Hypermnesia = an improvement in memory that occurs when attempting to retrieve previously encoded memories.
6:30 p.m. – December 15, 1987 – a woman has locked her keys inside her vehicle outside the medical clinic where she works in Laval, Quebec. The woman re-enters the clinic. She tells a nurse she’s waiting for her husband to return who met her by chance outside the vehicle. She then instructed him to take a taxi – presumably back home – and get a second set of keys. Eventually she leaves the clinic and makes her way back out to the parking lot.
The husband tells a slightly different story. The man says he met his wife after his car wouldn’t start, which was parked a half a mile away in another parking lot. He arrived to find his wife outside her car with the keys inside in the ignition. The man then makes the half mile trek back to the first lot to retrieve a second set of his wife’s keys located in his own car.
Thirty minutes later, the man burst through the doors of the medical clinic screaming that his wife is “covered in blood”. A doctor on duty rushes to her aid, only to find the 45-year-old woman dead – seatbelt fastened, slumped over in her vehicle – in the clinic parking lot behind a local depanneur.
This is Who Killed Theresa.
The Murder of Michelle Perron
The notices on this case were so slight that I’ll simply read them to you.
“A woman found dead in a car in Pont Viau district of Laval had been struck repeatedly on the head with a sharp object, police said yesterday. The victim was identified by Laval police as Michelle Perron, 45, of Duvernay district. Sgt. Pierre Valois said police got a call during Tuesday night’s snowstorm about a woman hemorrhaging in a car outside a depanneur on Concorde Blvd.”
That’s from The Gazette, and the blurb from La Presse wasn’t much different, though it did add that she may have lost her keys in the snow from the storm, and that her purse was found a couple of meters from her car, possibly indicating robbery as a motive.
There’s no further mention of this case in the press until fourteen months later when police charge her husband, Gilles Perron with murder. The trial opens in 1989 two years after the incident. The motive suggested is that Gilles Perron was having an affair at the time of the murder and wanted to leave his wife.
Gilles Perron was a 49-year-old television producer with Quebec’s Radio Canada known for such television shows as Star d’un soir ( a sort of Quebec American Idol of the 90s), La semaine verte ( think environmental fair like The Nature of Things), and the sitcom, Demons du midi (think of any bland, really forgettable variety show).
Gilles Perron was also quite the lothario. A brisk two months after his wife’s murder, he moved in with a Quebec chicken restaurant heiress. This incurred the wrath of the chicken heiress’ brother who decided to see to matters himself.
Jean-Pierre Leger – then vice-president of the chicken restaurant franchise, St. Hubert Barbecue, recently its CEO – was so incensed by his sister Claire Leger’s affair with Gilles Perron – and by the lack of police effort – that he began conducting his own murder investigation. Leger placed a full page add in newspapers in Montreal, Laval and Sherbrooke offering a reward of $100,000 for any information that would lead to an arrest for the murder of Michelle Perron. This lead to the discovery that Gilles Perron had a mistress in Quebec’s eastern Townships, Monique Sirois. Madame Sirois kept a diary. And in this diary she revealed that Gilles Perron was intending to leave his wife, and make his 12 year affair with Sirois a permanent arrangement. But after Michelle Perron’s murder, Gilles Perron dumped Sirois and began a relationship with the chicken man’s sister, Claire Leger.
The diary provided the motive police desperately needed. With it, they were able to charge Gilles Perron with the murder of his wife, Michelle.
At the trial, Gilles Perron story didn’t add up. Michelle Perron was found strapped in her seatbelt, slumped in the driver’s seat of the Mercury Lynx hatchback. Perron had received eight deep knife wounds to her head that almost completely obliterated her face. One blow to the head was so devastating it dislodged one of her dentures, which was found on the floor of the car in a pool of blood. The blow that killed her severed an artery in her throat.
Pathologist testified Michelle had no defensive wounds on her hands or arms. While a police photo showed no keys in the ignition, the doctor that first attended Michelle testified that the keys were in the ignition. Further, a nurse from the clinic observed Gilles Perron emerging from the driver’s side of the vehicle – the door was found ajar – after police had been called to the scene. Later, Perron told investigators that his wife might have had a second key to her car in her pocket, though no additional set of keys were ever recovered. Perron stated it took him 30 minutes to make the return trip from his car to his wife’s. Testimony revealed on foot the trek took a police officer approximately 18 minutes round trip: Perron could not account for the missing 12 minutes.
Gilles Perron lied to his first mistress, Monique Sirois, telling her he was in Ottawa at the time of the murder and had been unaware of his wife’s death. He lied further when he explained to Sirois that his frequent absences were the result of his being an agent with the RCMP’s security branch in Ottawa. Perron ended their relationship by telling her he was a homosexual and had found a male lover.
After her funeral, Perron tore up every single photo of his wife. Exactly one month after her murder, he began the process of collecting his wife’s life insurance. The policies were valued at $72,000. At the time of her death Gilles Perron had debts exceeding $68,000.
Perron’s relationship with Claire Leger – the St. Hubert BBQ lady – was discovered when a neighbor observed Gilles Perron emerging from the chicken heiress’ apartment in the spring of 1988. Perron then disclosed to the neighbor that he had moved in with Claire. At this point he launched into an explanation of how he had found his ex-wife slumped in the back seat of her car (it was a hatchback) and how he “took her into his arms and took her into the clinic” (Gilles Perron entered the clinic alone when he burst in shouting, “my wife is covered in blood.”). The neighbor recalled that Perron insisted on giving a very grisly, detailed account of his wife’s murder. In the weeks leading up to the trial, as early as 1988, even before his arrest, Perron was planning to write a book about the murder and had contacted an associate to work as his ghost writer.
In closing arguments the Crown argued that Perron attempted to stage the perfect murder, disguising the scene to make it look like a robbery. On December 22, 1989 Gilles Perron was convicted of first-degree murder in the brutal stabbing death of his wife – and mother of his three children – Michelle Parron. At trial Perron appeared stunned by the verdict which came after four days of deliberation by the jury. Gilles Perron was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for a minimum of 25 years.
St-Hubert BAR B-Q
Before going forward, perhaps a look back at the history of the Quebec chicken franchise, St-Hubert BBQ. It doesn’t really have anything to do with this case, but it tells you a lot about how power operates in the province of Quebec.
From its humble beginnings on St-Hubert street in Montreal, St-Hubert BBQ was always a “mom and pop” outfit. Founded in 1951 by Helene and Rene Leger, St-Hubert started as just a chicken stand, but with it’s “secret BBQ sauce” and a fleet of yellow Volkswagen Beetles, by 1965 they had pioneered home delivery service (at no extra charge) in Canada.
With Canada’s Centennial in 1967, and Montreal hosting the world’s fair, the Legers saw an opportunity and decided to open two restaurants at the Expo 67 site – recall that Expo had opening day crowds of over 300,000 – and used radio and television ads with the catchy jingle “ring, ring, ring, St-Hubert BBQ”.
The 1970s and 80s saw a period of rapid expansion for the chicken franchise. They introduced a single dial in number for all Montreal phone orders. They branched into an ill-conceived venture of upscale Italian restaurants ( these were eventually sold to the American, Georgio restaurants). They began an expansion into Ontario and the Maritimes. By this time even Celine Dion is appearing in their TV commercials. Eventually times and tastes change. A series of Resto-Bar lounges fail. They never really establish a foothold outside of Quebec. By 1992, their first store at 6555 St-Hubert Street closes because it’s losing money. In 2016 St. Hubert BBQ is sold to Cara Foods, the owner of Ontario Chicken rival, Swiss Chalet.
Now I have never eaten St-Hubert BBQ, but I have had Swiss Chalet. It’s awful. For Southerners, It is the culinary equivalent of eating at the K&W Cafeteria ( translation = it’s were old people eat). Just to look at it, no American would ever call it barbeque. If I brought that slop to East Carolina or Kansas City… or Texas? I’d be roasted on a pig spit.
We can’t leave our memory tour of St-Hubert without a discussion of the mascot. And this is a fascinating story in itself.
The Chicken Mascot
The St-Hubert BBQ mascot / logo is a cartoon rooster. If you see shades of Woody Woodpecker, that’s no coincidence. The original mascot was designed by Jack Dunham, an animator who worked on the early Oswald the Rabbit shorts for Walter Lanz. He later joined Disney Studios where he contributed to Snow White, Bambi, Alice In Wonderland, Pinocchio, Fantasia, among others.
Dunham also created some of St-Hubert’s earliest television commercials. Born in 1910 in Bismarck, North Dakota, Dunham ended up in Canada making commercials for Dow beer, Belevedere cigarettes and Lowney chocolates in Toronto and Montreal. Dunham’s life ended rather tragically on the streets of Montreal. Down on his luck, The Gazette columnist Mike Boone – best known for his hockey coverage of the Montreal Canadiens – was asked to do a profile piece on Dunham and his misfortunes.
According to Boone, in 2006 Dunham and his wife of 51 years, the former fashion model Dorothy Stewart, were evicted from their St. Marc street apartment. The two ended up at St. Luc Hospital while social services searched for a new place for them (Dunham was 96 at the time). Dunham died on August 16, 2008. Where he finally ended up is not known.
