Three weeks after she went missing, Lennoxville Police Chief Leo Hamel managed to connect the disappearance of Theresa Allore with the prior-year murder of Louise Camirand. Then came the Journal de Montréal article that quickly put an end to the investigation.
(Note: This post was written from information contained in the book, Wish You Were Here and is protected by copyright by Penguin Random House and the conditions of this website.)
Leo Hamel almost got it right. Standing at the shoulder of the road near Austin, Quebec, a police sniffer dog named Rex at his side combing the underbrush, Hamel was convinced that the answers to nineteen-year-old Theresa Allore’s disappearance lie here in the wooded interior of the Eastern Townships where eighteen months earlier the naked body of twenty-year-old Louise Camirand was found in the snow, strangled with a bootlace around her neck. It was late November. Hamel, dressed in a light windbreaker, knew there was still time to recover the body before the heavy snow arrived and delayed any chance of finding Theresa – and a chance at solving the case – until the spring.
It was also an opportunity for some publicity. Hamel was accompanied by a reporter from Photo Police, a sister paper of the the Quebec true crime tabloid, Allo Police. The reporter was anxious for Hamel to explain exactly why he was here in Austin, 55 kilometers, approximately an hour’s drive from the place where Theresa was last seen in Lennoxville.
Hamel’s logic was sound. Theresa enjoyed good relationships with friends and family. She was not under financial stress. After her disappearance, the $1,000 in her bank account remained untouched. A runaway would have surely emptied their bank account. What troubled Hamel the most was that Theresa had a habit of hitchhiking, she had done it the weekend prior to her disappearance to visit friends in Montreal.
Hamel then laid out what he called “the most plausible hypothesis”. Theresa accepted a ride from someone in an automobile. Someone “without scruples”, a “maniaque sexuel”, and this person attacked her, killed her, and dumped her body in the woods in the Lennoxville region. In fact, Hamel pointed out, that is exactly what had happened to Camirand. Picked up in Sherbrooke, she was “raped, murdered, and dumped in a junk heap near Austin.”
Even more troubling, some hunters had found clothing matching the description of those Theresa was last seen wearing (a woman’s shirt and some pants) the day after she went missing, November 4th, 1978, less than 500 meters from that junk heap near Austin. It was for this reason Hamel had traveled 55 kilometers to the area along chemin Giguère bordering Lake Memphremagog. He had pieced this together himself, all within a mere two weeks since Theresa was first reported missing on November 10, 1978.
Hamel told Photo Police reporter, Francois Dowd how he had appealed for assistance from the provincial police, the Surete du Quebec who were well resourced to handle such a complicated investigation. The 45-year old Hamel was a career law enforcement officer, having served as chief in the small Quebec towns of Omerville and Sawyerville. He had barely nine months under his belt with the nine-man Lennoxville force, and had never worked a missing person’s case. The Surete du Quebec turned down Hamel’s request saying there was no body, and therefore the case up to that point was only a “simple disappearance”.
Maybe they were right. The Surete du Quebec were the experts, with a full squad dedicated to major crimes such as murder. Hamel was just a newly appointed small town police chief.
Still, the snow was coming.
Francois Dowd published his article in Photo Police on Saturday, December 2, 1978. Few English speaking Quebecers would have read it, certainly not my father who was unilingual. I did not become aware of the article until 2017.
Before Christmas the Journal de Montréal printed a very different article:
The headline reads in all capital letters, “DISPARITION MYSTÉRIEUSE: UNE HISTOIRE DE DROGUE?”. Even a person only speaking English can decipher what that means, but specifically the translation can be tricky. It can be interpreted as, “MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE: A HISTORY OF A DRUG ADDICT?”. But it can also mean, “MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE: A DRUG STORY?”
The article begins, “The Lennoxville police chief, Mr. Leo Hamel wonders if the disappearance of 19-year old Theresa Allore might not be drug related.” and continues with the assertion that “Hamel has doubled his efforts in his investigation, and that has led him to search more particularly in the current world of drugs, which is very active in the Sherbrooke region.”
Leo Hamel always denied having ever spoken to the Journal de Montréal. The negative effects of such an article would have been immediately apparent to everyone. Robert Beaullac – the private investigator hired by my father to independently look into the disappearance – directly refers to the article in a letter to my father over the Christmas holiday of 1978 stating that Hamel called it, “pure fabrication”.
Whatever the intent of such an article, the results were predictable and immediate. Apart from a typical year-in-review summary of crime in the region (which of course would mention Theresa’s case), and one French article in February, the English Sherbrooke Record and the French La Tribune never mentioned Theresa’s disappearance again until her body turned up after the snow melted in April of 1979.
