There’s a “person of interest” in the Louise Camirand case. He’s been there all this time, literally staring me in the face. His name is Raymond Roy. Before we get to Raymond Roy, some background on Camirand’s 1977 murder, including updates and clarifications of previously reported information.
Une fille a ça place
20-year-old Louise Camirand lived in a three story apartment building at 30 rue Bryant, just up the block from the busy corner of King and Bryant in Sherbrooke, Quebec. In 1977 there was a steak house at that corner called Le Brasier ( today it’s the Chat Noir).
In March 1977 Louise Camirand was unemployed, though she had worked a variety of jobs including as a receptionist at a dentist and legal office. Her last job was as an archivist at the Sherbrooke Hospital just up the street on Portland blvd, which she left in February. Camirand was a member of the Sherbrooke Hussars, a reserve regiment of the Canadian military forces. The Hussars met regularly at a building in the north end of the city, about 2 miles from Camirand’s apartment, directly off Portland blvd. The Hussars also gathered together at the armoury near King and Belvedere.
Camirand led a stable, normal life in Sherbrooke. “Une fille a ça place”. A co-worker describing her as shy said she “would blush at nothing”. Occasionally she would meet her boyfriend Daniel Braun in the adjacent town of Lennoxville, about a 10 minute drive south of the armory. Braun was an accounting student at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville. He was also a warrant officer in the Sherbrooke Hussars. Camirand and Braun were engaged to be married. Louise had already purchased her wedding dress. The wedding was planned for that spring, May 21, 1977. It was March, things were moving fast. Perhaps too fast for one person.
Camirand spent the afternoon of Wednesday, March 23, at her apartment with her fiancé, Daniel Braun. Shortly after three p.m., Braun left, promising to meet her later that night at the armoury, and Louise spent the remainder of the afternoon with Diane Lajeunesse, a close friend who lived in the same apartment building. At about nine thirty, Louise left her apartment to buy some cigarettes. She walked south on Bryant to King Street, then proceeded two blocks west to the Provi-soir at the corner of King and Jacques-Cartier (today the Thai Zone restaurant). The storekeeper noticed that she lingered for a time at the newspaper rack, flipping through magazines, after buying cigarettes and milk. Then she left. He was the last witness to see her alive.
When Louise failed to show up at the armoury, Daniel Braun became worried. He called her at 10:30 p.m., and again at 1:15 a.m., but there was no answer. Braun had a friend drive him to her apartment. He found the place much as he’d left it that afternoon, except that her purse and boots were missing. On the kitchen counter were her glasses. Had she headed out to meet him? Where did she go?
She would blush at nothing
On Friday, March 25, Camirand’s nude body was discovered in a snowdrift in a forest glade near the village of Magog, a twenty- minute drive southwest of Sherbrooke. Because the body was found quickly, the pathologist was easily able to determine the cause of death. Louise Camirand had been strangled. It was obvious anyway, because a bootlace had been cinched around her neck. She had internal injuries, as if she’d been stomped on. This fierce violence, as well as rape, seemed to have happened somewhere else, according to the coroner. Like Manon Dubé, stripped of one mitten, Camirand wore only one glove. Her pants and suede jacket were left beside her body, but there was no sign of the other glove, her blouse, her boots, and some of her jewelry. Her purse was never recovered.
Camirand lay in the forest above the shore of Lake Memphremagog, where a road runs along through a perfect unlit darkness. To find it you would have to know where you were going. You would be seeking a shadow in the darkness. It is a place that you simply could not know about unless you had been directed there for some previous reason. Maybe you were with the Sherbrooke Hussars, who ran training exercises in the woods, and they pointed out the place or took you past it (recall from a previous chapter when I mentioned that I once found a cache of military records burned in these woods). Certainly, a chance discovery of this spot seems unlikely, given how invisible your destination is at night. If you have a murdered woman in your car, you might need some certainty about where you could unload her body, unseen.
The investigation was led by Corporal Jacques Pothier, of the SQ’s major crimes squad out of Montreal. Roch Gaudreault was not in charge, but he was definitely the point man in Sherbrooke for all incoming information, as attested by his contact information being given at the end of every major news article that covered the case in 1977. All local information flowed through Roch.
Over a six-month period, detectives interviewed more than 250 people who might be associated with the crime. They found nothing. From tracks made in the snow where the body was, investigators thought they were able to determine the type of vehicle that had transported Louise (today this information appears to be incorrect, and may have misled the investigation). They searched for a car with a forty-four-inch separation between the tires, something like a Renault 5 or an Austin Mini or a Toyota Celica. No one came forward with information. Or maybe they did, but it got squashed. Gradually, the case lost momentum.