Don’t Fuck with the Chicken Man
The defeat in 2016 which saw St-Hubert’s sale to Ontario rival, Cara Foods was the ending to a battle that had been waged for nearly forty years.
In April 1979, in an article titled, “Chicken war starting to heat up”, The Gazette revealed that part of St-Hubert’s expansion efforts were to counter an attack by Cara Foods which was planning to spend over $25 million to set up 25 Suisse Chalet BBQ restaurants in Quebec (Cara also owned the hamburger restaurant, Harvey’s which at this time was also in a fast-food war with rival, McDonald’s ). St-Hubert countered with its own expansion – though not saying how it managed to finance that expansion – with plans to add 24 franchise locations by the end of 1979. A St-Hubert executive scoffed at Cara’s efforts, “We’re number one in chicken… we’re the top here and we’re going to remain the leader.”
The rivalry even extended south of the border. In February, 1979 Cara Foods opened its first Swiss Chalet restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Three months later St-Hubert countered, opening a St-Hubert “fine dining” establishment within miles of the Swiss Chalet location. Presumably these were vanity restaurants for the winter snowbird families to enjoy while escaping the harsh Canadian winters.
Here’s a photo of Helene Leger and her son, Jean-Pierre ( the overly protective brother of diary-writing Claire Leger) receiving the key to the city of Fort Lauderdale after their grand opening in June, 1979:
“Thank you for your warm welcome and acceptance of our unique roasted chicken. Thank you for the opportunity extended to us to introduce St. Hubert Roasted Chicken to South Florida. We promise to be good neighbors and look forward to a long association with our many new friends.”Mrs. Helene Leger, President, St-Hubert Roasted Chicken
Today that American flagship location sits vacant. It last housed a vegan / vegetarian place called Sublime which was shuttered in 2018.
Though mother, Helene Leger was president of the chicken business, daily operations were controlled by the brother and sister tag-team of Jean-Pierre and Claire.
In 1982, the company made it official with an announcement to the media of the “top-level appointments” by Helene Leger, president of “Jean-Pierre Leger and Claire Leger, both of whom lave long been associated with the company, each assum[ing] the title of Assistant to the President as part of a reorganization oriented towards future growth”. The announcement goes on to point out that “Rotisseries St-Hubert now operates 69 outlets in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Florida.”
A profile of Claire Leger in The Gazette in 1982 revealed that she got her start working as a waitress at St-Hubert and later went on to become a restaurant manager. After studying business and taking time to raise her son, she returned to the company and focused on the administration, identifying her brother as the risk-taker and more like her father, Rene. She was a cultured woman, studying art and the piano, taking time during her hiatus to take up sculpture and the flute. She was also a bit of a practical joker, often playing pranks on the workers, but also a tough executive:
“When I was in school, women in my kind of job did not exist in Quebec. It was not done. It’s still rare that women are given a chance – outside a family firm.
The 1980’s will show whether women will be able to make it in the market place”The Gazette, March 1, 1982
Later that year, Claire Leger addressed the Montreal Chamber of Commerce. It’s short, so I’ll just read the puff-piece that was written in the papers, as it reveals a lot about the Leger character:
“When it comes to backing business don’t be chicken, Quebecers told”
“If Quebec society esteemed businessmen as much as it esteems politicians, professional people and its popular singers, then many small Quebec businessmen would be on the way to becoming big businessmen.
So says Claire Leger, vice-president and boss-lady of her family’s St-Hubert barbecued-chicken restaurant chain, which now has annual sales of $110 million, branches in Quebec, Ontario and Fort Lauderdale and plans for a big expansion in the U.S. market.
Leger was addressing the weekly luncheon meeting of Montreal’s Chambre de Commerce. The menu: Scallops in white sauce and Brussels sprouts.
There are tens of thousands of entrepreneurs in Quebec, she said, able to grow as the Leger family has done – if only they benefited from a climate of encouragement and optimism.
She attributes the success of the St. Hubert rotisseries to the use of TV advertising as well as to “QSC – quality, service, cleanliness,” but also to the willingness of the older generation – her parents – to give the new generation -herself and her brother – its head.
“They could have been satisfied with 17 profitable restaurants.” Instead, in the 1970s. they et her and her brother build another 49 outlets, 10 of which are outside Quebec. The firm now has 5,000 employees. One challenge has been to bring into the firm senior executives who are not members of the family and to learn from them.
The five Toronto restaurants are now among the most profitable of the group, she said. In expanding, she and her brother considered many scenarios and retained the most aggressive, which has paid off, Leger said.”The Gazette, October 28, 1981
I doubt it was just hard-scrapple encouragement and optimism that built the Leger’s chicken empire, we never really learn where their financing came from, but it no doubt saw some muscle from elite power families of Quebec – we’re getting to that.
For an idea just how powerful the Leger family had become, listen to this announcement from The Gazette in 1984. It’s to hail Claire Leger’s appointment as Director to Laurentian Mutual Insurance, but it goes on to reveal that she is already serving on the boards of Hydro-Quebec ( personally appointed by Quebec Premier Rene Levesque), Radio-Quebec ( then a provincial television station similar to TV Ontario), the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, and the publishing and printing giant Quebecor – personally appointed by Pierre Péladeau. Today Quebecor is run by Péladeau’s son, Pierre Karl. Quebecor is one of the most dominating media forces in the province, with controlling interests in the Journal de Montreal, TVA, Videotron, Canoe, Qub Radio, and Archambault books and music.
I think the murder of Michelle Perron needs to be considered in the context of the Quebec rich and powerful. And for me, there’s something very Shakespearean in the story, something very Measure for Measure, something very Claudio and Isabella.
Claire sits on the board of the media giant Quebecor – so the Journal de Montreal and TVA. And who are their rivals in Quebec? In terms of newspapers and television that would be La Presse and Radio Canada. And who works for Radio Canada?
Take a look at this 3/4 page ad for Hydro Quebec from 1996 in The Gazette – and if you’re listening I’ll just describe it to you. It’s a portrait of JP – his smug face glaring at the reader – with a plate of St. Hubert – the BBQ, fries, special sauce – at his side. The headline reads, “Jean-Pierre Leger keeps a close eye on everything he consumes.” Yes, the ad is ostensibly about HydoQuebec, and how he likes to keep energy costs down, but I also don’t think we’re just talking about chicken. There’s something downright creepy about the Leger eye-of-Sauron surveying the landscape of all he consumes ( by the end of the century JP had bought out his sister and was the sole shareholder of St-Hubert). And his sister’s welfare would definitely fall within that landscape. The Legers’ were not going to be made to look foolish by some Radio Canada gigolo.
The machinations of Jean-Pierre Leger in the police investigation of Michelle Perron’s murder went will beyond offering a $100,000 reward. Prior to becoming a police suspect, Jean-Pierre Leger secretly met with Gilles Perron in a Laval hotel room. This was in 1988, just months before the trial, Perron by this time was engaged to his sister, Claire. At the meeting Leger urged Perron to break it off with Claire Leger stating, “It would be best if you left her.” Perron quickly retorted, “you can forget it.”. Unknown to Perron the entire conversation was recorded by Laval police, with Leger permitting them to bug his room.
A week before the trial started, Gilles Parron filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against Jean-Pierre Leger, charging he was the victim of a smear campaign. During the trial, in dramatic fashion, Claire Leger called off the engagement one week before their wedding date.
It’s interesting that all through that 1989 trial the Quebec media refused to name the Legers or their business, only ever mentioning that Gilles Perron was “engaged to the heiress of a restaurant chain”. When your rich and powerful you can manage to keep your name out of the papers. When the Legers were eventually mentioned it was only in the most delicate fashion (Newspapers outside of Quebec like the Ottawa Sun and Calgary Herald are only too happy to name St-Hubert and the Legers.)
The rest we know, Gilles Perron is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison, and that’s the end. Or is it?
Gilles Perron filed an appeal. It was at this second trial that everything began to unravel. Because for all their power, for all their connections and influence, for all their intelligence and determination, there is one thing the Legers did not account for: the incompetence of the Laval police force.
Doughnuts, they’re for the police!
Now there were a number of things wrong with the Laval police investigation that came up in the second trial and I’ll just highlight a few. Police attempted to interview Gilles Perron’s 15-year-old son without prior knowledge or permission from Perron. When Perron intervened and told detectives to go through his lawyers, the Laval police charged him with obstructing a police investigation. Police never bothered to conduct “knock and talks” with residents in a nearby row of homes who had a clear view of the parking lot where Michelle Perron was murdered. They never bothered to review the video camera footage from the adjacent depanneur, nor did they conduct interviews with patrons and staff of a nearby brasserie and strip club. The police fingerprint technician had learned his trade through a mail order correspondence course – the sort of thing in that era you’d find on the back of a matchbook. Police also failed to take blood samples from the interior of the vehicle. Finally, when police conducted their preliminary interview with Perron they failed to turn on the tape recorder. For these, and many more reasons, Perron’s defense attorney called the process “a mockery of justice”.
Gilles Perron was acquitted on May 15, 1992. One of the reasons he was set free was the sudden appearance of a surprise witness who came forward and stated she saw two suspicious characters in the parking lot a half-hour prior to Michelle Perron’s murder, despite the fact that when asked to describe the weather that evening, the witness said she could not recall. ( There was a very memorable snow storm the evening of December 15, 1987.)
