Katherine Hawkes – September 20th, 1977: SPVM Screwup

Katherine Hawkes-1977

Katherine Hawkes-1977

Less than 10 days after the murder of Helene Monast in Chambly, Katherine Hawkes was brutally beaten and raped in the Saint Laurent region of Montreal.

The Quebec tabloids did not overlook the threat to public safety, with Allo Police publishing the photos of Louise Camirand, Jocelyne Houle, Joanne Dorion, Helene Monast and Katherine Hawkes with the headline, Encore un maniaque sexuel!”

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Disappearance

34-year-old Katherine Hawkes worked in downtown Montreal, at the corner of Dorchester and University. The 5’5″ 145 lbs woman resided at 11815 rue Ranger in the Cartierville are of Montreal (to the north). Katherine usually road the commuter train home to the CN Val Royal station. On September 20th, 1977, Montreal (in fact the entire province of Quebec) experienced a massive power outage. As the trains were not running, Katherine took the bus home to Cartierville.

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Katherine left work at approximately 6:00 pm. A bus driver said he saw Katherine exiting the bus at Val Royal at approximately 6:20 pm, but we know this cannot be so: no bus travels that fast. So let’s assume Katherine was back in Cartierville around 7:00 pm. Her home was approximately a 4 minute walk away on rue Ranger.

Discovery of the body

September 21, 1977 around 5:30 pm, two students, Carlo Aghbashian and Berry LeBlanc are walking along the north side of the path by the railway station when they smell a “gross odor”.  They look in the bushes adjacent the train station and discover the body of Katherine Hawkes lying beneath some trees. They call the police.

IMG_0176The Montreal Municipal Police arrive at 6:33 pm. The investigation is led by Sargent Detectives Roger David and Arthur Laurin, assisted by Sgt Andre Tetreault, SD Remy Martin, and Constable Robert.

Katherine Hawkes bus stop at Val Royal. Note the light, which would have been dark due to the blackout.

Katherine Hawkes bus stop at Val Royal. Note the light, which would have been dark due to the blackout.

Katherine Hawkes was found lying on her back. Because it had been cold that day (windy the evening of the blackout) the body was very rigid. Her clothing was found approximately 5 feet from the body. 15 feet from the body police found a white “bag”, and a brown “bag” containing hair rollers and a tube of Pepsodant toothpaste.  Hawkes was lying approximately 100 feet from the Val Royal train station, and 400 feet north of 4767 Henri Bourassa boule. 

Autopsy

The medical examination is performed on September 22nd at the medical lab at Parthenais in Montreal by Andre Brosseau, assisted by Maurice Labrie. Hawkes was found wearing a beige sock on her right foot, a bra pulled up over her arms, a sweater, and her brown coat. Objects recovered include a neckless and a ring. Results indicate that Hawkes was beaten violently about the head, and raped. She died from a combination of her injuries and exposure to the cold.

Much to discuss about Katherine Hawkes

First, all of the information above is pulled from original police reports and public records, none of it comes from newspapers. When information was released to public archives someone from the Montreal Municipal Police inadvertently included all the police information (Oops!). Just watch how this plays out:

IMG_0167Unlike many of the other cases, Katherine Hawkes has received some recent media attention. In 2003 the Radio Canada television show, Justice avec Simon DeRivage profiled the Hawkes case (link here). At that time the case was in the hands of the RCMP (are you counting the cross-jurisdiction nightmares?) and lead investigator Michael Hanigan made a lot of public noise about the fact that the “killer” apparently telephoned into police the evening of Hawkes’ disappearance to report where the body could be found: “La police possède deux enregistrements du meurtrier, puisque ce dernier a téléphoné à deux reprises à la police pour se dénoncer et indiquer où ce trouvait le corps.”  

At that time, the police were still in possession of the taped recordings (which where played on Justice) and the public was asked to contact the RCMP if anyone recognized the voice:  The person called in twice, and spoke French.

Around 2010 the tapes apparently disappeared. The Montreal police no longer were looking for the public’s assistance, much to the frustration of citizens like myself that simply wanted to solve some crimes. This is witnessed by Kristian Gravenor’s plea on his website Coolopolis, calling for the Montreal police to please re-release the audio recording (link here).

