On Friday Oct 18, 1985 Francine Da Sylva was out with a close friend, Johanne Page in the Plateau neighborhood of Montreal. The two women worked at a sushi bar on St. Laurent. They went to a club, later around 4 am they found themselves at a 24-hour dinner on St. Denis and Mount Royal. They walked home together down St. Denis and when they got to Duluth St., where Joanne lived, she asked Francine if she wanted to stay over, which she often did. Francine decided against it and headed home. Down St. Denis to Sherbrooke, then east along Sherbrooke to St. Andre where she lived.
The event would have happened between Duluth and St. Andre. At the corner of Sherbrooke and St. Andre there is a back alley to the parking lot behind the apartments on Sherbrooke. Francine was either dragged down the alley, or abducted in an automobile and driven there. Later that morning two nursing students who lived in the back apartments found Francine’s body in the alley behind 902 Sherbrooke street east. She had been stabbed and raped. Her roommate Carol notes that Francine was 4 days away from her 30th birthday. Also that the Montreal police were on strike at that time, so they probably didn’t work that weekend.
Eventually police did manage to investigate. They found Francine’s bus pass with her old address on it. They went to the apartment on Erables, at this point Carol’s boyfriend was now living in it. The boyfriend called Carol to say the police were looking for Francine.
Carol was listening to the radio when she heard the news that a woman had been stabbed in the Plateau. Later that afternoon two policemen showed up at Carol and Francine’s apartment. They asked if Francine lived here. At this point Carol says everything became a blur. They said they found a body stabbed, then asked Carol what Francine was wearing the last time she saw her. They asked if Francine had red boots? She did have red boots, her pride and joy. When police went upstairs to Francine’s room they found the boots missing, along with her favorite outfit.
Police asked Carol to identify the body. Carol was in shock. They asked about family members. Her older brother Gerald lived in Montreal. They asked about Johanne Page. Police quickly left to interview Gerald and Johanne. They would not allow Carol to give them advanced warning. Carol felt like she had thrown them both under the bus. She wouldn’t hear from police again until 2001, when she began to investigate her friend’s cold case.
In 2001 she called the Montreal police and asked about any information about Francine’s case. Carol was thinking about new advances in forensic science. Eventually Carol and her aunt managed to meet with a sympathetic Montreal detective named Michael Hanigan.
Hanigan was very interested in the case of Francine Da Sylva. He found lost DNA samples. Hanigan was overjoyed, the samples had been misfiled for years. Hanigan told Carol Francine was found naked and had her jumper and jacket thrown over her. She had been anally raped as well. He said she been stabbed multiple times, but that this was holdback information, the press were told she was stabbed once.
In a bizarre twist, they found a potential link between Francine’s case and the murder of a prominent Montreal criminal lawyer. A note in Francine’s file from a respected informant from the era suggested the October 15th, 1985 shooting of Frank Shoofey was related. Francine was murdered just three days later. Shoofey was gunned down in his law office late at night one block north of where Francine was found.
At the time of her death, Francine was a student at the University of Montreal. She had just begun dating Dominique Lanois , the lead guitarist for an up and coming Quebec band named Bundock. Francine like the rock n roll guys. For a time she was going out with Gordon Page, a lighting tech who sometimes traveled on tour with April Wine. Francine found it difficult, the roadie tales of sex, drugs and rock and roll. She decided to break up with him. When she left Gordon it was then that she decided to move in with Carol in the apartment on St. Andre street. Two single women in the heart of Montreal. Sometimes they’d go to the Zodiac bar in the nearby Voyageur bus station, they’d try every cocktail on the menu. They went to the Old Munich – once. They didn’t notice the neighborhood was rough, but after Francine’s death police told them that prostitutes would use the alley where Francine was found. Carol says that maybe if she’d never left Gordon Page and moved into her apartment Francine would still be alive today.