But the main explanation for the acquittal were the police blunders. As they so often do, the Quebec police asked for forgiveness, promising reforms, yet nothing changed. A year after the acquittal the Laval police union – ever resourceful to exploit an opportunity – had the nerve to claim that the explanation for their incompetence with the Perron case was because the Laval murder squad was over-worked and understaffed:
It should come as no surprise that playing out all during the events after the murder and the two trials was unending contract negotiations spearheaded by the Laval Police Brotherhood which involved strong-arm tactics like a stoppage in giving out speeding and parking tickets, and the refusal to answer service calls. There’s plenty of blame to spread around here, and we should not exclude bureaucrats. Indeed the Laval force had been working without a contract since December 31, 1987 – that’s a slim two weeks after the Perron murder, barely enough time to canvass a neighborhood let alone process blood samples.
By the Summer of 1991 they were still without a long-term contract, with the Laval chief and police union head exchange barbs about understaffing and public safety ( at the time Laval had the highest paid police officers in the province).
“The police are doing their work to the best of their abilities but their efforts are being sabotaged by the fact the department is understaffed, and it takes hours to answer calls of a less serious nature.”, whinged brotherhood president Andre Nadon. Chief Jean-Marc Aurele countered, “It’s evident we could do more with more men, but citizens have no cause for concern. We have an excellent police force doing a good job.” Metrics backed up that the in 1991 Laval did indeed have a low crime rate.
Things didn’t improve when later that summer, Culinar, Inc. announced a new ad campaign for their Joe Louis snack-cakes with posters emphatically proclaiming, “Doughnuts, they’re for the police!”. The ads were quickly removed from bus shelters and subway stations.
December 24, 1991 and still no contract. The union orders police officers to ignore traffic infractions. Some officers are ordered to “continue to do nothing as they have been since mid-month”. Despite these pressure tactics, city of Laval administration states, “there will be no disciplinary action taken”. The situation continued into the new year. In July of 1992, the union rejected a contract offer and continued its dereliction of duties. By the Fall parties finally signed a four-year labor contract, but before that, Marie Eve Lariviere was found murdered in a Laval rail yard. At the end of 1992, Lariviere’s murder was still unsolved and the Laval police were facing two lawsuits; a new $1 million action from Gilles Perron for investigative negligence in the matter of Michelle Perron’s murder, and a $400,000 suit from the family of Danielle Andre who were claiming they had to conduct their own investigation in the matter of her death. Not knowing when to take a seat Gilles Perron was also calling for a royal commission to look into the injustice brought upon him in the matter of his wife’s murder.
Despite the new contract, union leader Andre Nadon continued to grouse, claiming the Laval force now needed even more officers, including its own SWAT and electronic-surveillance units.
“It’s very dangerous to forget” – Omar Mohammed
In September 2000, Gilles Perron lost his lawsuit against the Laval police and crown prosecutor in his wife’s murder trial. Throughout the 1990s Perron conducted a smear campaign against the prosecutor, Yves Berthiaume. This had a great impact on his personal and professional life. Perron was ordered to pay $260,000 to Berthiaume for defamation of character. A month later – his former employer, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation long having parted ways with him – Gilles Perron declared bankruptcy.
Gilles Perron died at the age of 75 on Saturday, December 5th, 2015 after a “long illness”, almost 28 years to the day of Michelle Perron’s murder in that parking lot behind a Laval depanneur.
Over those 28 years he and his family always maintained his innocence. “Gilles never killed my sister, I always said it,” remarked Nicole Valiquet, the sister of Michell Perron.
Gilles Perron always vowed to find the real assassin. In a 1995 interview with Andy Riga of The Gazette he was emphatic:
“I never, never gave up on finding the real killer.”Man hopes new leads in wife’s slaying will clear name, Andy Riga, The Gazette, September 27, 1995
But there were never any other suspects. Not those alleged winter storm assailants, stabbing her eight times in the face for purse money, when it would have been much simpler to snatch the purse and run away. There was only Gilles Perron.
In the same article it was disclosed that the Montreal Urban Police ( the SPVM) had been chosen to conduct a full review of the Laval force’s investigative practices. Montreal Police chief Jacques Duchesneau remarked that he was “unaware of another occasion when one police force’s homicide squad was asked to re-examine the investigation of another.” Curiously, an article on the same page of that edition revealed that the Surete du Quebec had just suspended four officers as part of an investigation into evidence tampering. This was the beginning of the unraveling of the Matticks Affair. Among many things, Matticks became the mother of all internal probes by the police of its own, exposing police corruption at a systemic level, and ultimately leading to the Poitras Commission full blown public inquiry.
With the exception of Madame Perron there are no innocents in any of this. The behavior of all parties is equally appalling and reprehensible. Gilles Perron, the Legers, the newspapers, the police.
If you’re rich and powerful in Quebec you can get away with anything. If you’re a Leger you can say anything, you can do anything. You have all the resources at your command to influence an outcome. If you’re a Pelideau you can amplify or silence a voice, with impunity. There is no consequence.
This is Who Killed Theresa.
Various television spots mentioned in the podcast
20 years ago today a Laval college student was sexually assaulted and left for dead in her apartment in Sainte-Foy, Quebec.
The student – today anonymously identified as Isabeau – gave DNA samples to authorities which established an evidence link to the April 2000 murder of another CÉGEP student living 200 kilometers away in the Saguenay region of the province. On the morning of April 28, 2000, Guylaine Potvin, a student at the CÉGEP de Jonquière, was found dead in her apartment on rue Panet in Jonquière. She shared the apartment with two girlfriends, students who were absent on the night of the events.
Isabeau has been campaigning anonymously for 20 years, hoping to have the man who left for dead will be brought to justice. To date, the DNA evidence has not matched any individual in the DNA data banks available to the authorities. Some have speculated that the attacker may have left Canada, or may be deceased. However Isabeau insists that, “This individual is still in circulation. How many victims has he had? Think of the women around you, your loved ones, your daughters … This individual is dangerous. Any information, you have to give it. ”
Some speculate that the cases may be linked to the murders of other CÉGEP student such as the 2011 Gatineau murder of Valérie Leblanc, though there have never been any evidentiary links to support these claims.
The podcast focusing on the Potvin and Isabeau cases can be found here:
On Tuesday, July 3rd, 1979 two Longueuil students attended a concert at Place Des Nations, the music venue at Montreal’s Man and his World. 15-year-old Chantal Dupont was supposed to attend with her boyfriend. He was busy so Chantal went to the concert with the boy’s younger brother, 14-year-old Maurice Marcil. The concert was boring so Chantal and Maurice left early around 11 p.m. Chantal informed her older sister who also attended the concert they were heading home, about an hour’s walk across the Jacques Cartier Bridge back to Longueuil.
Chantal and Maurice never made it back to Longueuil that night. A week later their bodies were pulled from the Saint Lawrence River – Chantal at Pointe aux Trembles, Maurice further down river near Lanorie.
The central headquarters of the Surete du Quebec at 1701 rue Parthenais has an excellent view of the Jacques Cartier Bridge. The bodies were brought to the facility’s central morgue. Chantal and Maurice were alive when they hit the water, but this wasn’t a drowning accident. They had been choked unconscious then thrown from the bridge. Chantal had been raped before her fall.
At the time of the identification, homicide detectives learned that two men – 26-year-old Gilles Pimpare and 25-year-old Normand Guerin – were being held upstairs on the 13th floor of Parthenais for a rape and robbery that had been committed in the area of the Jacques Cartier Bridge and the La Ronde amusement park in late June. Detectives decided to question them, and Normand Guerin immediately confessed to everything.
On that July 3rd night of the concert, Chantal and Maurice approached the pedestrian pathway leading up to the Jacques Cartier Bridge which would take them home to Longueuil. Guerin and Pimpare were waiting for them in the bushes. “Pimpare took out his knife and I took out my starter’s pistol,” said Guerin. In the darkness cars were flying by. “Gilles told the couple to turn around and walk back towards Montreal. The girl said “why”. Gilles said “You’ll see.””
The Jacques Cartier Bridge is a traditional steel truss cantilever structure connecting the island of Montreal with the south shore community of Longueuil. About half way across the Saint Lawrence river there are off ramps that allowed access to La Ronde, Place des Nations, and Man And His World (now Park Jean Drapeau). The bridge’s two high steel spans rise up from two concrete pillars; Pillar 26 which rests on the main land along side the Montreal rail yards, and Pillar 111, the highest spot on the bridge extending up from the Saint Lawrence waters.
At Pillar 111 Guerin and Pimpare stopped and ordered the couple to climb down a service ladder that lead to a maintenance catwalk on the underside of the bridge. Guerin asked Maurice if he had any money. “Just two dollars,” he replied. Guerin took the two dollars, then led the boy away a little further down the catwalk while Pimpare proceeded to rape Chantal for about 40 minutes. Guerin then also raped Chantal while Pimpare took Maurice out onto one of the high beams.
