We’re coming up on the 39th anniversary of the unsolved murder of Louise Camirand. Let’s revisit the case:
20-year-old Louise Camirand lived in Sherbrooke, Quebec in an an apartment building just up the block from the busy corner of King and Bryant streets (30 Bryant street). Sherbrooke is a small town about a 2 hour drive east of Montreal. At the time, March 1977, Camirand worked at the Sherbrooke hospital up the street on Portland blvd. (in some reports it says she worked at a dentist’s office). She was also a member of the Sherbrooke Hussars, a reserve regiment of the Canadian military forces. The Hussars met regularly at a building in the North end of the city, about 2 miles from Camirand’s house, directly off Portland blvd (note: this is a correction from the original WKT stories, which incorrectly identified the Hussars meeting at the armory at King and Belevidere)
Camirand led a normal life in Sherbrooke. She circulated the corridor between the hospital where she worked, her apartment on Bryant, and the Hussars’ HQ on Portland. Occasionally she would meet her boyfriend Daniel Braun in the adjacent town of Lennoxville, about a 10 minute drive south of the armory. Braun was a student at Bishop’s university in Lennoxville. He was also a warrant officer in the Sherbrooke Hassars. Camirand and Braun were engaged to be married.
Louise Camirand disappeared the evening of Wednesday, March 23rd, 1977. She spoke with Daniel Braun on the telephone between 7 and 8 that evening. At around 9:30 she was spotted by the owner of a gas station / convenience store at the corner of King street and boulevard Jacques Cartier, approximately 2 blocks from her apartment. Camirand entered, looked through some magazines, bought some milk and cigarettes, then left. The owner of the Provi-Soir later stated that it looked like Camirand was waiting for someone.
Camirand is found
I’m going to post this quote in full from Allo Police because I find it so pathetic and funny:
Murder or Suicide?
“That is the question that the Surete du Quebec’s “Crimes Contre La Personne” of Montreal are asking after the discovery at 10:20 am on the morning of Friday the 25th of March of a frozen body of a young woman”
Really??!! That is the question the Surete du Quebec was asking?
Camirand was found butt-naked in the snow, her clothing next to her body, with a bootlace around her neck. And there was speculation of suicide??!!
The bootlace is where I derived the alias, The Bootllace Killer” (clearly it didn’t come from any investigator at the time). It was something attention grabbing like “Chateauguay Killer” or “Maniaque de la Pleine Lune” that I wanted people to remember. It also served a real purpose. Several murders that followed Camirand were clearly strangulations committed with a ligature like a bootlace.
Friday. March 25, 1977
On Friday, March 25th, Robert Curtis and Florent Henri are riding a farm tractor along chemin de Giguere (now chemin Duval) just north of Austin, Quebec. I believe they were out to collect fire wood. They make a turn onto the McDonald concession road, which is not much of a road, more of a path cut through the bush. About 135 feet in from chemin Giguere they see the body of Louise Camirand lying next to the road.
Camirand is fully naked except for a glove on her left hand. She is found under a tree ( this is noted in reports). She is wearing the engagement ring given to her by Daniel Braun. Very visible, there is a bootlace around her neck. Her clothing – black pants, blue-suede jacket with grey fur trim, stockings and scarf – lie on the path / road about 5 feet from the body. Missing are her boots, her underwear, and any identification.
Initial investigators on the scene are Andre Lessard and Gary Budge of the Cowansville police. They are later joined by investigators from the Surete du Quebec; Giles Dube, Raymond Girard, Rael Cantara, Francois Allard, Yvon Fauchon and Pierre Lanoue (note that Fauchon and Lanoue were also assigned to the Chateauguay murders). In charge of the investigation from Montreal are Andre Massicotte and Jacques Pothier. In charge of the investigation from the Surete du Quebec in Sherbrooke is Corporal Roch Gaudreault.
Tire tracks at the scene indicate that the vehicle was either a Renault 5, Toyota Celica, or Austin Mini with the wheels separated side-to-side by 44 inches. Given the lack of blood at the scene, it is believed that Camirand was not killed there, only dumped there.
Noel E Monast is the medical examiner at the crime scene. The autopsy is performed by Claude Pothel at the Surete du Quebec medical lab on Parthenais street in Montreal.
