and had been struck on the head with an object. Due to the state of decomposition, it was not possible to determine whether she had been sexually assaulted.
Later it is reported that Mascouche police are investigating another assault in the area. On June 23, the day after Cabay disappeared, a man sexually assaulted a Montreal woman at the same location. The woman got a lift from a man headed toward Mascouche around 11:30 p.m. A verbal fight ensued and the man abandoned her on the highway. She tried to hitchhike home, but was picked up by a second man. He took her to the same wooded area where Cabay was found and sexually assaulted her. It is noted that this is an area in Mascouche known as a “lovers lane”.
The woman provided a detailed description of her assailant and the police drew up a sketch. The man was described as between 30 and 40 years old, standing 5’7″ and weighing between 200 and 240 pounds. He had blue-green eyes, medium length light brown hair and big hands with short fingers:
On September 21, 1988 Melanie Temperton went to visit a friend in Ahuntsic. She vanished and has not been seen since. Melanie – who was 20 at the time and had just started work as a secretary – had called home to say she was spending the night at her friend’s apartment.
When Melanie failed to show us the next night at the family’s home in St. Laurent, a neighboring community near Cartierville, her mother, Gwen Temperton called the police . In some accounts she was supposed to return to the family’s summer cottage in Mascouche, about 10 minutes from where Cabay’s body was found. The family sometimes stayed here, though in some seasons they rented the place out for extended periods.
It was only later that the family learned that on the night she disappeared Melanie didn’t stay with her friend, but at the Metro Motel at 9925 rue Lajeanesse in Ahunsic, two blocks from the bus stop where Melanie Cabay was last seen. The Metro was known as the sort of place where prostitutes frequented with clients. This is not to suggest Melanie Temperton fell into prostitution, she just may have been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her mother always suspected Melanie’s ex-boyfriend, though there has always been something in Gwen’s retelling of the events over the years to suggest she was holding back something, and not appearing completely forthcoming.
Go here to view an interactive map of the Cabay / Temperton geographic points: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1DkeL1T9nL-Nya7fe4aAjXK-H8Zc3subZ&ll=45.554364403115315%2C-73.6625844765324&z=17
On July 20th, a “concerned Montrealer” offers a $15,000 reward for “information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the murder of Melanie Cabay.
On July 27th another reward notice is published, this time in the amount of $10,000. It’s not known why the amount was reduced, nevertheless the poster states that the reward expires December 31, 1994.
The same day, The Montreal Gazette publishes an article titled, “Rewards don’t help nab murder suspects”
Though I agree with the sentiment, I question the timing of the article, at the peak of when public assistance could have benefited the case.
“It’s becoming a familiar pattern. A young woman or girl is killed, her body found a few weeks later by the police. Then reward posters spring up on telephone poles across the city.”
Now stop there for a moment, because I think any community should begin to question itself at the complacency of such a statement. In my community, if such a thing were to happen, it would not be familiar, it would be jarring and disturbing. But this has been the norm in Montreal for at least half a century. The article continues,
“But a Montreal Urban Community police homicide detective and a Montreal criminologist say they doubt the reward system works in cases of sex slayings or killings of young woman and girls.”
The article goes on to say that in the case of, say bank robberies, reward posters are libel to work because their are witnesses. Also, a robber might likely boast of their holdup to a friend or someone in a bar. Not so with a sexual murderer who is by nature introverted. Their crime stems from a personal pathology where it is unlikely they would brag about it at the local tavern. The exception might be a gang member, where members share a similar pathology, but it would be rare where a loner would divulge the details of such a crime.
The article mentions the offering of rewards by the Sun Youth organization for information leading to arrests in the cases of Melanie Cabay, Marie-Chantal Desjardins (who went missing and was found murdered in Sainte Therese at this time) , Tara Manning (murdered in her home earlier that year). Sun Youth, criminologists and the police acknowledged it was rare for rewards to lead to arrests in such cases.
While I admit it is unlikely for a sex killer to boast and brag, it is still possible for a concerned citizen to respond with critical information. They might observe a neighbor with odd proclivities. Perhaps strange odors emanating from an adjacent apartment. If you tell the public rewards don’t work, the message they will receive is, ” why bother to engage in the matter?”