Pimpare told the boy that he had to die because of what he saw, and to say his prayers. Maurice begged to be strangled before he was pushed off the bridge. Pimpare choked him with a rope for about 5 minutes. Once unconscious Pimpare threw Maurice into the water 160 feet below. Chantal heard the splash of Maurice’s body, then she too was choked and pushed through the guardwire into the Saint Lawrence river.
Chantal and Maurice were both alive when they hit the water.
The July 29th edition of Allo Police erupted with a fury of outrage rarely seen in the french tabloid. Pointing directly to Quebec’s Minister of Justice, Marc-André Bédard the front page of the paper stated,
“M. MINISTER OUR CHILDREN ARE IN DANGER”
The paper begins with a full page open letter to Minister Marc-André Bédard from Allo Police editor Andre Parent, inviting him to read through the account in the edition of the story of the brutal murders of Maurice Marcil and Chantal Dupont at the hands of Pimpare and Guerin. Parent then goes on to question the rights of the accused, particularly in the case of Pimpare and Guerin who were recidivists, and believed to have received easy treatment in parole hearings. He asks the Minister why there isn’t a greater police presence at La Ronde and Man And His World, indeed calling even for the creation of its own independent police force to protect children who are at the mercy of dangerous criminals. and calling the situation that currently exists “intolerable”.
In a two page article the paper goes on to recount the petty criminal lives of Normand Guerin and Gilles Pimpare. They had been in and out of prison throughout the 1970s for theft, armed robbery, and armed robbery involving sequestration. Pimpare had just been paroled in March of 1979. In June and July there had been a series of robberies and sexual assaults in the La Ronde / Jacques Cartier Bridge area, all committed by Guerin and Pimpare, as would be learned later.
The back page of the July 29th, 1979 edition of Allo Police consists of a full page Grand-Guignol-esque artists rendering of the July 3rd murders. We see Guerin and Pimpare standing within the steel girders of the bridge, while Chantal and Maurice are flying through the air towards the waters below, the Montreal skyline in the background. In this photo it’s black and white, but my memory is sickly green, like some garish, Beistle halloween decoration:
This same edition of Allo Police reported on the recently written appeal of Jacques Déry – the father of 13-year-old Diane Déry, murdered in 1975 – to minister of justice Bedard to have her unsolved case file transferred from the Longueuil police force to the provincial Surete du Quebec. The message was clear: children were getting murdered, and police weren’t doing enough to stop it.
It didn’t end there. All through the summer Allo Police railed on justice flash points in Quebec that were now boiling over throughout the province.
The following week’s headline simply read, “228 RAPES”, and Allo writers expressed that the incident on the Jacques Cartier Bridge was not an isolated affair. There had been 228 rapes in the province up to that point in 1979, and that was only counting the ones reported to the police.
In response to the previous week’s editorial calling for an independent police force for the tourist attractions, La Ronde and Man And His World, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice countered that the Montreal police force was fully equipped to respond to those jurisdictions, and that the minister did not want to interfere in the matters of municipal police.
In another editorial, Bernard Tetrault, the paper’s director of information argued that Quebec children were in danger because of a justice system that too often granted parole to offenders that didn’t deserve it. Too many offenders were getting away with serious crimes while the “great defenders of individual rights against the rights of the collective too often use the excuse that murders such as the Jacques Cartier Bridge affair are isolated cases.”
The paper now called the Jacques Cartier Bridge murders, “one of the most sadistic crimes in the annals of the Quebec judiciary”, and proceeded to give a profile of some of the 228 rapes, 144 of them reported in Montreal alone, with the Surete du Quebec explaining their meager tally of 42 cases as “statistically incomplete”.
In one example the paper recounted the story of 14 year old Montreal girl who was sent off on vacation to her aunt and uncle’s in Joliette. She was sexually molested by both the aunt and uncle, but when her father learned of the assaults, he didn’t want to press charges against family members, and told police that it was probably his daughter’s fault anyway. In a social court proceeding, the aunt and uncle were fined $100, and ordered never to see the girl again unless in the company of her parents.
After the trial Pimpare and Guerin in the fall of 1979, investigators were asked to comment on the murders of Dupont and Marcil.
“No murder ever hit me like this one,” SQ detective Andre Gougeon stated. “The tension didn’t go away until the judge sentenced them each to 25 years without parole.”
“You hear a lot about police brutality,” says Detective-Sergeant Pierre Leroux. “People kept asking me if I felt like pounding them after we heard those terrible confessions. But I didn’t. I just felt weak.”
Both detectives stated that despite the nature of the crimes, Montreal wasn’t a horrible place.
“But no hitch-hiking – ever.” bizarrely added Andre Gougeon. “And no picking hikers up either. Anyone who does is just plain stupid.”
About ten years ago I took my daughters to La Ronde. The parking lot is to the south of St. Helen’s Island. You have to walk under the Jacques Cartier bridge from the parking lot in order to get to the entrance of the amusement park. I should have been thinking about other things, but my mind was on those Jacques Cartier bridge murders.
This situation was repeated some winters ago. I was visiting Montreal, staying in the Plateau region and decided to go for a run down by the water front. A grey morning. Near the ferris wheel I headed east. At a certain point you realize you can’t get back up to the city. You are locked in by the rail yards, so your only choice is to keep heading east along the Saint Lawrence shore. The Jacques Cartier bridge was approaching, looming. You realize it’s inevitable, you’re going to run right beneath it. I was more familiar with the details of those murders at this point. As I approached Pillar 26 I could make out the details under the bridge. I could see the service ladder leading down to Pillar 26. I could see the wooden catwalk extending underneath the steel framing. Further out in the Saint Lawrence was Pillar 111. That 160 foot drop to the face of the water an impossible and bleak distance. Rough, choppy waters. Lake freighters safely moored along the shore, and me running along side them.
The Bridge Murders – To Err is Human, to Forgive, Divine – Lise Lasalle
Normand Guerin had a twin brother named Richard, so you can just imagine what his life was like as he walked the streets of Montreal in the Summer of 1979:
Lorsque Theresa Pearson a été assassinée dans un garage de stationnement de LaSalle dans les années 1980, William Fyfe, tué en série, vivait à cinq minutes en voiture.
C’est ça. C’est vraiment tout ce que j’ai aujourd’hui. I’m your host, John Allore, have yourselves a great-great day.
Je veux parler principalement de Fyfe aujourd’hui, en particulier de ces années des années 1980 où il était soupçonné d’avoir été le violeur plombier qui terrorisait le centre-ville de Montréal. Pour cet épisode, je suppose que vous connaissez tous le tueur en série canadien, William Fyfe – je ne vais pas couvrir tous les aspects de son histoire ( pour pleuseur information de Fyfe, cliquez ici) , sauf pour dire que cela a pris beaucoup de temps – nous parlons du temps BTK… glacial temps – avant que Fyfe ne soit attrapé. Avant d’y arriver, un rappel de l’affaire Theresa Pearson.
This is Who Killed Theresa.
[Un grand merci à la enquêteur québécoise, Annie Richard pour l’aide avec cette histoire. ]
Theresa Pearson, âgée de 19 ans, a disparu le mercredi 18 mai 1983, une semaine avant qu’elle ne soit diplômée d’un cours de secrétariat à College LaSalle. Pearson a été vu pour la dernière fois descendre d’un bus de la ville après l’école près du coin du boulevard Lasalle et de la 90e avenue. Elle vivait avec ses parents dans un duplex au bout d’un cul-de-sac au 9339 Terrace Greenfield, à deux minutes à pied de l’arrêt de bus.
Le corps de Pearson a été retrouvé vers 16 h 00. dans le garage d’un immeuble / appartements au 9379, boulevard LaSalle, le garage fait face à la cour arrière de la maison Pearson. Elle avait été frappée à la tête dix fois, peut-être avec un barre de cric de pneu. Il n’y avait aucun signe manifeste d’agression sexuelle. Son cartable et ses livres ont été trouvés à proximité. Le sac ne contenait que 2 $. Son sac, qui, selon la police, ne contenait pas d’argent, était manquant.
L’école a pris fin vers 15 h 00, donc le corps a été retrouvé très rapidement, environ 15 minutes après le meurtre. Celui qui l’a fait était soit bien préparé, extrêmement chanceux, ou les deux.
Dans un podcast précédent, j’ai suggéré que le chemin le plus simple et le plus sûr pour rentrer à la maison aurait été de marcher de l’arrêt de bus sur la 90e avenue jusqu’au boulevard Lasalle, les deux étant des routes principales très fréquentées. J’ai appris plus tard que ce n’était probablement pas le cas pour Theresa ce jour-là. Un parent – peut-être la grand-mère de Pearson – vivait dans l’immeuble où elle a été trouvée, et elle lui rendait régulièrement visite. Pour y arriver, Pearson aurait coupé un chemin de retour, rue Centrale et s’était approché de l’entrée de l’appartement par la ruelle. C’est la raison pour laquelle Pearson était dans la région pour commencer. Après avoir rendu visite à sa grand-mère, elle aurait coupé certains appartements adjacents et sauté la clôture dans sa cour qui, comme nous l’avons dit, faisait face aux entrées du garage – comme le font les enfants. Cependant, cela ne s’est jamais produit car elle a probablement rencontré son délinquant en s’approchant de l’entrée dans la ruelle qui l’a ensuite traînée dans le garage et l’a attaquée.
