La Presse – Nicolas Bérubé, June 6, 2021
More than 50 years after her death, the murder of Teresa Martin has still not been solved.
On the night of September 13, 1969, Teresa Martin, a 14-year-old teenager, was found dead leaning against a wall in the parking lot of a Montreal-North business. More than 50 years later, her family lament the “passivity” of the Sûreté du Québec’s unsolved crimes division, which often admits relying on appeals from the public before questioning key witnesses again.
A black hole
It was a little over 10 ° C and a light breeze was blowing around 3:30 a.m. when Pierre Cyr returned to his apartment at 6775, boulevard Henri-Bourassa, in Montreal-North.
Before getting in, Mr. Cyr saw a teenage girl sitting on the ground, leaning against the outside wall in the parking lot of the taverne du Vieux Cyprès.
The teenager was still. Mr. Cyr noticed her bare feet.
He walked over and tried to talk to her. The teenager did not react. In a panic, Mr. Cyr alerted the Montreal North police. They called an ambulance, which transported the girl to Sacré-Coeur Hospital, where a doctor pronounced her dead.
A few hours later, on the morning of Saturday, September 13, 1969, a worried father contacted the Montreal-North police to report his daughter’s disappearance.
The day before, he said, Teresa Martin, 14, had gone to see a movie at the Galeries d’Anjou cinema with two friends, and had never come home. Her friends confirmed that she got on the 41 bus at around 11 p.m.
When questioned by the police, the bus driver said he dropped the teenager off at the corner of Gouin and Rolland boulevards, near Rivière des Prairies, about two blocks from the Martin family’s apartment. . This was the last time she was seen alive.
The police quickly made the connection between the corpse found during the night and the disappearance of the teenager. Teresa Martin’s father went to identify his daughter at the morgue at the Sûreté du Québec headquarters on rue Parthenais.
Isabel Marcotte, Teresa Martin’s younger sister, remembers the day her sister disappeared as if it were yesterday.
“We had just moved into a new apartment on Léger Boulevard,” she said in an interview. Me and my sister, we slept in the same room. The next day, I remember there were lots of people at home, detectives, journalists… It just kept on going. “
Her family was never the same after Teresa’s death.
The worst part is watching your parents suffer. When you’re young, it breaks your heart, and there’s nothing you can do… I seem to miss my sister more now than in those years. I do not know how to explain it.
Isabel Marcotte, sister of Teresa Martin
A shy good student who was finishing her classical course at Regina Assumpta College, Teresa Martin was the daughter of a school principal and a private investigator. She had few friends and spent her weekends horseback riding on a Laval ranch, says her sister.
“She was a shy girl,” she says.
In his report, the medical examiner concluded that the teenager died of “asphyxiation from probable obstruction of the external airways.” She was not raped. Neither alcohol nor drugs were in his blood.
Shortly before or after his death, he also noted, his murderer (s) used a blade to engrave the words “F. V. Frenchy I love you” on his stomach.
This “tattoo” left the police very perplexed, wrote the journalist Michel Auger in La Presse in 1969.
Is he a sinister maniac who wanted to sign his crime or a clever assassin who wanted to lead the police on a false trail? At this time, the answer is not known.Michel Auger, in La Presse in 1969
Ms. Marcotte notes that the place Teresa had to walk to get home after getting off the bus was not lit in 1969. “In those years there were no houses. They were fields. At night it was a black hole. “
More than 30 people were questioned by investigators after Teresa Martin’s death, wrote the publication Hello Police in October 1969.
“At this stage of the investigation, the police are most optimistic about the imminent arrest of the perpetrator of this appalling crime,” the publication noted.
But no arrests were made.
The following year, authorities continued to question several teenage girls in Montreal North. One of them, Johanne H., a 14-year-old student, will tell them about unpunished crimes committed by a group of bikers.
Brutes, as she calls them, invited to settle in Montreal North and paid to do so by the Montreal police and the Quebec government.
United Motorcyclists of Quebec
At the end of the 1960s, the City of Montreal had a problem: groups of bikers at war with each other intimidated citizens and caused repeated complaints to the municipal police.
In 1969, John Dalzell, a 24-year-old police officer assigned to the youth section of the Montreal police force, instigated one of the first community policing projects in Montreal: to gain acceptance for the city’s 300 or so bikers.
With the support of the Government of Quebec and the Director of the Montreal Police, Jean-Paul Gilbert, John Dalzell founded the Motocyclistes unis du Québec (MUQ).
Bringing together bikers from various clubs such as the Popeyes, Death Riders, Dead Men, and Gorillas, the association aimed to “promote the sport of motorcycles and develop a spirit of understanding between different groups” of bikers.
At the launch of the MUQs, director Gilbert noted that many young Quebecers were attracted to “biker fashion” and wore leather coats in their club colors.
“It is necessary to find ways not to suppress this lifestyle, but to make it more acceptable,” he said, according to an article published at the time by The Gazette (now the Montreal Gazette ).
One of the ways to make it more acceptable was to provide a place for bikers to congregate and ride. To get there, the Montreal police reached an agreement with the British Petroleum company (now BP) to reserve a vacant lot for them on Boulevard Henri-Bourassa, in Montreal-North.
The provincial government, through its youth department, provided $ 3,600 to start the association [$ 26,000 in today’s dollars].
The head of one of the clubs, who is not named in The Gazette article, noted that motorcycle enthusiasts were poorly understood by the public.