For those who have followed this website or read Wish You Were Here you know that Camirand was the beginning of a series of similar unsolved murders that ended in 1979 with the discovery of my sister’s body in Compton Quebec – from Camirand to the ‘unidentified’ Longueuil victim (today positively identified as Evelyne Levasseur-Pulice) to Jocelyne Houle, then the summer murders of Johanne Dorion and Chantal Tremblay, the fall 1977 series of Katherine Hawkes, Denise Basinet and Helene Monast, Lison Blais in 1978, then finally Manon Dubé and Theresa Allore. By the end of 1977, Louise Camirand had become a statistic: one of 197 murders committed in the province of Quebec that year. In Statistics Canada’s 2005 report on homicide, Quebec had the highest number of homicides in 1977 of any province. Over the course of the seventies, Quebec had the worst clearance rate for homicide cases in the country.
In the spring of 2002, I tracked down Bernard Camirand, Louise’s brother. Although her murder remained unsolved, his family had grown resigned. They preferred to leave the matter in the past and move on. At first, Bernard said, some attention had been focused on the boyfriend, Daniel Braun. A rumour spread in the Townships that Braun later hanged himself in grief over the crime he supposedly committed. It wasn’t true. Braun was alive and— as far as the family was concerned—innocent. In fact, the two men remained close after Louise’s death, with Bernard attending Braun’s wedding. A second theory gnawed over by detectives, according to Bernard, was that Camirand’s death was related to her association with the Sherbrooke armoury. What if she had been picked up that night by a member of the regiment, someone who knew her and might have been jealous of her relationship with Braun? The detectives pointed to the “military-style” bootlace around her neck. What they seemingly failed to consider was that Camirand herself wore military boots. Her footwear was missing from the dump site. In all likelihood, she was strangled with her own lace.
Recently I went back and re-checked this information. To be sure, in the early days of the investigation police had a suspect in mind. And he was a member of the Sherbrooke Hussars. But they cleared him. It wasn’t Luc Gregoire or Daniel Braun, it was Raymond Roy.
And it seems so obvious now. I have been looking at this photo of Louise and Raymond Roy for years. It’s from 1975 when they were dating. At first I didn’t pay it much attention because I mistook it for a picture of Daniel Braun (they look similar). Then I ruled it out because I believed that police must have done their due diligence on Raymond Roy. They must have, right? Because that’s what police do. I’m a lot less trusting of police intentions these days. And in a way, Raymond Roy became masked my Luc Gregoire. It’s a classic case of investigative bias. You focus too much on one thing, then the thing you should be focusing on, that is remarkably similar to your target, fades into the background. This is why it is important to never get too attached to any single theory. It’s the type of thing that drives book editors nuts. Because they want you to commit to a single narrative, it makes for easier marketing.
I’ll tell you what many of you have already guessed, and some are just realizing – awaking to a grim reality. It’s not the lone assassin that links these Townships’ deaths, it’s the questionable and possibly dark intentions of the ones who investigated the crimes. In every case there is the jolt of the murder, then a swift and mediocre response, and general sense to get back to business as usual. Maintain the order. Keep the peace. This was the response to Theresa Allore and Manon Dube. It was the reaction to Carole Fecteau’s murder (though we have yet to arrive at that destination). It was overwhelmingly the response in the Rock Forest affair in 1983, which we covered last year. The City of Sherbrooke was desperate to assure the public there was no there there: trust the police, hold no one accountable, get on with life. And it was the case with Louise Camirand.
I have an associate who has been working the Manon Dubé case for some years. He arranged a meeting with the local police, and the first thing out of their mouths was, “what do you know?”. The problem with putting investigators like Roch Gaudreault in charge of investigations is that you get the sense that these are guys not trying to gather information to solve crimes, but to gather information so they can control it, and exercise damage control. I’ve previously written about the mystery surrounding the 2014 crash of Malaysian airline MH370 and how an article in The Atlantic talked about the lack of transparency and investigative vigor of officials:
“It became clear that the primary objective of the Malaysians was to make the subject just go away. From the start there was this instinctive bias against being open and transparent, not because they were hiding some deep, dark secret, but because they did not know where the truth really lay, and they were afraid that something might come out that would be embarrassing. Were they covering up? Yes. They were covering up for the unknown.”“What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane”, William Langewiesche, Atlantic, June 17, 2019
Over my 20 years of looking into unsolved murders in Quebec – and specifically criminal activity in the Eastern Townships – this is exactly the impression I have been left with of every major justice agency – local police, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Public Security and the institution of the Surete du Quebec.
