The Montreal Hotel Murders / WKT3 #19

There were witches living up the street from the house where we grew up. Or so we thought. This is Who Killer Theresa?

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

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.

[WAYNE BODEN]

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