Au début de l’enquête, la police cherchait une voiture rouge qui a été repérée dans la ruelle à côté des garages du boulevard LaSalle. Plus tard, la police a jeté le plomb quand ils ont pu retrouver le propriétaire, l’ont interrogé et ont été convaincus de son innocence.
La police a par la suite appréhendé un autre homme et l’a soumis à un test de détection de mensonge après avoir conclu: “Nous ne pensions pas qu’il donnait les bonnes réponses à nos questions.” Cette piste n’a finalement abouti à rien.
Les premiers meurtres de William Fyfe
Les rapports d’un plombier-violeur commencent à circuler dans la région de Montréal dès 1979. En février de la même année, The Gazette rapporte que «les femmes âgées du secteur nord-est de Montréal sont volées et violées par un homme se faisant passer pour un plombier… “. L’article continue que dans cette dernière des 14 attaques, une femme dans la mi-soixantaine a été violée et volée de 30 $, après qu’un homme a affirmé que de l’eau fuyait dans les appartements voisins. La police du MUC révèle qu’ils travaillent sur le cas d’un violeur plombier depuis décembre 1978 et que «le seul motif que nous pouvons voir est qu’il frappe l’après-midi ou le soir» et qu’il doit «rechercher ses victimes». La police admet qu’elle n’a pas une bonne description du violeur, mais qu’il est «âgé d’environ 30 ans, a les cheveux châtain clair et mesure environ cinq pieds neuf pouces».
Le 17 octobre 1979, Suzanne Bernier, 62 ans, est assassinée dans son appartement situé au nord, au 1800, avenue de Salaberry. La police affirme que le motif était un vol qualifié. Vingt ans plus tard, William Fyfe avouait son meurtre. Au moment du meurtre, Fyfe purgeait une peine à la prison voisine de Bordeaux. Fyfe a été mis en congé journalier pour travailler ce jour-là, mais comme la police dira plus tard, “il n’est pas allé travailler, il a commis ce meurtre”. L’appartement est à moins d’un mile de Bordeaux.
Le corps nu de Nicole Raymond, 26 ans, a été retrouvé dans son appartement un mois plus tard, le 11 novembre 1979. Raymond a été poignardé à plusieurs reprises à la gorge et à la poitrine dans l’appartement 503 du 80, chemin Lakeshore à Pointe-Claire.
Plus tard, Fyfe a également avoué ce meurtre (il n’était probablement plus en service à Bordeaux). Nous ne savons pas précisément où il vivait au moment de la mort de Raymond, mais deux ans plus tôt en 1977, Fyfe résidait au 3450, rue Victoria le long de la rive du lac, et à 8 kilomètres de l’appartement de Raymond.
Le dernier meurtre connu de Fyfe de cette époque est le coup de couteau de mars 1981 de Hazel Scattolon, 53 ans, et encore une fois, comme pour les autres cas, il ne chasse pas loin de chez lui. Scattolon se trouve dans son appartement au 35, avenue Glengarry dans la ville de Mont-Royal. En 1981, Fyfe vivait à environ un mile au 1231, rue Chameran.
Encore, Scattolon est la dernière des victimes de meurtre connues de Fyfe de cette première période. Il n’est connu pour avoir de nouveau assassiné qu’en 1987. Fait intéressant, ces «années manquantes» de 1981 à 1987 coïncident avec la montée des affaires de violeur plombier à Montréal. Crimes dont Fyfe est longtemps soupçonné.
Le violeur plombier
L’histoire du violeur plombier refait surface à Montréal en mai 1981. Quelques mois seulement après le meurtre de Scattolon, la police de Montréal annonce qu’un «plombier a attaqué 20 femmes »
La police de Montréal décrit un homme aux cheveux bouclés, portant parfois une casquette de baseball, se faisant passer pour un plombier pour entrer dans les maisons. Les attaques sont centrées au centre-ville, mais la police a déclaré: “Nous pensons que c’est le même homme qui a attaqué des femmes dans le nord de la ville l’année dernière.” Les victimes ont entre 20 et 65 ans. L’homme est décrit comme «très actif et violent» mesurant environ cinq pieds neuf pouces, environ 165 livres et parle anglais et français avec un accent.
Deux semaines plus tard, face à la pression de femmes qui se plaignent que la police «retient délibérément des informations» sur le violeur et met en danger des femmes », un croquis policier du suspect est publié. La police se plaint qu’avec toute l’attention des médias, le violeur a été «effrayé» et les attaques ont cessé, ce qui a empêché sa capacité de l’attraper. Le croquis ressemble beaucoup à un jeune William Fyfe:
Il semble que la police de Montréal ait réussi. Tout au long de l’été et de l’automne 1981, l’histoire devient froide, les médias étant probablement muselés pour donner à la police l’occasion de ‘smoke him out’. Ça n’a pas marché. Le 30 novembre, la police du MUC annonce des efforts pour «intensifier sa chasse» à la suite de trois agressions dans le centre-ville de Montréal ce mois-ci. Les rapports confirment que le «violeur de plombier» mesure cinq pieds neuf pouces et pèse environ 165 livres, mais la police baisse l’âge de 25 ans (Fyfe avait 26 ans à l’époque). La police se dit prête à «rétablir une équipe de 12 membres pour enquêter sur l’affaire» – qui semble avoir été supprimée – si davantage de femmes se manifestent.
Compte tenu de toutes ces activités en 1981, il pourrait être tentant de considérer le meurtre de Roxanne Luce comme une victime potentielle de Fyfe. Luce a été retrouvée matraquée à son domicile de Longueuil le 1er avril 1981, mais Fyfe en tant qu’assassin est douteux. William Fyfe s’attaquait à des victimes lointaines dans le centre-ville de Montréal, l’extrémité nord, l’ouest de l’île, les Laurentides, peut-être Laval, mais jamais la rive sud. Le Plumber Rapist avait un parcours similaire – l’ouest de l’île, l’extrémité nord, le centre de Montréal, peut-être les quartiers Ste Thérèse – Rosemère au large de l’île, mais n’a jamais été signalé dans la région de Longueuil.
Un violeur «plombier» fait grève
Il nous reste presque un an avant d’entendre à nouveau parler du violeur plombier. Le 19 août 1982, un jeune homme se faisant passer pour un plombier accède à l’appartement d’une femme de 22 ans à Dollard-des-Ormeaux (qui fait partie de la communauté de Montréal-Ouest de l’île) et la viole armée avec un couteau. L’homme correspond aux descriptions antérieures, et le croquis de la police obtenu à partir des souvenirs de la femme ressemble de nouveau à un jeune William Fyfe:
À la fin de 1982, après trois ans et aucun succès dans la capture du violeur plombier, la police annonce que ce prédateur sexuel montréalais pourrait avoir un imitateur.
Theresa Pearson et le violeur plombier
Deux ans et demi s’écoulent et il n’est pas fait mention du violeur Plombier. Rappelez-vous que le meurtre de Theresa Pearson a lieu pendant cette période, au printemps de 1983. Nous ne pouvons pas être certains où William Fyfe est au printemps de 1983, mais cela est bien connu. 1984 et 1985 ont probablement procuré à Fyfe quelques années de stabilité où il a peut-être cessé de se livrer à des agressions sexuelles. Le 27 décembre 1983, Fyfe se marie. Fyfe a eu un enfant avec la femme, mais il est connu que c’était une union difficile. Fyfe a régulièrement battu sa femme. En novembre 1985, le couple se sépare. Elle demande le divorce en 1986 et, en 1988, le divorce est accordé avec la garde complète de leur fils.
En 1985 et 1986, nous savons que Fife habite au 410, rue Bergevin, à environ un mile du domicile de Pearson à LaSalle. Il vivait peut-être ici en 1983 lorsque Pearson a été battu à mort, mais il n’y a aucun document pour le vérifier.
Pendant ce temps, la police révise son m.o. du violeur plombier. Le titre d’un article de juin 1985 écrit par Eddie Collister et James Mennie annonçait: «Un violeur insaisissable s’attaque aux adolescentes»:
«Les rapports de police indiquent que le violeur, qui frappe habituellement entre 15 heures et 18 h les jeudis et vendredis, attend autour des écoles, des parcs et des petits dépanneurs et suit ses victimes à la maison. »
Au début, vous êtes tenté de penser que c’est le copieur, mais trop de choses sont similaires au violeur plombier Fyfe. Le suspect se concentre sur le centre-ville et l’ouest. Il est soupçonné d’avoir attaqué 12 filles âgées de 13 à 18 ans. On pense à présent à tort que Fyfe a attaqué des «vieilles femmes». Parfois, il attaquait des victimes âgées. Nicole Raymond avait 26 ans. Dans les premiers récits du violeur plombier de 1981 – un homme qui est sans aucun doute Fyfe – la police dit que les victimes ont entre 20 et 65 ans. En termes de choix de ses victimes, Fyfe est clairement un délinquant à égalité des chances. Il «accède à la maison en se faisant passer pour un plombier ou un réparateur ou en disant qu’il doit laisser un message». Il “porte un sac en cuir noir contenant un poignard et porte des gants de course en cuir noir.” décrit comme «un homme francophone blanc d’environ cinq pieds 11 pouces et pesant environ 150 livres». Fyfe parlait français avec un accent. La taille et le poids correspondent à peu près à son apparence.
