Teresa Martin was meant to be found like that – displayed against the wall of that tavern on a Saturday morning, for families to see the ambulance and the squad cars as they drove on their way to hockey practice or garden centres, so it would be the topic of conversation all that weekend, and into Monday morning for the local boys and girls going to school. That’s certain.
Teresa Martin: What the public knew / What the public has forgotten
On Monday morning, September 15, 1969, The Montreal Gazette reported that 14-year-old Theresa Martin was found unconscious on a sidewalk by a passing bystander in Montreal North. The bystander tried to question her, but found her unresponsive. Rushed by ambulance to the Sacre Coeur hospital, she was pronounced dead on arrival. According to further reporting by The Gazette, the autopsy confirmed she was not “sexually molested but her body was mutilated by her assailant.” Carved on her abdomen with a knife or needle was a tattoo reading, “F.V. French I Love You.” The cause of death was determined to be “suffocation”. According to The Gazette, she had a bruised lip and had been “struck twice behind the head with a blunt instrument.” At the time police were still looking for Theresa Martin’s “shoes, earrings, and scarf which had been removed from her body.” On the one year anniversary of her death, The Gazette ran a recap story of the Martin murder but this time the “crude inscription” was noted as reading, “F.L. Frenchy I Love You.”
The French language newspaper, La Presse also ran a story on September 15, 1969, but with more details of the murder. Andre Beauvais reported that Theresa Martin lived at 6380 rue Levis in Montreal North, about a 1/2 from where she was found. Martin was 14-years-old (in some versions she is 13 or 15), and she was found by the bystander around 3:30 in the morning in a “seated position” against the wall of the Vieux Cypres taverne at 6715 boulevard Henri-Bourassa. She was without shoes and had marks of violence on her face. This reporter stated that the tattoo read, “Frenchy, I love you”, accompanied by the initials, “F.V.”. In addition to the missing shoes, earrings and glasses, Martin didn’t have any identification papers in her possession ( wallet. purse, etc…). The article suggests the tattoo was made simultaneously with her murder.
According to La Presse, Martin left her home on Friday evening, September 12 to go to the movies with friends. She was last seen around midnight. The police spent the weekend interviewing several of Martin’s friends and her parents. Her mother and father told the police to their knowledge Theresa didn’t frequent the company of bikers, who might engage in tattoo rituals. Montreal North Police Sergant Gilbert Dorion stated, “This was a young girl from a good family… She was an adolescent who was very physically developed for her age.” The paper suggested that maybe “F.V.” were the initials of the “sexual maniac” that attacked her.
By the end of September, Michel Auger of La Presse reported that a reward was being offered for information that would assist in solving the murder of Theresa Martin. Police had six officers working the case. During the autopsy, Dr. Jean Hould surmised that someone might have held their hand over Martin’s mouth to prevent her from screaming, thereby asphyxiated her. In this iteration of the story the tattoo is said to have been inscribed, “Frenchie, I love you, F.V.” in “big letters across her belly”. Auger asks the question, “Is this a sinister maniac who wants to leave his signature on his crime, or a clever murderer who wants to send the police down the wrong path?” For the first time we are told that the sunglasses she was wearing that night were missing. Further, there were no indications of drugs or alcohol in her system, and police again insisted Martin did not associate herself with motorcycle gangs.
The French daily Montreal Matin spent most of their reporting focusing on the tattoo ( though they unfortunately publish the message as, “F.V. French I Love You!”, with an exclamation point within quotations). They suggest that the “F.V.” of the tattoo may be the initials of the inscriber, and that, “they may have been involved in the affair.” It’s also worth noting here that both Montreal Matin and La Presse state that doctor Jean-Paul Valcourt of the crime medical laboratory concluded that the tattoo had been carved at least two weeks prior to her death, as the scars were not fresh but had not yet healed. These reports later turned out to be false, the confusion caused by the manner of the tattoo – the cuts were not deep like a traditional tattoo and therefore did not require time to heal, meaning they were done fast and improvised.
Photo Police gives us yet another version of the tattoo inscription reporting it was. “”I love you french” avec les initiales V.L.” that was inscribed, and stating that police are pondering whether this is the mark of a sadistic individual, or from a band of bikers. The article says the marking is “very recent” and “may have been made after her death.” They also publish a photo of M. Cyr standing next to the tavern wall.
