This is the 7th jeep justice Brossard Commission scrutinized. Of course, this study is based mainly on Dr. And Mrs. Wilson’s testimonies which I’ll present to you later. After this other jeep story, we’ll have five more to study, to wit:
8) Dr. and Mrs. Attendu’s jeep;
9) The John Hackett’s jeep;
11) The Arnold’s jeep;
12) The MacCallum Camp jeep;
And the general conclusions on jeeps.
(A literal translation by Clément Fortin)
REPORT OF THE BROSSARD COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY INTO THE COFFIN AFFAIR (27TH OF NOVEMBER 1964)
VOL. 1 CHAPTER 5 (Part IX)
THE JEEP WHOSE PRESENCE IN THE GASPÉ PENINSULA AND IN THE VICINITY WOULD HAVE BEEN « SEEN » BY EYE WITNESSES AT THE TIME THE CRIMES WERE COMMITTED
THE JEEP SEEN BY DR. AND MRS. E.W. WILSON (continuation from page 166 of the Brossard report.)
Here are the basic testimonies rendered before this Commission by these two witnesses:
(These two witnesses having testified in the English language, the undersigned thinks fit and simpler to quote parts of their testimonies in the tongue in which the witnesses expressed themselves.)
After a trip of a few days at Québec City, Dr. And Mrs. Wilson went to Tadoussac, and then embarked on a carferry, early, on the morning of the 5th of June 1953, for Rivière-du-Loup ; Dr. Wilson recalled because, on the 6th, they had an accident in Montréal.
On board of the ferry, there were a few vehicles of which, in particular, a jeep «with plywood top very much in use by American G.I.’s at Frobisher Bay and at Fort Chimo ».
Dr. Wilson is sure that the licence plates were American, but he is not sure that they were from Pennsylvania.
« The cab looked like it had been fashioned by hand, a dirty colour, maybe a war-surplus jeep, or something »; « He does not remember anything about the top ».
“Ignores if the top was canvas”.
It had flexible plastic windows on the sides”.
There were two men in the jeep, much alike, both young and fairly lean, not over 30”.
“They had army clothing and khaki drill-type clothes”.
“One wore tennis shoes, the other, boots. Both had Army field jackets”.
About the clothes worn by those two young men, he says: “They wore ordinary long pants of either Army surplus or duck material; typical of the clothes worn in the bush – NO JEANS OR OVERALLS”.
“The one that got out of the cab was 4’ 10” tall; the other one stayed in the jeep all the time”.
Dr. Wilson has not spoken to either of those two young men.
« They were neither blond nor dark, medium ».
“They were college boys with clean looking features”.
Dr. Wilson affirms that it was not possible to say that one of the young men was more than 30 years old.
Dr. Wilson declares that, at the beginning of the Coffin affair, he was interested in the news that Coffin pretended having seen a jeep near the American hunters, but when he read in the « Montreal Star » that the Québec Provincial Police had found another jeep with two Americans and that it was able to establish that this jeep had left the crime scene before the murder was perpetrated, he lost interest in this affair.
In 1954, at the time of the trial, he reached the conclusion that the jeep about which the Crown had spoken was not the one he had seen. He thought that Coffin would speak, but he did not and the trial ended without him speaking.
The following testimony on the part of Dr. Wilson is incoherent in his first steps with Mr. Maloney; he mistakes 1954 for 1955; he is aware that his silence from 1953 to the summer of 1955 requires an explanation, but the explanations he gives are not convincing, far from it.
Miss West, whom he met in Tadoussac, put him in contact with Mr. Maloney, Miss West having reported to the latter the account that Dr. Wilson had made to her.
Between the summer of 1953 and the summer of 1955, Dr. Wilson and his wife gave no information to anyone.
The only explanation that the witness gives for this silence is that until his conversation with Miss West, he had not realized that what he had seen might have been significant. « We never, up to this point, felt that it was truly significant ».
It is certain that the jeep he saw was in plywood.
He and his wife suppose that when the ferry landed, at Rivière-du-Loup, the jeep went in the Gaspé direction, but those are inferences for which they are not able to bring a positive proof.
He does not remember any of those young men wore glasses.
On September 1955, Mtre Maloney called him at the hospital where he was working.