Il y a un dernier récit du violon plombier de Montréal. À l’été 1986, deux jeunes femmes sont attaquées dans le nord de Montréal. Rappelons que maintenant Fyfe est séparé de sa femme et qu’elle a demandé le divorce. La première femme est une femme de 21 ans du quartier Saint-Michel, la seconde est une autre jeune femme du quartier voisin de Saint-Léonard. Tous deux ont été violés chez eux par un homme qui prétendait être «un inspecteur des eaux de la ville ou un plombier». Le suspect a de nouveau, dans la vingtaine, cinq pieds sept pouces de hauteur, 165 livres, est francophone et porte des lunettes et des gants gris. Le croquis composite fourni par les femmes cette fois semble un peu différent en raison des lunettes et de la nouvelle coupe de cheveux, mais la bouche ressemble toujours à Fyfe:
Ce qui est intéressant à propos de ces viols, c’est qu’ils se produisent à côté du quartier du Parc Extension, le quartier d’enfance de William Fyfe dans les années 60 et 70. Fyfe a été élevé par sa tante – il a grandi dans un appartement du 1380 rue Ouimet – et c’est là qu’il est apparemment revenu. Une fois le divorce accordé en 1988, Fyfe utilisait au moins son adresse postale, l’appartement # 27 de la rue Ouimet. Et Fyfe était connu à cette époque pour avoir fait du porte-à-porte en vendant des “copper fittings” et en offrant de faire de «petits travaux de plomberie».
Après 1986, il n’y a plus de rapports d’un violeur opérant sous la ruse d’un plombier réparateur dans la région de Montréal. Cela correspond à peu près au moment où William Fyfe a déménagé dans les Laurentides au nord de Montréal. En 1987, il commence à assassiner dans ce domaine; d’abord Louise Blanc-Poupart à Sainte Adèle, puis Pauline Laplante en 1989 dans le Piémont. Pendant un certain temps, il a cherché un traitement pour la dépendance à la drogue et à l’alcool dans un centre de réadaptation local. C’est à cette période que Fyfe gagne le surnom des locaux, «Bill Anglais», car il parle français avec un accent anglais.
Les quatre derniers meurtres connus de Fyfe ont tous été commis alors qu’il vivait avec sa mère à Innisfil au sud de Barrie, en Ontario, et démontrent son comportement accéléré et téméraire. Fyfe a parcouru des centaines de kilomètres pour commettre des meurtres dans la région de Montréal – à Laval, Senneville, Sainte Agathe et Baie d’Urfe. Avec son dernier meurtre – Mary Glen le 15 décembre 1999 – Fyfe est devenu bâclé. Ne portant plus de gants pour se protéger, il a laissé une seule empreinte digitale sur un chambranle de cuisine. Fyfe a été rapidement appréhendé à Barrie, peu de temps après avoir jeté des traces de sang dans une benne derrière une église.
Interviewé pour un profil sur Fyfe dans la Gazette en 2001, le psychiatre Gilles Chamberland de l’Institut Philippe Pinel – et si vous tenez un score, oui, c’est le même Gilles Chamberland qui, cette semaine encore, a témoigné pour la Couronne en les audiences de détermination de la peine du meurtrier condamné Ugo Fredette – ont offert ce qui suit:
«Ce sont des gens bien organisés. Ils ont un monde en tête qu’ils ne montreront à personne d’autre… Ils sont capables d’arranger les choses pour qu’ils puissent continuer (commettre leurs crimes) en menant ce qui ressemble à une vie normale.
Ces actes (sadiques) sont des démonstrations de pouvoir; pour montrer que “je suis puissant, je contrôle”. J’ai le pouvoir de la vie et de la mort sur toi.
Pour ces personnes, il existe un type de pression pour commettre ces actes qui commence comme une idée et devient de plus en plus obsessionnel. Ils commenceront à s’organiser et à planifier jusqu’à ce que le crime soit commis, puis il y aura un relâchement de l’agressivité et un calme pendant un certain temps avant, malheureusement, il recommence à se construire. »
Voici les raisons pour lesquelles William Fyfe peut avoir assassiné Theresa Pearson:
- Au moment du meurtre de Pearson, Fyfe vit à LaSalle, à cinq minutes en voiture du garage où son corps a été retrouvé.
- Tout au long des années 80, les meurtres de Fyfe et les agressions sexuelles commises par le violeur plombier se produisent pour la plupart à proximité des lieux où Fyfe vivait, souvent à moins d’un mile de sa résidence.
- La plupart des victimes de Fyfe ont été poignardées à mort, mais elles ont également été battues. La police a noté après la condamnation que les victimes de Fyfe ont été «battues au point d’être défigurées. Certains ont été écrasés avec des objets lourds », peut-être, par exemple avec une barre de cric.
- Si vous regardez le bâtiment où Pearson a été attaqué au 9379, boulevard LaSalle, il ressemble au type de bâtiment où Fyfe a commis ses premiers meurtres et le violeur plombier a mené ses agressions sexuelles; un immeuble d’habitation en bloc de 3 à 5 étages ressemblant à un logement public. Fyfe vivait souvent dans de tels endroits. C’est le type d’appartement où il a grandi rue Ouilet.
- Theresa Pearson est le modèle même de la victime décrite dans l’article de 1985 ci-dessus, «Un violeur insaisissable s’en prend à des adolescentes»: une adolescente de 19 ans, rentrant de l’école vers 15 heures, nous pouvons bien l’imaginer errer dans le coin magasin, sans aucun doute une Perrette pour un freezie par une chaude journée de printemps, son agresseur la traque à quelques pas derrière. Peut-être l’a-t-il suivie de nombreuses fois, pour avoir des schémas de voyage précis.
Et si le mercredi 18 mai 1983 il ne la suivait pas. Fyfe est déjà en place dans le garage de l’appartement parce qu’il sait que c’est là qu’elle sera. La rencontre commence dans la ruelle. Il dit qu’il travaille sur un chauffe-eau dans le garage, mais il s’est enfermé, il doit monter à l’étage pour parler à son client. Pearson peut-il le laisser entrer par l’entrée du garage? Peut-être qu’il avait l’intention de l’agresser. Elle n’était peut-être qu’un véhicule et sa proie était quelqu’un à l’intérieur. C’est aussi une question d’argent, mais pas beaucoup d’argent – l’argent de la drogue. La femme de 1979 a été violée et volée de 30 $. Pearson a été retrouvée avec 2 $, mais son sac à main manquait. Quelles que soient les circonstances, la rencontre n’a pas duré longtemps et il a probablement été interrompu. Elle a été retrouvée 15 minutes après sa mort. Les journaux ont signalé qu’elle n’était pas victime d’agression sexuelle. Ce n’était certainement pas le cas. Les amis de la famille Pearson ont partagé que la mère découragée de Theresa ne voulait pas ces détails dans les journaux. Fyfe était connue pour avoir agressé sexuellement des victimes post mortem.
L’indicateur le plus convaincant que Fyfe est le meurtrier de Theresa Pearson tient peut-être à ce qu’il n’est pas.
Fyfe n’a pas assassiné Sharron Prior, Jocelyne Houle ou Denise Bazinet; trois victimes montréalaises qui ont été transportées et jetées. Les victimes de Fyfe ont été trouvées dans ou à côté de bâtiments, elles n’ont pas été retrouvées dans les champs ou au bord d’une route. Fyfe était ce que Holmes et De Burger (1988) appelaient un délinquant ‘géographiquement stable‘, celui qui tue les victimes et élimine leur corps dans des zones qui chevauchent leur lieu de résidence ou leur lieu de résidence. Prior, Houle et Bazient ont été assassinés par un délinquant ‘géographiquement transitoire‘.
Bien qu’ils soient géographiquement stables – ce qui signifie aucun transport de corps – Fyfe n’est probablement pas le meurtrier dans les affaires montréalaises de Lison Blais, Katherine Hawkes ou Francine Da Silva. Ces meurtres ont été commis après la tombée de la nuit. Fyfe – et le violeur plombier qu’il est supposé avoir été – ont préféré opérer à la lumière du jour, généralement en fin d’après-midi.
Que Fyfe ait tué Pearson ou non, tout cela n’aurait pas été une nouvelle pour la police du Québec. La capture de Fyfe en 1999 a déclenché un examen de masse de tous les meurtres non résolus dans le dossier de Montréal, ils auraient su qu’il vivait à LaSalle très près de l’endroit où Pearson a été assassiné. William Fyfe était-il le deuxième homme interrogé par la police de Montréal en 1983? Rappelez-vous qu’après que le suspect numéro un a été relâché – le gars de la voiture rouge – la police a appréhendé un autre homme et l’a soumis à un test de détection de mensonge parce qu’ils “… ne pensaient pas qu’il donnait les bonnes réponses à nos questions.” Ce suspect était-il le violeur plombier? Était-ce William Fyfe?