Now this is where it gets interesting. The autopsy report indicates that the police received a call on the evening of September 20th:

“La Police a recu un appel dans la soiree du 20 septembre disant qu’une personne inconne se trouvait morte dans un terrain vacant a l’arriere du 4767 Henri-Bourassa”

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Further, the Montreal Municipal Police report indicates that one of the calls was received at 10:35 pm:

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So my question is this: If police knew as early as 10:35 pm the evening of September 20th, 1977 that a body was located behind 4767 Henri Bourassa, why did it take them until being notified by two students the following day at 5:30 pm to respond?

Stay with me. Remember the audio recording? It’s not lost. I have it. Why do I have it? Because when Radio-Canada / Justice did a 10 minute profile on Katherine Hawkes, they also did a 10 minute profile on Theresa Allore (look here).

Other points

Katherine Hawkes used the Montreal STM bus system. So did Johanne Dorion and Chantal Tremblay. In fact, both Dorion and Tremblay touched the Henri Bourassa line, and Dorion worked in Cartierville just north of where Hawkes lived. Here’s a quick map showing victim transit patterns:

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So why not play the audio recording of the Hawkes call-in perp for the Dorion family to see if they recognize it? What harm could that do at this point? Unless the SPVM police are too worried about their embarrassment and failure to arrive at the Hawkes crime scene in a timely manner?

We are beyond that. Show some accountability and responsibility.

Oh there’s more. So Hawkes… found under trees, clothing next to body… What about her shoes? Like Camirand and Allore (and possibly Monast) they were missing. Katherine Hawkes’ shoes were recovered on September 23rd, 1977, a woman walking along rue Grenet sees the shoes in a ditch. The street is the destination from the bus stop towards Katherine Hawkes’ home.

DNA

In addition to sperm samples, the autopsy revealed that Katherine had in her hand three hairs which were analyzed. In addition the 2003 Radio-Canada piece seemed to suggest police still had the DNA (they had not destroyed it as in other cases).  If this is true, the DNA results should be shared with other police agencies to see if there is a match on these other cold cases.

The purse

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Like Monast, Camirand, Choquette, Allore (wallet later recovered), Hawkes purse is missing and never recovered.

Sharron Prior

Where is Sharron Prior in all this? The case was only 2 1/2 years earlier in April 1975. Why was Sharron dropped from the roster of cases?  Did the media / police / public forget? The family didn’t forget: Sharron’s mother had written the Dorion family in August 1977, and the letter was published in the Quebec tabloids. So why was Sharron left out of the Maniaque-Sexuelle equation?

Some possible clues:

Camirand (SQ)

Houle (SQ)

Monast (SQ)

Dorion (Laval, but recent)

Prior?   Longueuil police

Someone – with access to information – needs to be brave enough to answer these questions. 

Update:

  • The vocal tape from the killer: It is proving harder to locate than I originally thought. I was in touch with a contact at Radio Canada who assured me there would not be a problem in locating / providing it. That contact has gone silent. And all of a sudden, many efforts by people more influential than me have been frustrated. It is like we can get everything from the CBC except this.
  • I was told over this weekend by someone who had heard the tape that the French dialect / accent was very distinct, almost like someone from the Gaspe.
  • I was told by someone close to the original case that police did try to go back that evening and find Katherine’s body after the anonymous call, but – because of the blackout – it was too dark, they could not find the body. To which I say? Big deal: that’s what a flashlight is for. I’ve walked the area where Katherine Hawkes was murdered. It would have been easy to find her if you simply had put in the effort to do so. Also, the sunrises at 6:00? Go back in the morning: don’t wait another 12 hours: the first 48 are critical.