“Our main problem is that uninformed people think we are bullies and good-for-nothing,” he said. We should not all suffer just because a small group of hotheads cause terror. We have a lot of control over our club and all we want to do is motorcycle racing. “
Yet, far from the media gaze and press conferences with elected officials, the reality of biker groups was very different.
In an interview conducted on May 21, 1970 in the investigation into the murder of Teresa Martin, teenager Johanne H. spoke to authorities about the bikers newly landed in Montreal North.
Aged 14, she explained to the coroner Me Laurin Lapointe, whose role it was to lay the criminal charges at the time, that she and several friends were spending time with “guys from the MUQ” at parties. and in a small restaurant near his high school.
Several of the MUQ guys “have been in jail” for some time, she said. Among those she dated, she cited the names Borosco, Gazou, Scorpion, Shifter, El Rebel, Jean-Guy, Mick, Pepilo, Flo, Rocky, Zipper and Crazy Horse.
The teenager also identified several bikers by their full names. La Presse wrote to people of the same name on social media, several of whom are riding motorcycles in their profile photos, but received no response from them.
MUQ members often behaved like “bullies,” the teenager told the coroner.
“They often threaten,” said the teenager.
[They threaten] who?
The teenager recounted how MUQ members threatened to “splash” teenage girls.
“What do you mean by splashs? Asked the coroner.
“He forces her to stuff things like that […]. They often say: “If you don’t, you’re going to have this” “, according to the minutes of the interview archived at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ).
The teenager, who attended Henri-Bourassa High School, added that she herself suffered a “splash”. She said she hasn’t seen bikers for a few months.
Later in the interview, she added that several bikers had “knives” on them, and they used them to “write on the skin.”
The teenager also explained that she heard friends say that “MUQ guys” killed Teresa Martin – whom she did not know and had never met.
The coroner tried to get the teenager who gave him this information to say, but she said she could not remember it. “Everyone was talking about it,” she said.
“We cannot contact everyone”
Years ago, investigators from the Sûreté du Québec’s unsolved crimes division contacted Isabel Marcotte, Teresa Martin’s sister.
They wanted her permission to post her sister’s photo in the unsolved crimes section of the SQ website. Glad to see that the authorities were still interested in the matter after all these years, she immediately nodded.
“I was excited when they called me. I told myself they were working on the file. “
The Teresa Martin murder case number on the SQ website is 068-700225-001. The file contains one of the few photos of Teresa: her sister does not have one.
A few years later, in 2019, the Sûreté du Québec announced with great fanfare that it wanted to reduce the number of busy full-time investigators in the unsolved crimes division from 5 to 30.
More than 700 files, many of which date back to the 1960s, were in the boxes of the police force. The idea was to get more staff to deal with these issues.
Especially since time could sometimes play in the favor of investigators, Lieutenant Martine Asselin explained to The Canadian Press in 2019.
“Twenty years, thirty years later, some people have died, we may have moved, our family situation may have changed, and then we are ready to talk about it today,” she said.
John Allore, author and host who has been studying unsolved murders in Quebec for years, is currently researching a book that will discuss, among other things, the murder of Teresa Martin.
On April 26, he was able to speak by phone with Sergeant Sylvain Benjamin of the Unsolved Crimes Division.
In a recording of this interview, Sergeant Benjamin explains that Sûreté du Québec investigators review the files to see if a detail was missed, and see if it is possible to have objects tested in the laboratory.
Then, with the family’s consent, they post a photo of the victim on their website.
“That way, if anyone knows anything, they’ll call us,” said Sergeant Benjamin.
Asked if this approach was proactive enough, Sergeant Benjamin replied: “We have 700 files, we cannot interview everyone again …”
In an interview with La Presse, Benoit Richard, information officer for the Sûreté du Québec, notes that the SQ wants to make the unsolved crimes section of its website “a reference”, and wants the public to be able to consult it. regularly “.
Mr. Richard notes that re-interviewing witnesses in a case is “not necessarily” the way investigators work.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t. I need to have something to allow me to go ask questions again, or call someone. We have to revive people with new things.
Benoit Richard, Sûreté du Québec information officer
Internally, files are reviewed “on a regular basis” by investigators, he says.
Since 2004, 11 murder cases have been resolved by the Unsolved Crimes Division and the Disappearances Division of the Sûreté du Québec.
For a police force that prides itself on putting a lot of resources and energy into the issue, this is a “completely unacceptable” record, laments John Allore.
“I know unsolved crimes are difficult to solve and time is not on the side of investigators. But Quebec has an advantage that other countries do not. People tend to stay put. Many witnesses have lived in the same place for 50 years. If the investigators really wanted to get things done, they would go talk to them. “
“Put a phone number”
After being initially excited when the SQ posted her sister’s photo on its website, Isabel Marcotte lost her enthusiasm when she realized that things weren’t going to go any further.
“Their strategy is to put in a phone number and hope someone calls them. It’s very passive, ”she said.
Few details are also communicated to families, she laments. For example, Teresa Martin’s family were never made aware of the hypothesis that bikers may have been linked to her death.
“Bikers, I’ve never heard of that. My parents are deceased, but I don’t believe they too have heard of it. Teresa had never been in the biker scene and was not at all drawn to the world of motorcycling. “
Ms. Marcotte is also uncertain whether the “completely disgusting” statements and crimes detailed by young Johanne H. in her coroner’s statement in 1970 were the subject of an inquest at the time, or more recently. What she does know is that no investigator questioned her or any other related person.