They were all into Herman Hesse, Tolkien, Jung – they read John Fowles, The Magus. The choice of what gift to give was of utmost importance. They would figure what to give, and of course share albums and books. They were obsessed with The Cocteau Twins…
Francine was very French when Carol first met her she didn’t speak English, but she learned it fast. When she decided to return to University to study linguistics, she became fascinated with Japanese and began studying it. She had started to write a book. Her brother Gerald made handmade guitars and was an excellent musician. Francine and Gerald were very close.
After Carol contacted me, we began to do what I would call my usual process of trolling for more information.
A small notice the November 1, 1985 Montreal Gazette mentions the coroner’s inquest into Da Silva murder had been delayed. Coroner Roch Heroux postponed things at the request of the defense attorney representing Raymond Charette, a 27-year-old man being detained as a material witness.
On November 7, 1985 The Gazette reports that Heroux freed Charette due to insufficient evidence but he was later re-arrested by Montreal police moments before leaving the Parthenais detention facility when it was discovered he was responsible for an alleged attack on another woman on the same night.
From this, we made a formal request to Canada Corrections for any parole records on Raymond Charette. We came up empty, which could mean a lot of things; Charette was never there, he was never convicted of a murder, he was there but died in prison a long time ago.
Carol managed to obtain Francine’s Coroner’s report. Again, there wasn’t much information, however it was confirmed that Francine lived at 1559 St-Andre, that her body was found at 8 am the morning of October 18, 1985 in an alley behind 910 rue Sherbrooke Est. at the bottom of a staircase. Francine died of internal hemorrhaging to the heart and lungs. She was stabbed in the thorax and other areas.
From here, I traveled to Montreal and reviewed the Allo Police archives at the Biblioteque National de Quebec ( BAnQ ). I found two articles on Francine, the first dated November 3rd, 1985. Confirmed was that two nurses discovered the body at the foot of the back apartment stairs. She was wearing the red boots and a chain around her neck. Her clothing was disbursed an the stairs. The case was managed by Andre Charette, Andre Bisson, Andre Savard, and Jean-Louis Helie. The detectives had the same thinking that there were two versions of what could have happened to Francine; she was abducted in a car then dumped, or she was dragged into the alley way.
The second Allo Police article, written by Jean-Pierre Rancourt, focuses on the suspect, Raymond Charette. We learn that 28-year-old Charette – and it is interesting to note he shares the same last name as one of the investigating officers, Andre Charette – is a resident of Rosement and detained for over a week by Coroner Heroux until November 6th.. Upon his arrest his clothing had clear evidence of blood on it. The second victim of an attack on the same day that Francine was murdered tells police she was waiting for a bus on rue Mont-Royal when she was forced into a vehicle by a man with a knife, alleged to have been Charette. The second victim is unwilling to tell police the exact nature of her assault, but she manages to reveal that she drove with him around The Plateau engaging in conversation to try and calm him down. Charette eventually lets her out of the vehicle.
After Charette was picked up, at the advice of his attorney, he refused to take a polygraph, or to provide a blood sample. Police scan the trash cans in the alley where Da Sylva was found looking for the knife that killed her, but they are unable to find anything.
Eventually Charette is let go, Francine Da Sylva is forgotten, and the matter is never heard of again.
Now, if you’re thinking this case sounds familiar, it should. I was having coffee with a colleague in Montreal and mentioned I was working on a case about a murder that occurred on rue St-Andre. They said, “Ah, the Nicole Gaudreault case!”. I said, “No, there was another!”
Recall the case:
Gaudreaux was found naked, on her back, her face bloodied. She was beaten badly about the head, and raped. Police found a large amount of blood on the stairs of 2036 rue Saint Andre, it was assumed she was attacked at this location and her body was later dragged to the field. Her empty purse was recovered a few feet away from the body.
The cause of death was “Manual strangulation”, “cerebral contusions”, a “skull fracture”, and “cerebral hemorrhaging” which accounts for the blood on the stairs.