Here are some photos I took over the weekend in Montreal:

This demonstrates the proximity between Hawkes and Dorion. Dorion hospital is just beyond the trees. Hawkes shoes were found off rue Grenet:

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Hawkes lived here at 11815 rue Ranger:

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Henri Bourassa et Grenet, Hawkes bus exit is to the left:

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Val Royal train station. Hawkes was murdered just to the left:

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Reverse angle of Hawkes murder site, her body would have been located by the clump of trees. Bus stop would have been to the far left in the rear (Henri-Bourassa). Perspective gives you an indication of just how little geography the police would have needed to search:

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Hawkes shoes were found to the left. South of the railway tracks where body was found: This is just plain bizarre: who does that? Who murders a victim on one side of railway tracks, then travels ACROSS the tracks with the victim’s shoes and deposits them there? To the South (in distance) you see the hospital where Dorion worked:

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Reverse angle of place where Hawkes’ shoes were left. Note from street signs, Hawkes’ residence is just to the right on rue Ranger:

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Update 2:

Here is the audio tape:

 The night of the murder her assailant called the police twice around 10:35 pm and left the following two messages: 

First message:

“I attacked a woman at the corner of Bois Franc and Henri Bourassa. In the bushes to the North West side. Hurry sir, I’m afraid she might die. Thank you.”

Second message:

“Yes, hello, I attacked a woman at the corner of Henri Bourassa and Grenet… Grenet… in Ville Saint Laurent, in the bushes, at the North West corner. Do you understand?  I think you understand well, Sir. At the corner of Grenet and Henri Bourassa. At Ville Saint Laurent, In the bushes at the North West corner.”

Operator: “The woman is still there?”

 “Thank you.”

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Bois Franc is the name of the train station. In the second message he phones back to clarify / be more specific: It’s North West of Henri-Bourassa and rue Grenet.

Now what I find interesting about the voice is this:  At that time the newspaper headlines were screaming about a “Sexual Maniaque” being on the loose. One of the newspapers even warned that police should check all the local mental institutions because obviously a “crazy” patient had escaped.

Listen to the voice. This is a very measured, detailed person. I sent the recording the Surete du Quebec. Marc Lepine of their Cold-Case bureau and I spoke about it last night (he brought it up in fact, not me). “The voice is a very organized guy”, he said.

But the most important point is in the final sentence in the first call: “Hurry sir, I’m afraid she might die”. 

This means Katherine Hawkes was no doubt alive when the call was made.

The autopsy indicates that Hawkes died from a combination of her wounds and exposure to the cold. The beating made her vulnerable, but hypothermia killed her, and that could have been avoided if the police had responded with diligence instead of leaving Katherine Hawkes exposed to the elements all night long.  

There was a chance to save Katherine Hawkes.  Police waited 20 hours before responding, and Katherine Hawkes died.

This is no doubt the reason the Montreal police removed the tape from their website.

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8 thoughts on “Katherine Hawkes – September 20th, 1977: SPVM Screwup”

  1. The police thought they would wait us out, and we would all fall off. That was a bad bet. All that time only meant we got familiar with each other. To the point where: We all succeed or none of us succeed. I am only as strong as all the other unsolved murders. And it does not matter to me which one is solved: a victory for one is a victory for all of us. That is the puzzle the Quebec police have created, and that they now must resolve. The same level-of-service for all of us: SQ, SPVM, Laval, Longeueil. We all deserve the same treatment.

  2. Good work here. Lots more than I hadn’t heard. I’m Katherine’s cousin and I started the ball rolling on getting this case reopened back in 2002. I think they’re the police are just embarrassed at how ineptly they (didn’t) pursue this case that they just want it to just go away.

  3. Impressive work. To me, the accent doesn’t sound at all from Gaspésie or the east of the province but very clearly from Montréal or around (Basses Laurentides, Montérégie ?). The rolling ‘r’ in the word ‘Grenet’ in the second call for example is textbook ‘popular’ Montreal accent… On top of that, I detect an effort to pronounce ‘well’ (‘sous-boâât’), the way people behaved when interviewed on the street for television for example. That specific accent is now disappearing – even in working class neighbourhoods – yet people tended to keep it all their lives even if they ‘moved up’ in the world. Heck, even then-mayor Jean Drapeau spoke like that…

  4. Also, why call twice ? Is it because the killer was close by and could see that the police didn’t show up the first time ? Could it be that he lived somewhere with a view to where Ms. Hawkes lied ? The apartment buildings north of the tracks (corner of Ranger and Grenet) offer a good vantage point to observe potential victims dropping off from the train and Ms. Hawkes would walked by every working day… Just a thought.

  5. Having just visited there, You are thinking what I am thinking. 🙂

    The apartment building to the South (Henri Bourassa) wasn’t there in 1977, but the ones to the North were.

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