Le rapport du coroner de Theresa Pearson a été signé le 9 août 1983. Il contenait cette curieuse déclaration:
«À ce jour, malgré toutes les recherches effectuées par les enquêteurs,
il est impossible de reconstituer les circonstances de ce crime et
identifier le ou les coupables. Une enquête publique ne serait d’aucune utilité. »
Un voisin s’est souvenu que l’affaire avait été classée très rapidement. Personne dans le quartier n’a jamais été interrogé.
N’était-ce pas une enquête publique exactement ce qui était nécessaire? Jusqu’au meurtre de Pearson, des dizaines de rapports faisaient état d’un violeur en série opérant dans la région de Montréal. Il y a eu trois meurtres non résolus – Bernier, Raymond et Scattolon – tous avec un m.o. similaire La police faisait tourner ses roues depuis des années. Des femmes se plaignaient que la police «« délibérément des informations» sur le violeur et mettait en danger des femmes ».
Une enquête publique a peut-être arrêté Fyfe. Cela a peut-être sauvé la vie de Theresa Pearson. Au lieu de cela, Fyfe s’en est pris aux femmes pendant encore 16 ans.
This is Who Killed Theresa.
Pour une carte interactive de l’histoire d’aujourd’hui, cliquez ici:
“Reviewed, it seems
As if someone were watching over it
Before it was
As if response were based on fact
It was soon there
Squared to it, faced to it
It was not there”
When Theresa Pearson was murdered in a LaSalle parking garage in the 1980s, serial killed William Fyfe was living a five minute drive away.
That’s it. That’s really all I got today. I’m your host, John Allore, have yourselves a great, great day.
I want to talk mostly about Fyfe today, specifically those years in the 1980s where he was believed to have been the plumber rapist who terrorized downtown Montreal. For this episode, I’m assuming you’re all acquainted with Canadian serial killer, William Fyfe – I’m not going to cover all aspects of his story except to say that it took a long time – we’re talking BTK time – before Fyfe was caught. Before we get there, a reminder of the Theresa Pearson Case.
This is Who Killed Theresa.
[ Many thanks to the Quebec researcher, Annie Richard for her assistance with this story. ]
19-year-old Theresa Pearson went missing on Wednesday, May 18th, 1983, one week before she was due to graduate from a secretarial course at LaSalle High School. Pearson was last seen getting off a city bus after school near the corner of boulevard Lasalle and 90th avenue. She lived with her parents in a duplex at the end of a cul-de-sac at 9339 Terrace Greenfield, a two minute walk from the bus stop.
Pearson’s body was found around 4:00 p.m. in the garage of an apartment building at 9379 LaSalle boulevard, the garage faces towards the back yard of Pearson’s home. She had been struck in the head ten times, possibly with a tire jack bar. There were no overt signs of sexual assault. Her schoolbag and books were found nearby. The bag contained only $2. Her purse, which police believed contained no money, was missing.
School finished around 3:00 p.m., so the body was found very quickly, within approximately 15 minutes of the murder. Whoever did it was either well prepared, extremely lucky, or both.
In an earlier podcast I suggested that the easiest and safest way home would have been to walk from the bus stop down 90th avenue to Lasalle boulevard, both are main roads with lots of traffic. I later learned that this was probably not the case for Theresa that day. A relative – possibly Pearson’s grandmother – lived in the apartment building where she was found, and she visited regularly. To get there, Pearson would have cut down a back route, rue Centrale and approached the apartment entrance from the back alley. This provided the reason why Pearson was in the area to begin with. After visiting her grandmother she would have cut through some adjacent apartments and hopped the fence into her backyard which, as we said, faced the garage entrances – as kids do. However this never occurred as she probably met her offender while approaching the entrance down the alleyway who then dragged her into the garage and attacked her.
In the early days of the investigation, police were looking for a red car that was spotted in the alley beside the garages on LaSalle blvd. Police later discarded the lead when they were able to track down the owner, questioned him, and became convinced of his innocence.
Police later apprehended another man and subjected him to a lie detector test after concluding, “We didn’t think he was giving the right answers to our questions.” This lead ultimately went nowhere.
William Fyfe’s Early Murders
Reports of a plumber-rapist first begin to circulate in the Montreal area as early as 1979. In February of that year, The Gazette reports that, “Elderly women in Montreal’s northeast sector are being robbed and raped by a man posing as a plumber…”. The article continues that in this latest of 14 attacks, a woman in her mid-sixties was raped and robbed of $30, after a man claimed water was leaking into neighboring apartments. MUC police disclose that they have been working the case of a plumber rapist since December of 1978, and that, “The only pattern we can see is that he strikes in the afternoon or evenings” and that he must, “research his victims”. Police admit they do not have a good description of the rapist but that he is “around 30 years of age, has light brown hair and stands around five feet nine inches tall”.
On October 17, 1979, 62-year-old Suzanne Bernier is murdered in her north-end apartment at 1800 de Salaberry Ave. Police say the motive was robbery. Twenty years later, William Fyfe would confess to her murder. At the time of the murder, Fyfe was serving a sentence at the nearby Bordeaux jail. Fyfe was let out on a day pass to work that day, but as police later would say, “he didn’t go to work, he committed this murder”. The apartment is under a mile from Bordeaux.
The naked body of 26-year-old Nicole Raymond was found in her apartment under a month later on November 11, 1979. Raymond was stabbed several times in the throat and chest in apartment 503 at 80 Lakeshore Road in Pointe Claire.
Fyfe later confessed to this murder as well ( he presumably was no longer serving at Bordeaux at that time). We don’t know precisely where he was living at the time of Raymond’s death, but two years earlier in 1977 Fyfe shows up at 3450 rue Victoria along the lakeshore, and a direct 5 miles from Raymond’s apartment.
Fyfe’s last known murder from this era is the March 1981 stabbing of 53-year-old Hazel Scattolon, and again, as with the other cases, he’s not hunting far from where he’s living. Scattolon is found in her apartment at 35 Glengarry Ave. in the Town of Mount Royal. In 1981 Fyfe was living about a mile away at 1231 rue Chameran.
Again, Scattolon is the last of Fyfe’s known murder victims from this early period. He is not known to have murdered again until 1987. Interestingly, these “missing years” from 1981 to 1987 coincide with the rise of the plumber rapist cases in Montreal. Crimes for which Fyfe has long been the suspect.
The Plumber Rapist
The plumber rapist story surfaces again in Montreal in May of 1981. Just months after the Scattolon murder, Montreal police announce that a, quote, “‘Plumber’ attacked 20 women”
Montreal police describe a man with curly hair, sometimes wearing a baseball cap, posing as a plumber to gain entry to homes. The attacks are centered downtown but police say, “We think he’s the same man who attacked women in the north end of the city last year.” The victims range in age from 20 to 65. The man is described as “very active and violent” about five feet nine inches tall, approximately 165 pounds and speaks English, and French with an accent.
Two weeks later, facing pressure from women who complain police are “”deliberately holding back information” on the rapist and endangering women”, a police sketch of the suspect is released. Police complain that with all the media attention, the rapist has been “scared away” and the attacks have stopped, inhibiting their ability to catch him. The sketch looks very much like a young William Fyfe:
It appears that Montreal police got their way. Throughout the summer and fall of 1981 the story goes cold, with the media presumably muzzled to provide police the opportunity to ‘smoke him out’. It didn’t work. On November 30th MUC police announce efforts to ‘step up their hunt’ following three assaults in downtown Montreal that month. Reports are consistent that the ‘plumber rapist’ is five feet nine inches tall, weighing about 165 pounds, but police drop the age to 25 (Fyfe was 26 at the time). Police say they are willing to “re-establish a 12-member team to investigate the case” – apparently that had been dropped – if more women will come forward.
Considering all this activity in 1981, it might be tempting to consider the murder of Roxanne Luce as a potential Fyfe victim. Luce was found bludgeoned in her home in Longueuil on April 1, 1981, but Fyfe as the assassin is doubtful. William Fyfe preyed on victims far afield in downtown Montreal, the north end, the west island, the Laurentians, possibly Laval, but never the south shore. The Plumber Rapist had a similar path – the west island, north end, central Montreal, possible the Ste Therese – Rosemere districts off the island, but was never reported in the Longueuil area.
‘Plumber’ rapist strikes
It’s almost a full year before we hear again about the plumber rapist. On August 19th, 1982 a young man posing as a plumber gains access to a 22-year-old woman’s apartment in Dollard-des-Ormeaux (part of Montreal’s west island community) and rapes her armed with a knife. The man matches earlier descriptions, and the police sketch obtained from the woman’s recollections again looks very similar to a young William Fyfe:
At the close of 1982, after three years and no success in capturing the plumber rapist, police announce that this Montreal sexual predator may have a copycat.
Theresa Pearson and the Plumber Rapist
Two-and-a-half years pass, and there is no mention of the Plumber rapist. Remember that the Theresa Pearson murder occurs during this time, in the spring of 1983. We can’t be certain where William Fyfe is in the spring of 1983, but this much is known. 1984 and 1985 probably provided Fyfe with some years of stability where he may have ceased engaging in sexual attacks. On December 27, 1983 Fyfe marries. Fyfe had a child with the woman, but it is known to have been a rocky union. Fyfe routinely beat his wife. In November 1985 the couple separate. She files for divorce in 1986, and by 1988 the divorce is granted with full custody for their son.