Up to this point, the reporting is what you’d expect. Inconsistent, missing some facts and detail, but that’s what you’d expect when the journalists are at the mercy of what the police are feeding them. Then the Journal De Montreal takes a vastly different tact and begins with a full-court-press approach of victim blaming. The byline in their September 15th article is, “Victime de la drogue?” The Journal De Montreal spends an entire paragraph on a drug theory which includes the damning statement, “A rumor persists that the young girl succumbed from a large ingestion of drugs”, a rumor which could only have been started, here, in the September 15th edition of the Journal de Montreal, as this was the first day of any reporting on the matter. They go on, “However the father did not make any statement that could link his daughter’s death to drugs.” What father could?
In the days that followed, the Journal De Montreal would not let up with their “drug theory”. They restate it in a September 16th piece, and then double-down on their malicious and false reporting:
“The thing that is certain, the young Montreal North resident was not murdered; the autopsy will prove that right away. Most likely, she was encouraged by her companions to take drugs and this resulted in her death.”Journal de Montreal, September 16, 1969, Page 4.
After the autopsy is performed and it is proven conclusively that there were no drugs or alcohol in Teresa Martin’s system does the Journal de Montreal clarify and apologize for their errors? No, they simply never report on the case again. If all of this sounds vaguely familiar, it is exactly what the JdM did in my sister Theresa’s case nearly a decade later. You can read all about that over at this post ( click the link).
On Sunday, September 21, 1969 The Quebec tabloid, Allo Police runs a full-page story on the Theresa Martin murder, and it is here we see more complete details on the case. Theresa leaves her parents’ home that Friday evening for a night at the movies, accompanied by “two young people”. When she fails to return home, her father reports her missing to the police. It is then her father who makes the identification early that morning at the Montreal morgue on rue Parthenais. Allo describes the words inscribed on her abdomen as, “F.V. Frenchie I love you”, and states it was impossible to determine if the cutting occurred before or after the murder. Occurring after the murder seems improbable as the bystander stated she was alive at the time he found her, and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Again we are told that Theresa Martin didn’t have any connections with bikers, and therefore these marks could not have been part of some initiation ritual, known to occur in the biker milieu or in the world of “beatniks”. Allo Police ends their story stating the drama that has unfolded in Montreal North is a “complete mystery”.
In October Allo Police runs a two-page feature on Teresa Martin – by this time she is referred to by the French spelling of the name – in which it is revealed that her father has hired a private investigator to assist in solving the crime. In this article we are told police now think she may have been suffocated by having a plastic bag pulled over her head, and that the blows to the back of her skull may have been caused when she was placed up against the wall in the parking lot of the Tavern Vieux Cypres. The bystander who discovered her was a M. Pierre Cyr, who resided in an apartment above the Taverne Vieux Cypres. She appeared to him to be asleep, but when he tried to speak to her she was unresponsive. The tattoo is described as, “F.V. Frenchy I love you”. This time Allo Police definitively states that the tattoo was made after the murder, which one can surmise means that M. Cyr was mistaken when he thought she was alive – though why an ambulance would have been called is anybody’s guess.
In this article we begin to get a little more detail about Teresa’s home life. We are told she was a very ordered girl, from a very regular family. Her mother was the headmistress / directrice of a private school. Teresa attended the private school, the “convent” College Regina Sancta / Regina Assumpta. Theresa is described as a “brilliant student”. We are also told that Theresa was fluently bilingual, a good girl, and was never seen in the realm of bikers. The article confirms there were no traces of alcohol or drugs in her system.
Her closest friend was a 12-year-old girl named Sylvie Perron whose father, Maurice had a country ranch called Bonanza on the island of Laval. Maurice considered Teresa like his own daughter, and the two girls would spend weekends at the ranch, camping and riding horses. Teresa and Sylvie were planning a summer trip to Florida. Sylvie described Teresa as very exceptional in her habits.
On the night of her disappearance, Teresa obtained special permission from her parents to travel to the Galeries d’Ajou mall with two friends. Allo Police states that the the film they chose to see was “Jeux Pervers”. At the end of the evening she got on bus 41 bound for the intersection of boulevards Leger and Lacordaire in the vicinity of her neighborhood. A bus driver later questioned stated that he saw her disembark from his bus later that evening at the corners of boulevards Gouin and Rolland, about a two block walk from her Leger apartment building. It is here that we lose her trail. There is no sighting of Teresa after she leaves the bus until M. Cyr discovers her under four hours later against the wall of the Taverne Vieux Cypres.
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? For an analysis of the media reporting, please listen to the podcast.