A Drug Story
I have long pondered the significance of the Journal de Montréal HISTOIRE DE DROGUE article. During the five and a half months when she was missing it is the only time the Journal de Montréal covered the case. There are no lead-up articles in November 1978 that would introduced readers to the affair. There is no follow-up after that one publication on December 20th, 1978. The result was immediate. Readers would have received the message that if the matter was drug related, it was then a personal matter, something to be resolved by the family, nothing that needed community involvement. If that was the message, what exactly was the intention?
Back in the day, the offices of Allo and Photo Police were located directly across the street from the Surete du Quebec’s Montreal headquarters on rue Parthenais. It is said that if the tabloids got out of line and ran a story that diverged from the SQ narrative they wanted published, an officer could simply walk across the street and tell them to “get it right next time!“.
In 1978 the offices of the Journal de Montréal were located in the north end of the city near Ahuntsic, about a thirty minute drive from the Surete HQ. A little further away than the Allo police offices. You would have really, really wanted that paper to “get it right“.
And let’s get to the point; the Journal de Montréal had no reason to publish the HISTOIRE DE DROGUE article. Someone planted that story to discredit the missing person, and my guess is that someone was the Surete du Quebec. The Journal in that era was a tabloid just like Allo Police ( it still is for that matter). Unlike the name suggests, it was widely read off the island of Montreal. A story like HISTOIRE DE DROGUE in a newspaper as powerful as the Journal de Montréal had the power to influence matters. In short, it had the ability to kill an investigation. And that’s exactly what it did.
Even so, why attempt to tamper in an investigation of a missing girl? Of what consequence could that be to one of the most powerful police agencies in North America?
I will offer a theory, but I stress that this is just a theory. If someone has other ideas, if someone knows the truth of the matter, I would suggest they bring those ideas forward.
Whether he gave the interview or not, what if Leo Hamel was right? (And if you think Hamel’s alleged assessment is harsh, in the same article my mother is “quoted” as saying she, “believes that her daughter is buried in an unknown place.”). But what if this was drug related? What is it was a drug story? But not in the smearing-the-victim manner the article implied.
In order to understand that, you need to consider what a former law enforcement officer meant when he told me the Eastern Townships were “wide open” in that era. Stated plainly, the lines were blurred between “cops and robbers”, law enforcement and “bad guys”. Drugs were prevalent. There was marijuana and hash, acid and cocaine. In Lennoxville, local drug gangs dealt not only at Champlain College and Bishop’s University, but at the local high school, Alexander Galt, and if you don’t believe that you are being blindly naive.
Low level gang members would handle the street operations, but everyone would have been making money off this system. Cops would potentially take a cut and then turn a blind eye to dealers’ other criminal activities that weren’t overly egregious. At first.
Where there’s drugs, there’s often prostitution. Now what if a low level criminal gets a little too heated around one of the girls. What if he beats her? What if he kills her? What of a girl like 18-year-old Carole Fecteau, who ran with local Sherbrooke drug dealers, and ended up gang-raped, shot and dumped in the woods in East Hereford near the United States border in the summer of 1978? No one even blinked when Fecteau’s murder went unsolved. Because Carole Fecteau was just collateral damage, a cost of doing business in the drug trade.
And by business, I mean big business for everyone. The police never thoroughly investigated the death of Carole Fecteau because they couldn’t. Because the moment they arrested the drug dealers responsible, those dealers would probably point a finger back at the police and say they were taking a cut of drug money. In fact, this is similar to what happened in the matter of Fernand Leplante. Police knew he didn’t murder drug associates of Fecteau – police informant Raymond Grimard and his girlfriend Manon Bergeron. It didn’t matter. Everyone needed a fall guy, the criminals and the police. Someone who wouldn’t be believed if he tried to break up the system they had put in place. So they chose a stooge, they picked Fernand Leplante, and coerced his accomplice, Johnny Charland – himself a member of the Gitans biker gang – to testify against him. In the words of Leplante’s attorney, Jean Pierre Rancourt, “It was Jean Charland and another guy who killed Grimard and Bergeron, not Laplante.”
Now take it one step further, what if you got a guy who loses all control and goes rogue. He’s no longer just killing fellow gang members, he’s now plucking innocent women and girls off the streets. Not fellow drug associates, now it’s regular members of the community. That’s going too far, but that too is collateral damage. It’s a cost of doing business. You don’t risk investigating the possibility that Theresa Allore and Louise Camirand were linked to a serial killer because the suspect is potentially someone who is part of your operation. He’s a guy that if you arrest him for murder, he will point the finger at his drug partners and law enforcement and confess that they were all in on an elaborate operation to make everyone money, and now that operation has gone terribly, tragically wrong.
If you think I’m painting a far fetched conspiracy theory, let me provide you a stark example from where I live. There’s a county here in North Carolina that is one of the poorest in the state. I won’t name people or places. I don’t want to attract the attention. We’re in my home now. This is where I live.
It’s known as Little Miami because the cocaine that traffics there is cheap and pure. In order to operate anywhere in the drug trade you need the involvement of law enforcement for protection. As the editor of a local paper put it, “It comes down to big business, and my people are expendable.”
The county sheriff there had been in office for four consecutive terms through the 1980s and ’90s. It was alleged he received $300 in protection money for every ounce of cocaine that was sold. In 1986 his county deputy son shot and killed a local in the back in a routine traffic stop. He was cleared of any wrong doing. Today that deputy is the director ot a major state law enforcement agency. The father retired in 1993 after serving over four decades in state police agencies. The next sheriff wasn’t any better. Because the corruption is systemic and institutionalized. That sheriff was sentenced to six years in a Federal prison for kidnapping, money laundering and the burning of houses during drug raids, among other things. A defense lawyer from the area – who was scared out of his wits – summed it up this way,
“… He thought the sheriff was the problem, that he had drug dealers on his payroll. But that was the tip of the iceberg, and I mean iceberg.”
What I’m leaving out from the story is that this county is in the throws of an epidemic of missing and murdered women. The neglected cases involve dozens of Native and other marginalized women who have gone missing or been murdered in the county since 1998 ( actually long prior to that, but who’s counting? Certainly not the police). Over the years North Carolina officials right up to the Governor’s Office have been accused of ignoring the crisis. Nothing ever changes. As the newspaper editor explained, drugs are big business and people are expendable.
Someone Else’s Problem
I believe a Quebec sexual offender named Luc Gregoire – now deceased – is responsible for a series of murders in the Eastern Townships from 1977 to 1978; Louis Camirand near Austin, Helene Monast in Chambly, Denise Bazinet in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Manon Dube near North Hatley, and Theresa Allore in Compton. Gregoire would later be convicted of the brutal Calgary 1993 murder of 22-year old Lailanie Silva, and is suspected of several other murders in that city. As one criminologist who profiled Gregoire put it to me, it is statistically improbable that Gregoire didn’t commit these murders.
So how did someone like Gregoire slip through the cracks of the Quebec justice system?
I suspect initially he would have flown under the radar. Police likely didn’t suspect him in the Chambly and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu murders, those towns are halfway between Sherbrooke and Montreal. Publicly, they never admitted the death of Manon Dube was a murder at all. But when Leo Hamel showed up in a roadside field in the Magog region searching for my sister, in the same area where Louis Camirand had been dumped? That must have set off some alarm bells.
I suspect that Luc Gregoire was one of those low level criminals in the late 1970s who was caught up in the Townships drug trade (his criminal record from the era points to this). He may have even murdered Carole Fecteau, and participated in the assassinations of police informant Raymond Grimard and his girlfriend Manon Bergeron. And if the Grimard gang – and it was a gang, heavily involved in the drug trade in the downtown Sherbrooke Wellington and King corridor – was providing kickbacks to the police, then Gregoire could spell danger for the entire outfit, particularly if he got out of hand and allegedly started murdering innocent members of the community who were just walking home from school, or out buying a liter of milk.
There are even suspicions Luc was related to Luc and Normand Gregoire, two career Surete du Quebec investigators, one of whom actually participated in the processing of the crime scene of Theresa Allore. You wouldn’t want to risk that kind of exposure.
So when Lennoxville police chef Leo Hamel started getting too close to the truth, you wouldn’t ask questions about specifics, you wouldn’t want to know the details. Just that something was going down in the Sherbrooke area to jeopardize police operations and you needed an article planted that would quash any tremors of a serial killer. Something that would embarrass the local police chief and discredit the missing girl.
So with that issue taken care of, you’ve still got the problem of what to do with Gregoire. Luckily, by 1979 he was with the armed forces, and shipped overseas to Germany. But by 1980 he was back in Sherbrooke and had now raped a girl in a downtown parking garage. So now what? This is a situation that is – again – on the brink of getting out of control. Again, you take the matter into your own hands. When Luc gets out of jail, you offer him a one way ticket to Alberta and tell him to never show his face in the Eastern Townships again, and as far as we know Luc Gregoire never did.
How Did You Find Me?
