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: