Croteau Redux

An interesting piece in yesterday’s Gazette about a Longueuil women who thinks guy Croteau might have raped her in 1977.

Yes, I know Big-Bad-Guy isn’t responsible for every sex crime in the ’70s and ’80s, but indulge me for a moment (my comments in italics):

Sexual attacker hands pedestrian a life sentence

JAMES MENNIE 
The Gazette 

Sunday, February 22, 2004

She says it was nearly 27 years ago, and so she’s had to trade off some details in the recollection of it. 

For example, she can remember the colour of the building where she first saw him standing, looking at her, but she’s never been sure if he was wearing a checked lumberjack’s jacket or an army fatigue coat.

“A checked lumberjack’s jacket” matches the clothing worn by one of the suspects in the Manon Dube case.

Jeanette is 53 now, has a husband and works as a teacher and freelance writer, but most of what happened that autumn evening in 1977 remains crystal clear, the details as sharply defined as the shock in the man’s eyes when she turned around and defended herself.

1977: this would put Croteau at approximately 21 years of age. A young serial killer in the making?

“I was coming back from the Longueuil métro station to where I live,” she said. “I decided to walk rather than take the bus. It was about a 15-minute walk.”

It was also a walk that took her from the subway across an overpass that spans Taschereau Blvd. and, as she paced across the bridge in the twilight, Jeanette looked back and noticed what appeared to be the figure of a man standing by a blue glass building. She resumed walking and was about three-quarters across the overpass when she sensed “a very light touch … like a draft.”

“So I whipped around and this guy had his hand right up the back of my skirt. … I was just enraged to see him. I started showering abuse on him … and then bashing him. I had a very heavy purse and I swung at his head.

“After I yelled at him, the strangest thing is he looked as if he was going to cry. … He turned around and began to run. I began to chase him.”

She chased him?

“I don’t know. I was just so mad.”

A woman reported to me a similar encounter with a man on the streets of Sherbrooke, Quebec in 1980. The man confronted her, she challenged him, he looked like he might cry, then she chased him. 

Jeanette says he looked like someone who had just walked out of the woods – a beard, fairly long hair. “But it was his eyes that stood out the most. He had the most spectacular eyes.”

Her assailant got away and Jeanette went home and filed a police report. She was visited by two officers who kept looking around her apartment, asked if she was single, if she lived alone, why she was walking alone at night. They left her feeling as if she was somehow responsible for the attack. It was the ’70s. 

It was the ’70s? Oh come-on, James, do you think women are treated with any greater respect today?

The police said they’d come back with mug shots. They never did, Jeanette says.

This is an often described scenerio. I can’t tell you the number of women who have contacted me about sexual assaults from 1977 – 1980. In almost every case the police very quickly dismissed their cause

Jeanette put the incident behind her for eight years, even though she’d shake when she talked about it, until an 18-year-old girl was found raped and killed in a ditch that runs parallel to the overpass.

Nathalie Boucher’s body was found less than 300 metres from her Longueuil home. As of yesterday, her killing remained unsolved. “I always felt it was the same guy who did it,” Jeanette says. “That he decided to get it right this time.”

Nathalie Boucher is a new one on me. Yes, there are many people who could be responsible for her death. But one thing to keep in mind; Guy Croteau is the only “serial killer” I know of who to date is responsible for only one murder. He will serve a life sentence for the death of Sophie Landry: this is good. But who else did he kill? Remember, this is not stuff from my imagination; it is the Surete du Quebec who have publically labeled Croteau as a multiple murderer. 

Ok, SQ, we’re waiting for the other murders. It was dumb luck that you were able to link Croteau to Landry. Now it’s time to go to work and solve some crimes.

And then, two years ago, she was in a coffee shop when she saw a newspaper front page covered with a series of photographs under a headline that read: “The Many Faces of a Serial Rapist.” It was story about Guy Croteau, a school janitor who had been arrested for a murder and a string of sexual assaults on the South Shore.

The police published the 10, startlingly different photos after Croteau, then 45, was charged with nine sexual assaults that occurred between 1995 and 2000 and the 1987 murder of a 16-year-old girl who had been raped and stabbed 173 times.

Jeanette recognized the eyes.

She called the Sûreté du Québec’s toll-free number and told them about the incident on the overpass. They took the information and never called back.

Oh boy! Like I’m not familiar with this story!

Jeanette, I called the same toll-free number, and guess what? They didn’t call me back either. For a police force relying on the public to solve crimes, they sure weren’t eager to put any effort into it. In short, it took embarrassing the SQ in the newspapers before they would even consider looking at my sister’s murder in relation to Croteau. 

FYI: Croteau had ties to the Eastern Townships.

Now, at this point it has to be said that the greater Montreal area has more than enough murderers and rapists to go around, and the area around the Longueuil métro, the place where Nathalie Boucher was murdered, where Croteau’s 16-year-old victim was last seen alive, has known its share of crime scenes.

Ya, ya , ya… so this is an excuse not to look into these things?

Ask Jeanette what she’d do if the cops told her tomorrow that they knew for an absolute fact the man who tried to attack her wasn’t Guy Croteau and she pauses for the longest time.

They can’t say that. They don’t know that.

“It’s possible. … It’s possible I’ve talked myself into this.” But Jeanette feels that even if it wasn’t Croteau, “the guy who came up behind me (27 years ago) meant business.”

And that’s when you know that in the end, it really doesn’t matter who it was who stood by a blue glass building on an autumn night in 1977, whether he wore a checked jacket or a drab olive coat, whether he’s going to sit in a cell for the next quarter century or whether he’s still out there. 

We tell ourselves that justice has been done, that a school janitor convicted for the rape and murder of a teenage girl in 1987 has been given a life sentence for his crime. Even if he’s convicted of anything else, society cannot do more to Guy Croteau than it already has.

So society should close the chapter on Croteau? Nathalie Boucher’s murder remains unsolved. The Surete du Quebec has stated publicly that Guy Croteau is a serial killer – though inexplicably they can only tab him for one murder. 

Doesn’t the SQ have an obligation to society to determine what other murders Croteau committed? In doing that, we just might learn from past mistakes. And I don’t think it was women who made the mistake of walking where they shouldn’t late at night. 

But everything – including justice – is relative. Because a 27-year-old woman one autumn night decided to do nothing more sinister than walk home from the métro, a 53-year-old woman still wonders a quarter of a century after the fact whether she defended herself against a murderer in the making.

And that, some might argue, is a life sentence in itself.

I will leave the last word to another victim, Marc Lapierre who so eloquently stated:

“Life Sentence – it’s the victims that receive it.”

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