PREVIOUS PODCAST: Why Murders Are Unsolved – Teresa Martin #8 / WKT5
Bus. Morgue. Wallet. Missing Clothing. Journal de Montreal. Don Bosco.
Pattern Recognition is a term I borrowed from computer science. It’s used in sequence / spatial analysis and machine learning, with origins in cognitive behavior. There are some pretty large sign posts I recognize in the Teresa Martin case. Both Martin and my sister were last seen by persons on a bus. Our fathers made the identification of the bodies at the morgue in the Surete du Quebec’s Montreal headquarters on rue Parthenais. In both cases the victims’ clothing was never recovered. Later, their wallets were found but not at the victim dump sites. Both Teresa Martin and Theresa Allore were discredited as drug users by the tabloid, Le Journal de Montreal, despite no scientific evidence of drugs or alcohol in their systems at the time of death. Finally, years later, both myself and Teresa Martin’s sister made pilgrimages to the SQ HQ in Sherbrooke, located on Don Bosco ( Martin’s family later moved to the Eastern Townships), both of us, I suppose, displaying a dogged unwillingness – perhaps a naivety – to let things go.
A person dies, but the indignities they continue to suffer – particularly murder victims – seem endless. A girl goes missing, and the police ask, have you a photograph, something we can use to help search for your loved one? So the family frantically provides the last picture taken. It’s never a particularly good photo; they never really had that hair style, she didn’t really look that crazed, that’s not her blouse, remember? she borrowed that. Still, you give it to the police, and from then on, forever and for always, that becomes the public face of your private suffering.
I have some regrets about all the photos I’ve shared of my sister, Theresa. Initially I released them to say, There she is, she existed. She was dynamic, she had many appearances. Not just that smiling, frizzy haired girl in the green top with spaghetti straps. Now there are too many photos in too many places. You can’t control how those images become used by others for well intentioned, but ultimately not so nice purposes. Having said that, I like the photo Theresa Martin’s family chose to display on the Surete du Quebec’ cold case website. Teresa with a kitten in Caravaggio grey, black and brown. It looks like Teresa, or rather, it looks like how I imagine Teresa looked. Those eyes staring right back at you, asking you – daring you – to make a move, do something.
‘The evening of September 12, 1969, 14-year-old Teresa Martin disappears while coming back from the Galeries D’Anjou cinema by bus, accompanied by two friends. At the intersection of boulevard Saint-Michel and boulevard Henri-Bourassa, Teresa left her friends to take a transfer. Around 3 a.m., her body was found in a sitting position in the parking lot of the Vieux Cyprès tavern, on boulevard Henri-Bourassa. The young victim had been carefully placed there by the suspect(s)’ – This is the official notice from her investigating force, the Surete du Quebec.
Last week, La Presse published a lengthy article on the Teresa Martin case. Qui a tué Teresa Martin? is a work of investigative journalism, covering many of the details we’ve laid out in this podcast – the coroner’s interrogation of Johanne H, the establishment of the Quebec motorcycle association, La MUQ by the police and Quebec government, the conclusion that La MUQ enabled the rise of biker gangs in the province – and included an interview with Martin’s sister, Isabel. That’s not some coincidence, nor is it La Presse trolling my website and taking credit for my work, that kind of effort takes a dogged persistence.
About the time of the fourth episode on La MUQ, I approached La Presse asking them to do a French version of what I’d been reporting. This kind of pitch doesn’t always work, you have to have something unique to show them. It’s happened in the past with a few stories of covered, La Presse picked up the Diane Thibault case and the piece on Roderick Nicholson as a probable suspect in the murders of Diane Dery and Mario Corbeil. In the matter of Teresa Martin, I had the coroner report, the MUQ information, and the connection with Martin’s sister. I will note that I asked Isabel twice if she’d like to come on this podcast and discuss the matter from her perspective, and I believe she – rather wisely – declined that offer. But passing up the opportunity for a 2000 word column in one of Quebec’s largest French newspapers – far more than the standard ‘shock and awe’ 500 word jobs you typically see these days – was too important an opportunity to turn down for someone who still believes – 52 years later – that there is hope that the case may be solved.
