Julie Surprenant: Part III

My two cents? A complete failure of the Quebec / Canadian public safety system:


Nurse heard confession in Julie Surprenant disappearance, hearing told

MONTREAL – The way Annick Prud’Homme tells it, a special room at Cité de la Santé Hospital in Laval serves as an unofficial confessional.

The auxiliary nurse was one of the people Richard Bouillon confessed to days before he died of cancer, on June 21, 2006, admitting he killed Julie Surprenant, a 16-year-old student who disappeared in November 1999.

The girl’s body has never been found and Quebec Coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier is holding a public inquiry at the Laval courthouse to determine why Bouillon’s confession was only revealed in 2011. The coroner said one goal of the public inquiry is to find out why information about the confession was not passed on to police immediately.

Last year, after the confession came to light, the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec said nurses can’t divulge such information because of rules that govern “professional secrets.”

Bouillon was never charged with Surprenant’s disappearance or her death, but Sûreté du Québec investigation into it produced sexual assault charges against him from two different women. In 2003, he received a 10-year sentence for those crimes and was stricken with cancer three years later. He was transferred from a penitentiary in Drummondville to Cité de la Santé Hospital in Laval eight days before he died. The SQ tried to get him to confess before he was transferred, but Bouillon told the investigators nothing.

At that point it was widely known that Bouillon had been at the centre of the investigation into Surprenant’s disappearance.

Prud’Homme testified Tuesday morning that Bouillon confessed to her three times during his eight-day stay at the hospital. She said he made the admissions to her while asking for a chance to talk to Claude Poirier, a well-known TVA journalist who is often contacted by criminals. Prud’Homme said she assumed Bouillon’s request to talk to Poirier would eventually put the two men in contact. She said she assumed Correctional Service Canada handled the request because the special room at the hospital is under their jurisdiction. She said the room in which Bouillon made the confessions is designed like a prison cell. It is used to treat up to two inmates from federal penitentiaries at any given time and a guard is always in the room when an inmate is present. Laval is home to three federal penitentiaries.

A lawyer for Correctional Service Canada, who is part of the inquiry, was asked by the coroner on Tuesday to see if personnel records about who guarded Bouillon at the hospital are still available.

Prud’Homme said Bouillon added details the third and final time he confessed to killing Surprenant. He said he placed her body in a sports bag, added bricks to it and tossed it into the Mille Îles River in Terrebonne, behind a church. She also said it wasn’t until January 2011, after seeing Poirier host a show about Surprenant’s disappearance, that she “fully realized” Bouillon never talked to the journalist. She said she previously assumed Poirier and Bouillon had spoken and that is why she didn’t come forward until 2011.

Last year, police divers searched a section of the river they believe Bouillon was referring to but found nothing.

Prud’Homme said she shared the information with colleagues in 2006 and said that she “would be surprised” if the guards assigned to the room on one of the three occasions didn’t overhear Bouillon’s confessions.

She said Bouillon also told her he had raped “girls and boys” in a park in Laval’s Vimont district – crimes he was never charged with. She testified she never felt Bouillon’s confession was protected by a code of “professional secrets.”

She said that, in her opinion, only a patient’s medical information is confidential.

She also said she regrets not having done more in 2006.

“I didn’t even think of it,” when asked if she ever felt Bouillon’s confession was protected by an obligation on her part to respect “professional secrets” as her professional order claimed last year.

Prud’Homme also said inmates dying of a terminal illness often confess their past sins to nurses in the room. Lawyer Marc Bellemare, representing Julie’s father, Michel Surprenant, at the inquiry, asked Prud’Homme if the hospital has any protocol in place to deal with such information. Prud’Homme worked in the room from 2005 to 2008 and said she had never heard of such a protocol while she was assigned there and hasn’t heard of any since.

Johanne Dubois, a nurse’s assistant at Cité de la Santé, testified after Prud’Homme and said Bouillon also confessed to her about two days before he died.

“He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘It was me who killed her’,” Dubois said, adding all the nurses in the department knew Bouillon was a suspect in Surprenant’s disappearance.

“Why did you believe him,” Bellemare asked.

“Because of the way he looked at me,” Dubois said.

Trudel-Tessier asked Dubois if she would handle such a situation differently now. Dubois said she would, but her answer was less than convincing.

“I think it would be different. I’d call the police or do something. I don’t know,” Dubois said.

During a break at the inquiry, Pina Arcamone, head of the Missing Children’s Network, said that Prud’Homme’s testimony was difficult to listen to.

“I think it is really upsetting that there were no protocols in place and there still are no protocols in place, especially in cases involving unresolved crimes,” Arcamone said. “It’s unexplainable at this point.”

At the start of Tuesday’s hearing, SQ Sgt. Sebastien Rousseau testified Bouillon was a suspect in Julie’s disappearance from Day 1.

He lived in the same building as Surprenant’s family and had a criminal record for several sex offences involving minors.

Rousseau said Bouillon underwent a polygraph test and it indicated he was not telling the whole truth about the disappearance.

Traces of human blood were found on Bouillon’s boots and in his car but tests done on them did not establish a link to the missing girl, the investigator said.

Michel Surprenant is expected to testify for the inquiry on Wednesday. A member of the SQ who is an expert on a sex-offender registry accessible to police is also expected to testify.

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