Gaudreault was wearing blue stockings, a pink blouse (pulled up over her head), and a beige bra (detached).
Found by the stairs of 2026 Saint Andre were her black pants, red shoes, and her purse which contained a dental prothesis. It was thought Gaudreault either lived at 2030 St-Andre, or that was her intended destination. “
So, back to BAnQ… More searching through archives:
Gaudreault was from Chicoutimi. We don’t know what she was doing in Montreal, or even if she lived at 2030 St-Andre. What we know is her murder occurred 6 years earlier, and half-way between where Francine Da Sylva lived at 1559 St-Andre and where she died behind 910 Sherbrooke est.
She’s found in the alley way, behind a huge rock that would have blocked access to vehicles. Before she died Gaudreault spent the evening at a bar called Baltimore at the corner of Saint-Hubert and Ontario, this is just up the street toward where Da Sylva was found. Police have two theories. In the first scenario Gaudreault leaves Baltimore in the company of a man. They plan to go back to her apartment. Before arriving at the door the man makes inappropriate advances, and starts to rape her. Things escalate. She’s dumped in the back alley. In the second scenario Gaudreault leaves the Baltimore bar alone and is accosted along the way by a “pervert”.
The anonymous phone call
When I originally reported this story I mentioned that police received an anonymous phone call. Because of the vagueness of the source article, I always took this to mean a pedestrian discovered the body and called it in to police.
The Allo Police article goes into greater detail. The caller states, “J’viens de tuer une femme. Vous la trouverez dans le terrain vacant de la rue Saint-Andre…” / “I just kill a woman. You’ll find it in the vacant lot of rue Saint-Andre … “.
So, the killer made the anonymous call. Where have we heard that before? In the case of Katherine Hawkes.
Recall that Hawkes was discovered near a commuter rail station in the Montreal area of Cartierville on September 21, 1977. Hawkes too was beaten violently about the head and raped, her clothing found near the body.
The caller’s first message (he actually called the police twice) was as follows:
“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.”
Is it possible that these three cases from 1977, 1979 and 1985 are linked? I don’t know. I don’t think we will ever know.
Even further is it possible the beating death of Lison Blais, also found in a back alley area in the Plateau in 1978 is also linked?
We will never know.
Dream Pop was a form of alternative rock from the 80s with lots of textures and lazy-hazy melodies. The Cocteau Twins are one of the best examples of Dream Pop.
The Cocteaus were a Scottish rock band formed by Elizabeth Fraser(vocals), Robin Guthrie (guitars, drum machine), and Will Heggie (bass), with Heggie replaced by multi-instrumentalist Simon Raymonde in 1983. The podcast opens with the Cocteau Twins’ Donimo, a song Francine would have known. It quickly moves into This Mortal Coil, a music collective formed in 1983 that included members of The Cocteau Twins. The reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet is deliberate on my part, as the episode touches on a sub-theme of illusion, repetition and madness.
The Beach Boys, I’ll Bet He’s Nice? A few reasons; the boy-girl dating thing and break-ups, It’s from 1977 so it ties back to the murders from the 70s, but primarily because Brian Wilson is considered one of the grandfathers of Dream Pop. So too is George Harrison, especially the album All Things Must Pass (Theresa was a big fan of both). And this is why bits of Harrison’s Blue Jay Way can be heard in the opening.
Le Corbeau – Bundock? Well, Francine was dating the guitarist, and it’s a good representation of Quebec Dream Pop.
From this point, the remaining three Cocteau Twins songs were all released in November 1985, the month after she died. I deliberately left out a later song of theirs called Alice, which most people know from the film The Lovely Bones.
Lush – Spooky – Tiny Smiles: I’ve always liked this song, and have wanted to include it in some podcast. It was only in doing this project that I would learn it was produced by… Robin Guthrie of The Cocteau Twins.
Ian McCulloch – Candleland? Well because that’s actually what I was listening to in the 1980s. I never realized that is Elizabeth Frazier on background vocals.