How big a threat potentially was Luc Gregoire to the Surete du Quebec? Big enough that when I began sniffing around in the early 2000s, and by mid-decade had begun to focus on Gregoire as a potential suspect, I believe they took steps to nullify the situation.
In 2002 the Surete du Quebec created their first behavior analysis division, with a focus on solving cold cases. They sent agents Marc Lépine and Éric Latour to Quantico, Virginia to study behavioral profiling with the FBI. Latour eventually became head of the division, and Lépine was anointed the SQ’s first geographic profiler. Few will miss the irony that one of the challenges Patricia Pearson and I always faced with the SQ was getting them to understand that the technique of geographic profiling pioneered by Kim Rossmo actually existed.
Over the years I have worked with both Lépine and Latour, both have at one time been my SQ liaisons for my sister’s case. Initially, both investigators were very cooperative. Latour was especially very active in pursuing Luc Gregoire as a suspect; he flew to Calgary and met with investigators, he had Gregoire polygraphed, he had an informant placed in his cell, etc…. But in short order the eager Latour was replaced with a seasoned veteran who had cut his teeth on Project Wolverine, the task force established to intervene in the Quebec biker war. Immediately the flow of Gregoire information stopped. In fact the new guy told me they no longer considered Gregoire a suspect. This hard-liner did once offer me a very good piece of advice, something that I now consider quite unsettling. He told me, “Mr. Allore as an SQ officer I advise you to leave this matter behind you. But as a parent, if it were me in your situation? I would be doing exactly the same thing.”
One of the last things Eric Latour told me was that he had wanted to use a photo of Gregoire along side a series of other photos of offenders to see if any surviving victims from the era might ID him as their attacker. But darn, Latour just couldn’t find a photo of Gregoire from that era. My 2008 self accepted this as a believable answer. My 2020 self says that was bullshit. I, as a civilian living in the United States, made a request to the Calgary police for an early mug shot of Gregoire just last week. With in 48 hours I had a response; did I want the one from 1993, or the ones from his 1985 arrests in Saanich and Edmonton?
Over the years I have made several visits to that site on chemin Giguère ( now chemin Duval) where Louise Camirand’s body was found, where Leo Hamel stood with Rex hoping to find a clue, a connection, something. Each time I invite the Surete du Quebec to participate, and each time they refuse, I suppose not wanting to lend credibility to a theory that the murders of Camirand and my sister are connected. Over those years we have recovered numerous personal items – pieces of women’s clothing, women’s jewelry a purse – from that forest. The Surete du Quebec refused to process the items, they refuse to even look at photographs of the items.
And where are they now? Where are those pioneer agents with such a bright future in Quebec behavioral profiling and murder investigations? Marc Lépine was removed from the cold case unit. He now heads the service of investigations on crimes against persons for the SQ. Éric Latour has bounced around a series of SQ podunk outposts; a year in Joliet ( population 19,000, best known for housing a women’s prison), five months in St-Lin-Laurentides, population 17,000, his career trajectory the opposite of small town police chief Hamel’s back in the day.
When I interviewed Latour in 2019 for the book, Wish You Were Here – after ten years of losing contact – his first question was, “How did you get my number?” When I asked him to verify some information about my sister’s case and Luc Gregoire his response was very familiar. It was virtually the same response Roch Gaudreault – the original Surete du Quebec investigating officer into my sister’s death – gave to my brother when Andre reinvestigated matters in the 1990s, “I may not remember anything”.
If you want to get rid of a problem you toss it away from the action, that has always been the SQ way.
The Most Difficult Crimes To Solve
From reporting in the Quebec daily, La Presse, we know of the existence of “red files” within the Surete du Quebec. Usually hush-hush termination agreements with the most senior members of staff, and other ultra-confidential documents stored in a vault at the top of the agency’s other main headquarters in Quebec City, within driving distance of the Assemblée nationale, the highest legislative body in the province of Quebec. This is where the bodies are buried. Conveniently there’s also a smaller shredder inside the small bathroom located next to an industrial shredder, next to the vault located on that floor at the SQ HQ.
In the final paragraph of Francois Dowd’s Photo Police article from December 2, 1978, the reporter sent an ominous warning to the SQ and the people of Quebec:
“If Theresa Allore’s disappearance one day results in the discovery of her corpse, it is to be expected that the police will then have a lot to do to drag him by the collar and shake hands with the maniac responsible. Moreover, it is a fact that the murders of young girls appear among the most difficult crimes to solve, since the assassins are often people who do not stick out, having a regular job, and not having been involved in any prior judicial process. It should be noted that the weather is a prime factor in this affair because the next snows could delay the discovery, and the solution.”
Leo Hamel got it right.