My job was to broker the relationship between La Presse and Isabel, and after that, what they discussed and how the story was shaped was none of my business. Very often these things don’t go well, you go away feeling very exploited by the media. And you can say, ‘but John, they took your story, they took credit for it?!’ And I say, don’t be so naive, there are always trade offs. La Presse knows it’s my investigative work, we discussed that. There are tradeoffs and exceptions to everything. The bottom line is this was too important a case to have kept in isolation. When you find the right voice that can elevate and daylight a matter, especially in the language of the province, you have to respond to that opportunity.
But now there is a crossroad. As sure as the rising sun, the Quebec media will now be calling at the door to do more stories. At a minimum, Journal de Montreal will come knocking for some blurbs for a 55 anniversary article (it will be 200 words). Attraction Media, and Point Virgule, and any number of production companies will want to take the words and turn it into visual documentary. In the case of JdM, I would do what I did when they approached me two years ago for my sister’s 40 anniversary. There’s a line, and 40 years ago they crossed it, so I literally told them to Fuck Off.
In the case of television? My first question back them would be, how much are you going to pay me? And when they say, “but you would dare asked to be paid for such a thing?” I would say, but you’re getting paid for such a thing! And I would ask for three salaries; for your story, for your research, and for appearing on camera, because you are also the talent. Because my advice would be not to participate in these programs, but if you’re going to do it, you should at least be compensated for your work like everyone else working in the true crime circus industry.
These people do not practice investigative reporting, they are entertainers. Sur les traces d’un tueur en série is not interested in solving murders, they are in the business of perpetuating fear – dressing up like extras from District 13 does not make you an investigator. Claude Poirier has survived for over 50 years because he plays all sides, he is a paid mercenary. In half a century he has not contributed to the resolution of a single unsolved murder. Claude Poirier has one central interest: Claude Poirier. Claude Poirier is an entertainer – and he knows this.
So you will have a choice as to what to do when these people come calling. My advice is that if you decide to work with them, you should at least get paid for it. After that, what they do with your story is out of your hands. You cannot control it. And what you do with their money, is none of our business.
After the publication of the La Presse article one of he SQ officers quoted in that story was reprimanded. Sylvain called and informed me that his supervisor will no longer allow him to discuss other cases with me. For those matters, I now have to go through police public affairs, just like any other schlep journalist. I told him I was disappointed, that such a reaction was silly and short-sighted. Rather than closing ranks – again – they should be opening up and becoming even more transparent with the public. It’s the public who’s interests they serve, no? We’re paying for it. But the Surete du Quebec have always had a higher priority, a greater interest. Themselves. They are there to ensure the survival of the agency, public safety is a secondary priority. Since at least the days of Duplessis Army, it has always been this way.
Over 20 years later, when I discovered the fact that my sister’s wallet had been found – not with the body, but 10 miles away from the dump site on the outskirts of Sherbrooke – I had a choice. This was holdback evidence, I imagine police did not like my writing about it on this website. But it had been 20 years. The cold case was frozen over. Much more important to discuss the wallet, and the fact that the lead investigator’s theory as to how it got there was that “wild dogs” had carried it in their mouths for 10 miles, then efficiently deposited along a public roadway.
In the summer of 2006 we had a recovery team visit the site where Louise Camirand’s body had been found in 1977 near Magog, Quebec. Since this was also the area where hunter’s reported seeing clothing matching the description of those worn by Theresa Allore when she was last seen, we thought this might be a productive search target. The Surete du Quebec declined our offer to participate in the search dismissing it as “a school project”. Over the years that site has produced several personal objects belonging to women, deteriorated to the point of having been from the era of the 1970s including jewelry, women’s shoes, a woman’s blouse, and a purse matching the description of one missing from a 1978 Montreal victim, Lison Blais. The Surete du Quebec has never expressed any interest in examining this evidence.
Last weekend, 15 years from the date of that search for evidence, the situation was almost identically repeated. A team of divers from Stéphane Luce’s grassroots non-profit, Meurtres et Disparitions Irrésolus du Quebec, searched a body of water near Wemotaci in an attempt to find the body of James Ambroise, who has been missing since October 15, 2017. They used a GoFundMe campaign to defray the costs of boats and oxygen tanks, exploring the waters of Lake Bréhard and the Saint-Maurice River as well as places where the Sûreté du Québec and local police could not, or would not go during previous searches. The team recovered a plastic bag of bones, more than likely animal bones. Among the dozens of volunteers on sight last weekend, the Surete du Quebec was nowhere to be found.
This weekend it was deja vu all over again. Friday marked the fifteenth anniversary of the death of Tiffany Morrison. The 24-year-old went missing June 17, 2006 in the borough of LaSalle, Montreal. Almost four years later, on May 31, 2010, her body was found in a wooded area across the Mercier Bridge in Kahnawake. The anniversary news headlines announced “The SQ wants to solve a murder that occurred in 2006 in Kahnawake”, but what was the Surete du Quebec actually doing, re-interviewing old witnesses? No, they were inviting the public to call their 1-800 information hotline.
At some point, you are no longer investigating a murder or disappearance, but the very quality of the investigation in the hands of those who have taken an oath to protect you. The police are no longer protecting the public, they’re protecting themselves. Half their efforts must be mop up jobs for some politician who compromised themselves with a call girl, or drugs, or some shakedown (If you don’t believe me look up l’affaire Gregoire form the early 1980s, and I don’t mean that Gregoire: Gilles Gregoire. Look it up). The Surete du Quebec has more in common with the Stasi or FSB, or more to the point, the DGSE, than any modern police force. 17 years after its creation, their cold case website has become a monument to failure.
There have been points along the way in this story where I’ve had to resist the urge to misinterpret certain facts. There’s another photo of Teresa. She’s standing on the balcony of a duplex apartment in a fur hat and coat. I wondered if this was one of her girlfriends’ places, perhaps where members of La MUQ hung out, Was the fur coat a gift, stolen in some biker robbery job? No, Theresa’s family moved to Montreal North about 6 months before her death, this was their prior home. The fur coat and hat were her mother’s, and she was trying them on and playing for the camera. I asked if Teresa ever went to Belmont Park. The amusement park was midway between our home growing up and Teresa’s, it was a popular destination for kids in the summer, perhaps we had all been there together at one time. No, Teresa never went to Parc Belmont. Those shoes she was thought to have been wearing that where never found. In the police reproduction they looked very fashionable, like an ad for flats I once saw from Bloomingdale’s or somewhere. Yes, they were part of her school uniform. Oh! Was she wearing her school uniform the night she died? No, she was wearing grey slacks and a green sweater.
That duplex where she lived before moving to Montreal North, at 10627 Rue d’Iberville. That’s one block away from Parc des Hirondelles – the park where in May 1969 Pierre “Butch” Boucher was stabbed 58 times by three members of the Devil’s Disciples motocycle club. Teresa Martin may not have followed trouble, but trouble seemed to have followed her.
Teresa Martin was a shy girl who had the misfortune of moving to a rough neighborhood. She didn’t do drugs, she didn’t hang out with bikers. One evening she took a late night bus from the movies and got off at Gouin Boulevard. Gouin is a very long boulevard, my sister Theresa used to sling pizza dough at Chez Luna, about 40 kilometers west on Gouin. The night of September 12, 1969 I believe Teresa Martin had a chance encounter with some very bad men and met with a most unfortunate outcome. The best answer is that Theresa’s murder was part of a biker ritual that never made it to the main event, she panicked and died within the process of that ritual. At least more than one person knows what happened. Isabel should know what happened, if only Quebec police would do their job.
For a more in depth conversation, listen to the episode podcast.