The autopsy confirms that Camirand was raped and strangled. The coroner reports that “internal lesions and fractures indicate fractures to the pelvic area, caused by kicking or a blunt instrument”. The autopsy confirms internal hemorrhaging caused by an instrument inserted in the vagina: “an object literally smashed her entrails”. Her face was not touched or beaten.
- Camirand worked at a hospital. I believe two other victims we will discuss later – Jocelyne Houle and Johanne Dorion – were nursing students.
- Like Sharron Prior, Camirand is found under a tree, or in a grove of trees. We can assume also that Lise Choquette was found in a rural area, possible under trees.
- Also like Prior Camirand was raped and clothing was found about 6 feet away.
- Unlike Prior, Camirand is fully naked except for a black glove on her left hand. Prior and Choquette were badly beaten about the head and face, Camirand face is left untouched.
- The Camirand crime scene looks very organized. The Prior crime scene looks very disorganized.
- Like Prior, Camirand is wearing jewelry, including her engagement ring (Lise Choquette’s ring was missing).
- As with Prior, Camirand was most likely killed somewhere else and dumped at the scene. Also like Prior, it is probable that Camirand was held at a different location and tortured: Camirand suffered a lot of internal hemorrhaging, but there is no blood at the scene.
- Two detectives from the Chateauguay murders in 1974 and 1975 are called to the Camirand scene, Yvon Fauchon and Pierre Lanoue.
Fauchon is the one circled in red:
I don’t want to belabor this point. I’m sure it was common to have certain officers seen as experts called to crime scenes. The level of violence in O’Brien / Fisher compared to Camirand is similar (O’Brien had a hair brush shoved down her throat, Camirand had an object inserted in her vagina). The perpetrator in the O’Brien / Fisher crimes had been apprehended and found guilty the very week Camirand died, so we know he was not responsible. What I find important is that the “Chateauguay Killer” was 16-years-old when he murdered O’Brien in such a brutal fashion. He then went about his daily life as a high school student for almost an entire year while all the time he had committed this murder just minutes from his home.
I have often been told that the level of violence against Camirand speaks to the age of the perpetrator, that we are obviously dealing with a mature assassin who had progressed to advanced stages of violence. The O’Brien / Fisher case completely shatters this myth. How old was the Camirand perpetrator? Old enough to drive. That is the only thing of which we can be fairly certain.
Returning to the above photograph. I think it is very interesting because it gives us a good sense of a crime scene. A similar scene will be echoed in several other cases. You see the victim’s hair just on the edge of the frame to the left (I have spared you the whole photograph). You also see the clothing just behind Yvon Fauchon, lying approximately 6 or 7 feet from the victim in the middle of McDonald concession road. You also see that Camirand is next to the tree line.
By the way, the police detective to the far left? That is Corporal Roch Gauldrealt, the Surete du Quebec Corporal from Sherbrooke assigned to the Camirand case, and later assigned to the cases of Manon Dube and Theresa Allore. He will fail to resolve all three cases. Undoubtedly because he believed that Camirand might have been a suicide, and Allore was “a drug overdose” (even though the Coroner would later state Allore’s cause was “violent death of undetermined means”, but we will leave that for another time at the moment).
How do I know it’s Gaudreault? Here he is with Jacques Quirion in 1979 at the Theresa Allore crime scene looking at the garbage bag of clothing found at the site (the clothing was later determined not to belong to Theresa). Gaudreault is the one on the left:
Gaudreault is wearing the same shirt and tie at the Camirand site. He’s a little heavier here, he changed his hair style, but I am pretty sure this is Roch Gaudreault:
He’s also smoking at a crime scene, not a recommended practice for an investigator, but we will leave that for the time being.
Why was Camirand’s body dumped 40 minutes away from Sherbrooke on chemin McDonald (McDonnell)? The distance seems excessive unless:
a. The perpetrator had a reason to be in that area (he lived there, or he had a cottage / trailer there).
b. The perpetrator was accustomed to traveling back-and-forth from Sherbrooke and Montreal.
If either a. or b. are true, the perpetrator is nonetheless probably familiar with the McDonald road area. This isn’t a site you just come upon. Like the Sharron Prior dump site in Longueuil, you have to assume the perpetrator knew the site and had pre-selected it.
So what’s the Austin area like? It is many things:
- A place for rich tourists.
- A place where poorer locals live.
- A place where hunters and outdoor types come (kind of a combination of rich and poor)
The area is high on a bluff above Lake Memphremagog. Memphramegog is very popular with tourists. To the North is the town of Magog, it has been a tourist destination for decades. Cottages surround the lake down through Austin all the way to the American border. A close friend of mine has a place near Austin. It’s where he comes when he wants to escape Montreal. Keep in mind that Lake Brome is the next lake over to the East. It’s where Mordecai Richler used to hang out when he wanted to escape Montreal. Remember Denys Archand’s Les Invasions Barbares? That’s Lake Memphremagog: a vacation getaway for Montrealers.
The Austin area is also very poor. Recall that the two men that found Louise Camirand – Robert Curtis and Florent Henri – found her because they were out on their tractor scrounging for fire wood. This isn’t some quaint pursuit, I am pretty confident that they needed fire wood because where they lived didn’t have any heat.
The locals didn’t live by the lake. They couldn’t afford to (or very soon couldn’t afford to as property got bought up by developers). The locals lived in the interior. Drive a little further along chemin Giguere to the West (now chemin Duval) to the the intersection at chemin North / Shuttleworth and you will come to where the locals lived: Very modest homes, in most cases trailers, and very few amenities: No heating, no paved roads, no trash pick-up.
McDonald road wasn’t just the Louise Camirand dump site, it was LITERALLY a dump. When we searched the area in 2006 it became quite clear that locals had been using this area for years to dump their trash. There were several debris fields with decades worth of trash that had accumulated.
McDonald road was also a hunting area. The woods were used by local hunters. Steve Mandigo and Samuel Burnham had been hunting the area in November of 1978 when they came across the clothing that matched the description of Theresa Allore’s missing clothing. And Mandigo and Burnham lived in that area. When I visited the area in 2006 there were hunting blinds in those woods, so for at least 3 decades, locals had used this forest to hunt.
The Mcdonald concession road area was used very heavily by locals; they used it to dump their trash, they depended on it for fire wood, they used it recreationally to hunt.
The perpetrator used the area in a very similar fashion. He dumped Louis Camirand’s body here. He may have similarly disposed of Lison Blais’ purse, and Theresa Allore’s clothing there.
So in all likelihood the perpetrator was either a local, or he knew the locals and knew their habits.
One final thing. Even though this area was a dump, the black purse wasn’t found directly on any of the dump piles. It was recovered very close to where Louise Camirand’s body was found. Here’s the purse again:
A Possible Theory
The perpetrator’s occupation is such that it causes him to be between Montreal and Sherbrooke on a regular basis. Maybe he works in Sherbrooke, but lives in Montreal (or maybe vice versa). Maybe he has relatives in the chemin McDonald area, or maybe he keeps a trailer there that he uses for outdoor recreational purposes. In any case, coming to the Austin area was part of his routine.
Think of it this way. He murders Camirand in Sherbrooke. He is on his way to his cabin in Austin, or maybe he is on his way to Montreal, and stops in on his relatives in Austin. In either case, before he arrives at his destination in Austin, he takes out the trash: He dumps the body in the woods.
The same thing occurs after he kills Lison Blais. Maybe on the way back to Sherbrooke from Montreal, he stops off at his cabin, or to visit his friends, and dumps the purse. Maybe after he kills Theresa Allore he does something similar: he dumps the clothing. Who knows how many times he does this. Maybe there are items from victims that we never found. He disposes of these items in the one place he knows they won’t appear conspicuous: a garbage dump.
Or maybe none of this is true. One of the problems with these cases is a natural tendency to include all the things that fit your theory, and discard all the things that contradict it (Confirmation Bias). We still don’t know if it was Blais’ purse or Allore’s clothing in the McDonald woods.
And what about the things that don’t fit? Prior and Choquette were beaten about the face, Camirand wasn’t: what does that mean? Broadly speaking, it can mean two things:
- Camirand is not connected to Prior and Choquette.
- Something happened to make the perpetrator hit two of the victims, but not the other: for some reason there was a change in behavior.
As we look at these cases we will see all kinds of instances where there are similarities, but no case is exactly similar. Something is missing (or added) in all of these cases. The difficulty is determining what is simply coincidence (the cases are not related), or what was a change in pattern caused by behavioral or environment change.
It is worth repeating that I do not think all these murders are connected. I think we are talking about 2, maybe 3 sexual predators operating in the area at the same time, and possibly a few isolated murders not in a series. The trick is identifying the differences.