By 1985 and 1986, we know Fife is living at 410 rue Bergevin, about a mile from Pearson’s home in LaSalle. He may, in fact have been living here in 1983 when Pearson was beaten to death, but there are no documents to verify that.
During this time, police revise their m.o. of the plumber rapist. The headline of a June 1985 piece penned by Eddie Collister and James Mennie announced, “Elusive rapist preys on teenaged girls”:
“Police reports indicate that the rapist, who usually strikes between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, waits around schools, parks and small convenience stores and follows his victims home from there.”
At first, you’re tempted to think that this is the copycat, but too many things are similar to the Fyfe plumber rapist. The suspect focuses on the downtown area and the west-end. He’s suspected of attacking 12 girls between the ages of 13 and 18. Now there’s a common misconception that Fyfe attacked ‘old women’. Sometimes he attacked elderly victims. Nicole Raymond was 26. In the earliest accounts of the plumber rapist from 1981 – a man who is undoubtedly Fyfe – police say the victims are between 20 and 65. In terms of choosing his victims, Fyfe is clearly an equal opportunity offender. He, “gains access to the house by posing as a plumber or a repairman or by saying he has to leave a message.” He “carries a black leather bag containing a dagger and wears black leather racing gloves.” described as “a white francophone male about five feet 11 inches and weighing about 150 pounds”. Fyfe spoke French with an accent. The height and weight roughly match his appearance.
There is one final account of Montreal’s Plumber Rapist. In the summer of 1986 two young woman are attacked in Montreal’s north end. Recall that by now Fyfe is separated from his wife and she has filed for divorce. The first woman is a 21-year-old from the St. Michel district, the second is another young woman from neighboring St. Leonard. Both were raped in their homes by a man claiming to be a “city water inspector or plumber”. The suspect is again, in his 20s, five feet seven inches tall, 165 pounds, is French-speaking and wears glasses and gray gloves. The composite sketch provided by the women this time looks a little different because of the glasses and new haircut, but the mouth still looks like Fyfe:
What’s interesting about these rapes is that they occur adjacent to the neighborhood of Parc Extension, William Fyfe’s childhood neighborhood in the 60s and 70s. Fyfe was raised by his aunt – he grew up in an apartment at 1380 rue Ouimet – and it is here that he apparently returned. Once the divorce was granted in 1988, Fyfe was using apartment #27 on rue Ouimet at least as his mailing address. And Fyfe was known in this era to have ventured door-to-door selling “copper fittings” and offering to do “small plumbing jobs”.
After 1986 there are no more reports of a rapist operating under the ruse of a plumber repairman in the Montreal area. This roughly corresponds to the time when William Fyfe relocated to the Laurentians north of Montreal. In 1987 he begins murdering in this area; first Louise Blanc-Poupart in Sainte Adele, then Pauline Laplante in 1989 in Piedmont. For a while he sought treatment for drug and alcohol dependency at a local rehabilitation centre. It is in this period that Fyfe earns the nickname from locals, “Bill Anglais”, because he speaks French with an English accent.
Fyfe’s last four known murders were all committed while he was living with his mother in Innisfil south of Barrie, Ontario, and demonstrate his accelerated, reckless behavior. Fyfe travelled hundreds of miles to commit murders back in the Montreal area – in Laval, Senneville, Saint Agathe and Baie d’Urfe. With his final murder – Mary Glen on December 15, 1999 – Fyfe got sloppy. No longer wearing gloves for protection, he left a single fingerprint on a kitchen doorframe. Fyfe was swiftly apprehended back in Barrie, shortly after disposing of blood evidence in a church dumpster.
Interviewed for a profile on Fyfe in the Gazette in 2001, psychiatrist Gilles Chamberland of the Philippe Pinel Institute for the criminally insane- and if you’re keeping score, yes, that is the same Gilles Chamberland who just this week testified for the Crown in the sentencing hearings of convicted murderer Ugo Fredette -offered the following:
“These are people who are well organized. They have a world in their heads they won’t show to anyone else… They are adept at arranging things so that they can continue to (commit their crimes) by leading what looks like a normal life.
These (sadistic) acts are demonstrations of power; to show that ‘I’m powerful, I’m in control. I have the power of life and death over you.
For these people there is a type of pressure to commit these acts that starts as an idea and becomes more and more obsessive. They will begin to organize and plan until the crime is committed and then there will be a relaxation of the aggressivity and a calm for a certain time before, unfortunately, it begins to build again.”
Here’s the case for why William Fyfe may have murdered Theresa Pearson:
- Around the time of the Pearson murder Fyfe is living in LaSalle, a five minute drive from the garage where her body was found.
- Throughout the 1980s, Fyfe’s murders and the plumber rapist’s sexual assaults mostly occur close to places where Fyfe lived, often within a mile of his residence.
- Most of Fyfe’s victims were stabbed to death, but they were also beaten. Police noted after sentencing that Fyfe’s victims were, “beaten to the point of disfigurement. Some were smashed with heavy objects”, perhaps, for instance with a tire jack bar.
- If you look at the building where Pearson was attacked at 9379 LaSalle boulevard, it resembles the type of building where Fyfe committed his early murders, and the plumber rapist conducted his sexual assaults; a blockish 3 – 5 story apartment building resembling public housing. Fyfe often lived in such places. It is the type of apartment unit where he grew up on rue Ouilet.
- Theresa Pearson is the very model of the victim described in the 1985 article above, “Elusive rapist preys on teenaged girls”: a 19-year-old, coming home from school around 3 p.m., we can well imagine her wandering into the corner convenience store, undoubtedly a Perrette’s for a freezie on a hot spring day, her assailant stalking her a few steps behind. Perhaps he’s followed her many times, to get her travel patterns exact.
What if on Wednesday, May 18, 1983 he doesn’t follow her. Fyfe is already in place at the apartment garage because he knows that’s where she’ll be. The encounter begins in the alleyway. He says he’s doing some work on a water heater in the garage, but he’s locked himself out, he needs to get back upstairs to talk to his client. Can Pearson let him in through the garage entrance? Perhaps he intended to assault her. Perhaps she was just a vehicle, and his prey was someone inside. It’s also about money, but not a lot of money – drug money. The woman from 1979 was raped and robbed of $30. Pearson was found with $2, but her purse was missing. Whatever the circumstances, the encounter didn’t take long and he was probably interrupted. She was found 15 minutes after she died. Newspapers reported that she was not sexually assault. This was almost certainly not the case. Friends of the Pearson family shared that Theresa’s despondent mother did not want those details in the papers. Fyfe was known to have sexually assaulted victims post-mortem.
Perhaps the most compelling indicator that Fyfe is the murderer of Theresa Pearson is in the consideration of who he is not.
Fyfe did not murder Sharron Prior, Jocelyne Houle or Denise Bazinet; three Montreal victims who were transported and dumped. Fyfe’s victims were found in or next to buildings, they were not found in fields, or at the side of a road. Fyfe was what Holmes & De Burger (1988) referred to as a geographically stable offender, one who kills victims and disposes of their bodies in areas that overlap where they live or where they spend their time. Prior, Houle and Bazient were murdered by a geographically transient offender.
Although they are geographically stable – meaning no body transport – Fyfe is probably not the murderer in the Montreal cases of Lison Blais, Katherine Hawkes or Francine Da Silva. These murders were committed after dark. Fyfe – and the plumber rapist who he is presumed to have been – preferred to operate in the light of day, usually in the late afternoon.
Whether Fyfe killed Pearson or not, all of this wouldn’t have been news for Quebec police. Fyfe’s capture in 1999 triggered a mass review of all unsolved murders in the Montreal docket, they would have known he was living in LaSalle very close to where Pearson was murdered. Was William Fyfe the second man interrogated by the Montreal Police in 1983? Recall that after suspect number one was let go – the red car guy – police apprehended another man and subjected him to a lie detector test because they “… didn’t think he was giving the right answers to our questions.” Was this suspect the plumber rapist? Was it William Fyfe?
Theresa Pearson’s Coroner’s Report was signed August 9, 1983. It contained this curious statement:
“To date, despite all the research done by the investigators,
it is impossible to reconstruct the circumstances of this crime and
to identify the culprit (s). A public inquiry would be of no use.”
A neighbor remembered that the case was dropped very quickly. No one in the neighborhood was ever questioned.
Wasn’t a public inquiry exactly what was required? Up to the point of the Pearson murder there had been dozens of reports of a serial rapist operating in the Montreal area. There were three unsolved murders – Bernier, Raymond, and Scattolon – all with a similar m.o. Police had been spinning their wheels for years. Women had been complaining that the police were “”deliberately holding back information” on the rapist and endangering women”.
A public inquiry may have stopped Fyfe. It may have saved Theresa Pearson’s life. Instead Fyfe preyed on women for another 16 years.
This is Who Killed Theresa.
For an interactive map of today’s story click here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1i9Q0sHhPWK-l7vF4VxwMHnNapFUZTZcK&ll=45.50779221830829%2C-73.74434669256499&z=12
“Renewed, it fought
As if it had a cause to live for
Denied, it learned
As if it had sooner been destroyed
It was soon there
Squared to it, faced to it
It was not there”