Person of Interest
Before delving into Raymond Roy, I want to tell you why I still think you should consider Luc Gregoire as a viable suspect. I have several reasons – some we’ll get into in a future chapter. First, there is something very odd that both Dubé and Camirand are both found 20 miles outside of Sherbrooke, one to the south and the other to the southwest. Also, I have a hard time believing just one person pulled off the abduction, murder, then body disposal of Camirand, it feels like a group job. Then there is the fact that Camirand’s murder is almost too brutal to be a crime of passion. Finally, there are geographic points of intersection with Gregoire and Camirand that I still find compelling. Gregoire is thought to have attended Ecole Montcalm on Portland, the same school Louise and her siblings attended. Gregoire lived within walking distance of the downtown armoury on Belvedere. Finally, and maybe most importantly, Gregoire grew up within blocks of Camirand’s childhood home in the south west part of Sherbrooke – the Gregoires at 325 rue Delorne and the Camirands at 1473 rue Letendre. Listen, I grew up in a similar, suburban neighborhood. I didn’t know everybody, but I played practically with every kid within a three block radius. Louise would have been a pretty girl, 4 years older than Luc. I would be surprised if they didn’t at least know of each other. There’s still a lot we don’t know. Keep an open mind.
Early in the Louise Camirand investigation, someone had the good sense to take a photograph of the registry at the entrance door to her apartment building at 30 rue Bryant. I obtained a copy of that photo and did what someone should have done long ago when a case remains unsolved for decades. I started tracking down those names and cold-calling people who may have lived in that building in 1977.
The concierge of the building in that era, Mr. Yvon Cvr remarked he had never received any complaints about Louise, “She was a very quiet little girl who was blameless”. Well, someone wasn’t quiet and blameless.
Raymond Roy was Louise’s boyfriend before Daniel Braun. In the two weeks prior to her murder, Roy turned up at her 3rd floor apartment twice. He argued with Louise and made sexual advanced, standing at the apartment entrance. The arguments could be heard throughout the building. Tenants witnessed the arguments.
Raymond Roy was from Johnville, Quebec, southeast of Sherbrooke, about halfway between Lennoxville and Compton. He was the same age as Camirand, twenty. Around 1975, Roy went to Montreal to study either at Vanier or McGill. During the separation, Louise dumped Roy and started dating Daniel Braun. Louise’s relationship with Braun developed rapidly, at the time of her death the wedding day was less than eight weeks away.
So, a motive of jealousy. An intense, vicious, highly personal murder. Camirand strangled with either hers or the assailant’s boot lace. Undressed, raped, mutilated. In addition to the one black glove, Louise was also wearing the engagement ring given to her by Braun. A thief wouldn’t leave that behind.
As mentioned, Raymond Roy was also a member of the Sherbrooke Hussars. So he also would have had experience crawling around the back country of the Eastern Townships on military reserve exercises. If he had drilled around the dump site near Magog, he may have known how to seek that shadow in the darkness.
And about that theory which was discussed in the last post concerning the death of Manon Dubé. A former member of the Sherbrooke Hussars contacted me and confirmed that this was the case. The army reserve unit would regularly run practice exercises throughout the Townships. He described one of the activities, “We had a bridge reporting drill that meant getting out of the Jeeps and crawling around to look underneath. I looked at plenty of culverts playing the game.” He even provided a photo of the reservists on exercise in 1979 near Ayer’s Cliff, which is a 4 minute drive from the Dubé dump site.
I have been told that the local Surete du Quebec pursued Roy in 1977 but quickly ruled him out as a suspect. I am saying that today’s SQ, with a resourced cold case squad fully equipped with the tools of modern investigation should re-examine Raymond Roy as a person of interest in Louise’s case. And if the public has any information, any knowledge of Roy’s activities and his current whereabouts, they should contact the police immediately.
By October 1977, with leads running dry, La Tribune published an article on the Camirand case calling it an “indecipherable enigma”. The article assured the public that “Just because an investigation does not make noise does not mean that nothing is happening.”, and boasted how police had interrogated “dozens and dozens” of people, which to me doesn’t sound that impressive when you’re talking about the brutal rape and murder of a 20-year-old. This would be one of the last updates by police on the Camirand case before the public was lulled to sleep, only to be awakened 25 years later with the Who Killed Theresa series in The National Post.
There was one more article. In January, 1980, Pierre Saint-Jacques looked back at what he called, “The Great Mysteries of the Decade” and catalogued the Allore, Dubé and Camirand cases, along with the Charles Marion affair and some others.
Saint-Jacques lamented the frustration in not being able to crack these mysteries. Yet his answer lie in the opening quotation he used from Oscar Wilde:
“The real mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible”
Resolution is possible when you have a police force dedicated to transparency, and not the obfuscation of the truth. Police in Sherbrooke in the era of the 1970s appear to have practiced a brand of selective justice. When it suited their interest they would make an arrest, when it didn’t they all too often looked the other way.
If you have information concerning the 1977 murder of Louise Camirand please contact officers with the Surete du Quebec’s cold case unit at 1-800-659-4264 / firstname.lastname@example.org.