Letter from former Champlain teacher Michael BenazonThursday, September 19, 2002
The news that the Sûreté de Québec has decided not to re the investigation into the tragic death of Theresa Allore will disappoint the many Canadians who have been following this case, and it will alarm hundreds of Townships residents who were hoping for some resolution to this sorry affair. Are we to be given no official explanation? Are we to understand that the investigation stands where it did 23 years ago with the absurd hypothesis that on the night of Nov. 3, 1978 Ms Allore overdosed on drugs and died, and that her friends and classmates instead of calling for an ambulance or for the police, stripped off her outer clothing, transported her body to a small creek about two kilometres away, and then several months later tossed her wallet into a farmer’s field thirteen kilometres to the north? Given the failure of the police to come up with some substantiating evidence, this dubious story will only serve to nourish suspicions that the provincial police are shielding their colleagues at the local level who mishandled this case, and others, 23 years ago.
It is not that Townships residents are looking for scapegoats. They are worried that the same person who killed Theresa Allore also killed Manon Dubé in January of the same year, and Louise Camirand on March 19, 1977, and that the same person made an aborted attack on yet another young woman on Oct. 3, 1978 on Chemin MacDonald, all in the same area between Sherbrooke and Compton. The murderer is, as far as we know, still at large. If the provincial police are convinced that there is no link between these assaults and the recent deaths of two women, again in the Sherbrooke area, they should give their reasons in an official report at a public press conference where their findings can be challenged by family members and other interested parties. If it turns out that the earlier investigations were mishandled by the local police, the public needs to be informed what measures have been taken to improve police efficiency and professional competence in the Sherbrooke region. Without these reassurances, young women will be afraid to go out alone at night, to walk to school, to hike, jog, cycle, or ski unless accompanied by others. An atmosphere of apprehension and fear is not conducive to leisure industries, tourism, and to the creation of proper study conditions on the various campuses in Sherbrooke and Lennoxville. And needless to say, people will lose their trust in the ability of local police forces to protect them.
The second issue has to do with the attitude of Champlain College. The present campus director has stated that the college fully co-operated with the police in the past and that “it intends to do so again when and if the investigation is red.” Although it devolves upon the provincial police to carry out the criminal investigation, the directors of Champlain College also have a responsibility to clarify their role in the aftermath of Ms Allore’s disappearance on the night of Nov. 3, 1978. Now that the police have decided not to rethe case, Champlain College would be well advised to hold an enquiry of its own and make its findings public. It is highly unlikely that the College could have prevented Ms Allore’s abduction, if that indeed was what happened. However, the College should explain to the public its role in three areas:
1. Why did the College decide to establish a residence in Compton? How many students were in residence there? How many staff members were placed in charge, and what was their professional training? Was it wise to place such a large number of adolescents, many of whom had never lived away from home, in a residence located 15-20 kilometres from the main campus? How much money was allocated by the Ministry of Education for staffing the residence? Did the College fully use its allocation, or did College officials feel that the Ministry of Education was not providing enough money for staffing? If the latter, did they communicate their staffing concerns to the provincial government? What action did the College take to reports that underage drinking and consumption of illegal drugs were taking place at the Compton residence? Was the shuttle-bus service adequate? What response did the College make to complaints Touchstone, the student newspaper?
2. Why did it take so long for the College to discover that Ms Allore was missing? What measures are now in place to report if a student is missing from the residence? These questions, if fully and honestly answered, should reassure the public that the College now takes adequate measures to ensure the safety and welfare of its students in residence. 3. What, precisely, was the source of the apparently slanderous remarks made about Ms Allore following her disappearance?
These remarks, as reported by Ms Pearson in her series of three articles in the National Post, added grievous insult to the terrible injury inflicted on the Allore family. They also appear to have served as an excuse for the police and the College to dismiss the suggestion, apparently made by more than one person at the time, to undertake a comprehensive search of the fields between Compton and Lennoxville. While a search could not have saved Ms Allore, it could have provided immediate conclusive proof that a murder had taken place. Has the College apologized to the Allores for the inappropriate remarks made by a Champlain official to family members on the character of Theresa? An early and forthright report to the public will do much to refute most of the rumours floating around. It will also clear the Compton students of the time from the apparently slanderous charges that they were somehow implicated in Ms Allore’s disappearance.