PART VII, VOLUME 2, PAGES 410 AND FOLLOWING
ON CERTAIN MAJOR INCIDENTS IN THE COFFIN AFFAIR
(A literal translation by Clément Fortin)
The Commission has studied, up until this day, this important part of the proof related directly to the events connected to the murder of the hunters and to the means set forth in Coffin’s defence by his counsels, lawyers, or others : it will now study certain major incidents of the affair.
THE SELECTION OF CROWN REPRENSATATIVES
(A literal translation by Clément Fortin)
The choice of captains Matte and Sirois
Captains Matte and Sirois have described before this Commission in what circumstances they were appointed to investigate the disappearance of three American hunters.
Their testimonies were confirmed entirely by that of Mtre Cantin who was, at that time, legal adviser to the Department of the Attorney General, but was acting as de facto Assistant General Attorney with Mtre Frenette ; Mtre Cantin was in charge of criminal matters and, in particular, major crimes ; it is in this capacity that he supervised the Coffin affair as early as the 5th of July ; to this end, he had to rely mainly on the information he obtained from sergeant Doyon who was in charge of the Gaspé police station, as they were transmitted to him by Mr. Henri Charland, then assistant to Chief Lambert of the Provincial Police in Québec City; Mr. Charland, for all practical purposes, was in charge of all investigations in the judiciary district of Québec comprising half of the province. Informed that until the 11th of July, after the hunters’ abandoned pick-up truck was found, the only persons who, until then, had been in the bush and had made the discovery were guides, game and fish wardens of the Gaspé region, informed that the father of one of the victims was coming down to Gaspé and that American newspapers had themselves laid hands on the affair and were obviously interested in the results of the searches being carried out, he required that instructions be given sergeant Doyon to hasten the searches and to not let the voluntary searchers work alone, and had him informed that if he needed extra help, the Department would not hesitate to give it to him. Informed a few days later, through verbal reports made by Doyon to Charland, that Doyon pretended that three dead bodies had been found while only one had been found until then and that Doyon declared that Wilbert Coffin was under suspicion, being the last known man to have seen Eugene Lindsay, Mtre Cantin requested that Dr. Jean-Marie Roussel from Montréal and Mr. Maurice Hébert from Québec City be sent on the spot (15th of July 1953) ; he gave, on the 17th of July, orders to Mr. Charland so that vigilance and searching activities be doubled up to avoid that the Provincial Police be accused of not doing its job and of letting foreign searchers do it ; troubled by the contradictions contained in Doyon’s reports and with the slow progress of the investigation, mystified by a report from Doyon stating that he did not believe in a crime anymore, but thought it was an accident or, if there was a crime, that the murder would have been the result of a quarrel between the three hunters themselves, informed that during this important period of time Doyon had gone fishing to a private club, Mtre Cantin telephoned him and reprimanded him harshly; afterwards, informed on the 21st or 22nd of July, that Gaspé police officers and other persons, some of them searchers, were amazed at the familiarity, kindness, friendship that seemed to exist between Doyon and Wilbert Coffin, Mtre Cantin called Doyon again to let him know that he did not understand why Coffin was treated with as much familiarity and to advise him to be careful with him and to try to have him to come out with it. Then Mtre Cantin advised the Solicitor General that it appeared necessary, under the circumstances, to send, as this is often done, a superior officer of the Provincial Police to be in charge of the investigation.
Lieutenant Morel was first selected but unfortunately because of illness, he was not available ; then lieutenant Martin Healey of the Department of Criminal Investigations was chosen ; the latter was on vacation and was busy building his house, and asked to be exempted, this request was granted. Then Mtre Cantin and the Solicitor General chose captain Matte, after having considered lieutenants Morel and Healey. Against captain Matte’s objections, it was decided that he would go immediately ; foreseeing that the investigation would necessitate much travelling around the peninsula, Captain Matte insisted that he be assisted by Captain Raoul Sirois, a born Gaspesian knowing well the region and who was in charge of road traffic police. More that fifteen days had passed since the disappearance of the hunters had been reported and to date only one body had been found. Captains Matte and Sirois left on the evening of the 22nd of July and arrived in Gaspé the following day, two days before the member of Congress Van Zandt asked information, undoubtedly to please his constituents irritated by the sensational news coming from reporters hastily despatched to Gaspé and eight days before the Solicitor General receives the letter “so threatening” from the Canadian National Sportsmen’s Show.
Here is how that “most effective between “the though ones” began the search of his hanged man” under the pressure of American intervention!
At pages 42 and 43 of his book, Mr. Hébert, to better insult captain Matte, thinks fit to first praise his own investigator, the former sergeant Henri Doyon :
«Sergeant Doyon who was in charge of the investigation, behaved conscientiously; he never knowingly hid information that might have been useful to the law. Sergeant Doyon has proven simply that he was seeking the truth. Because, in this province, we require from the police that it places itself in the service of head hunters who are too often Crown attorneys, the spirit of law of sergeant Doyon could not influence the executioners appointed by the Department of the Attorney General. It was therefore logical that the investigation was taken away from him. That is what they did.
In the name of Cantin, Rivard and Duplessis, captain Matte became master of the situation.
This policeman was the living symbol of the government he served without asking questions, knowing well that it was the only way to reach the top.
Tough, brutal, and cynical, he was destined to a brilliant career in the Provincial Police of that time. »
The truth is that, because sergeant Doyon, in an unexplainable period of disorientation, « was at a standstill », captain Matte was asked without enthusiasm to go and help him.
I SHALL POST NEXT WEEK HOW THE CROWN ATTORNEYS WERE CHOSEN