I think by this point in the process – three weeks into the investigation the Cabay family probably felt that the forces that were supposed to help were working against them. If the english press wasn’t helping matters, neither was the french media.
I often praise Allo Police for their coverage in this era, but I should clarify this praise has nothing they deliberately did or intended on behalf of victims. In taking a very pro law enforcement stance in their coverage of crimes, we are grateful in retrospect of the attention to detail in the documentation of these crimes. Allo Police often provide the names of investigators, of medical legal professionals, of others involved at the time in the Quebec justice system. They provided precise addresses – intrusive at the time to publish the addresses of families – but very helpful 30 to 40 years later in trying to establish a geographic imprint of criminology / victimology.
But to grasp the full impact of their indifference to the families and friends of victims, you need go no further than to the stories published when Cabay went missing, and later found.
On July 10th, Allo Police publishes an in depth story on the disappearance of Melanie Cabay, “Disparition Fort Mysterieuse”. At the top of the article are three photo booth pictures of Melanie. At the bottom of the page? Two advertisements for phone sex line services, one, highly pornographic:
Imagine how Melanie’s family felt seeing such a thing. Imagine the subliminal message it sent to readers: there’s something unseemly about sex workers, therefore there’s also something inappropriate about Melanie Cabay. Now take a look at the July 17th edition of Allo Police:
The headline reads, “Naked, face down on the ground!” We see a photo of Melanie’s mother holding a picture of her daughter with the heading, “She believed her daughter was alive right up to the last minute.” Beneath the headline? It’s a picture of a topless woman in a corset, another ad for phone sex line – 514-976-4400.
Allo Police is a useful tool today, never forget in it’s day Allo Police typified the sort of yellow journalism found in American publications like William Randolph Hearst’s New York World, the clickbait of its era.
A real #MeToo moment
On Saturday September 17th 1994, 1,000 women take to Montreal’s downtown streets in the 14th annual Take Back The Night march. The marchers formed a quarter-mile stream, waving banners and chanting slogans to protest violence against women.
A few weeks ago we talked a little about the Chantal Brochu case, and the Quebec serial killers Serge Archambault and Agostino Ferreira. It’s important to remember that all of this was playing out in within the contexts of these other events.
The crowd marched with placards of Brochu, and Melanie Cabay, Marie Chantal Desjardins and Tara Manning.
“Tonight, with the crowd, we will feel safe walking in the streets and I just wished it felt like this the other 364-days of the year,” said Michelle Issa who had participated in the event for the prior 8 years.
March organizer Mary Ann Davis added, “We are people who are fed up with not being able to go out at night to the corner store without being afraid of being sexually or physically abused.”
Early December, a glimmer of hope for some of the murdered young women. Robert Leblanc had been charged with the murder of Chantal Brochu, an arrest was imminent in the Tara Manning case.
Late December, more bad news. Reports of three missing women in the Montreal area; Angelique Desjardins, Nancy Dufour, and Sonia Fitzack.
On the first anniversary of the discovery of Melanie Cabay’s remains people march to denounce violence. The event is repeated a year later when 130 march in silent protest. Joining Melanie’s mother, Mireille is the family of 9-year-old Joleil Campeau, murdered in Laval the previous summer. A fundraising car wash is held to raise money for a non profit foundation in Melanie’s honor to support families and friends of victims of violence, an early precursor of Quebec’s AFPAD foundation.
By July 1997 the marches are becoming a familiar, if diminishing pattern. 50 people gather in Ahuntsic parc to remember Melanie Cabay. By the end of the decade the event would all but cease, taken up in the early 2000s by some other march remembering some other woman who was the victim of violence.
Women’s March, January, 2019: Marchers gathered at Place Émilie Gamelin in the bitter cold as they did in Berlin, Washington, New York, Los Angeles and beyond: https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-womens-march-to-be-held-downtown-saturday
Music for the episode: Quite simply, this is what Melanie Cabay would have heard had she lived and attended the 1994 Montreal Jazz Festival. The line up from June 30th through July 8th included Cassandra Wilson, Charlie Haden, Kind Sunny Ade, Holly Cole, Dr. John, Joshua Redman.
Next time, Who Killed Melanie Cabay?