Here are some photos from my trip to the archives of Allo Police this Summer. For those of you that don’t know the history of this Quebec tabloid newspaper – and it is a fascinating history – sometime ago a journalism student at Ryerson wrote this great piece on the paper’s long relationship with Quebec police agencies through the early 50s to it’s eventual decline in the early 80s. Here is an excerpt:
“The Allo Police formula was simple, says former-editor Bernard Tetrault: send one reporter and one photographer to every murder scene. Because other newspapers were not writing about crime in the magazine’s heyday, there was little competition; the tabloid could cover every crime that occurred within miles of its Montreal offices at a leisurely pace.
“Allo Police has essentially covered every murder in the province since 1953,” says Tetrault. Journalists hopped in their cars, drove for a few days, filed their reports, and the story appeared five to 10 days after the events. There was no technology enabling journalists to go live from the scene, so there was little impetus for anyone to get there fast. Nor did All0 Police have to look too hard for local crime stories – Quebec police usually tipped them off.”
You’d never find the current home of the Allo Police archives. Rouge Media, Allo‘s current parent company, resides on the second floor of a Longueuil strip-mall tucked along an industrial parkway just across the Jacques Cartier bridge:
The main archive consists of leather bound volumes of the weekly newspapers of both Allo and Photo Police:
I was given a conference room and basically all day to look at and photograph whatever I liked. I chose the era 1970 – 1982:
The newspaper archives are remarkable and informative, but the real treasure here are the photo archives. Each murder has a manilla file associated with it, containing photos from the case:
The information can be inconsistent. If it was a big case – and let’s be frank… a French victim – the photos can be quite comprehensive. Everything from details from the crime scene, to precise documentation of all the investigating officers, and endless photos of the funerals. This is the case with the files on Louise Camirand and Johanne Dorion; many, many photos.
There were very few photos in the files of Sharron Prior and my sister, Theresa Allore. And in some cases, there is no information at all. At one time Rouge Media had a policy of loaning out the files to media and police; a lot of it was never returned. There is also personal bias: I know some of the past archivists have removed disturbing information out of sympathy for families and victims.
And then there are times you get lucky: The files of Norma O’Brien and Debbie Fisher contained the typo-ridden, signed confession of their murderer, the Chateauguay Sex Killer. The Johanne Dorion file contained a letter of sympathy from the mother of Sharron Prior. The Denise Bazinet file contained police reports. In the case of Louise Camirand, the photographer took a picture of the names of the other residents in her apartment building at the front entry:
In all, I took 800 photos that day. All of it is now archived on my computer, and I shared the information with Rouge Media, in hopes that they might start a more formal and comprehensive digital archiving project: Some bright, young criminology student in the Montreal are might want to suggest this as an intern project.