He had one or two meetings with Mtre Maloney at the hospital. Mtre Maloney wrote a statement to be signed by him; he signed it.
This statement received great publicity in the Toronto newspapers and, so it seems, throughout the country.
He states that Mtre Maloney was accompanied, either at the first meeting or at the second, by a newspaperman from Toronto and he thinks that it was Mr. Belliveau.
Apart from this statement handed over to Mtre Maloney; he did not communicate with anyone and made statement to no one else.
He affirms never having asked Mtre Maloney to not divulge the information communicated by him.
Neither the Provincial Police nor to the R.C.M.P. have communicated with him or his wife.
Contrary to Dr. Wilson’s affirmation, MRS. WILSON pretends that she has seen the two men in the cafeteria while Dr. Wilson says that one of them did not get out of the jeep during the crossing.
Mrs. Wilson says that she and her husband have examined the jeep for a while only before going to the upper deck.
Mrs. Wilson thinks that « the top was plywood ».
“She thinks the plates were orange and blue”.
“At first, she thought the young men were college students, but then she felt they were too old” (for that).
“She thinks they were about 5’ 10”.
She did not report what she had seen because, at the time of the trial, mention was made that there was only one jeep in the area; she assumed that it was « their » jeep.
At Tadoussac, in 1955, it is Mrs. West who suggested to them that she would bring the information to the Ottawa Bar Association, the following week, to give it to Mre Maloney who, at the time, was preparing a file on the Coffin affair.
The two young men in the jeep seemed to be in a bad mood; they were not talking to each another. « We lost sight of the jeep almost the moment it got out of the ferry ».
On the way back home, Dr. Wilson was not driving his vehicle at great speed. (This contradicts what Dr. Wilson had said that on leaving the ferryboat, he drove pretty speedily on the road to Montréal)
Dr. and Mrs. Wilson’s testimonies contain substantially, but amplified and elaborate, the affirmations they made in a joint statement (not under oath and undated) drafted by Mtre Maloney, following the interviews they had with him at his office in September 1955, that they signed and that were sent to the Department of Justice by Mtre Gravel with his letter of the 23rd of 1955.
The description that Dr. Wilson has given of the jeep he might have seen differs, at the enquiry, from the one he had given in his statement of September 1955.
In particular, we know that during this enquiry, Dr. Wilson stated that « the cab looked like it had been fashioned by hand with a plywood top very much in use by American G.I.’s” but that, on the other hand, he does not remember whatever about the top, of which he ignores, whether it was made with canvas. We recall also that during his examination, Dr. Wilson stated that the clothes worn by the young men of the jeep were not « jeans or overalls ».
However, in the statement of September 1955, Dr. Wilson contented himself with saying that it « was covered in style and it could have been plywood » and, about the clothes of the young men, that they were wearing « American Army style field jackets ».
One cannot not be struck, first of all, by the inaccuracy of the description of the jeep that we find in the statement of Dr. Wilson of September 1955; this description could suggest the assumption that the jeep that he had seen might have looked like the one Coffin had, himself, described in equally vague terms in his statement to sergeant Doyon and in the one of the 27th of July 1953 in giving to the words « dirty colour » used by Dr. Wilson in his statement of September 1955 the meaning of “yellow colour” mentioned by Coffin. (Clément Fortin’s remarks: Coffin never said that the jeep he pretended having seen was of « yellow colour ». It is sergeant Doyon who reports what Coffin supposedly told him that the colour of the jeep was “yellow”.)
One cannot either not be struck by the mention which Dr. Wilson made, apparently for the first time, during this enquiry, that the « the cab looked like it had been fashioned by hand » which resembles strangely the description given by Wilbert Coffin, at paragraph 23 of his affidavit of the 9th October 1955, that « the jeep which I saw occupied by the two Americans looked as though the plywood was installed not by a factory but rather by someone not thoroughly experienced in such matters » and that Coffin was giving, he, also for the first time after having examined the photo of a jeep, which had been effectively repaired, by hand, and that it was the Arnold’s jeep so repaired.
How is it that Dr. Wilson, who could only have given a vague description of the jeep in September 1955, was able, eight years later, to remember and affirm that the cab looked like it had been fashioned by hand »?
If we remember that MacLean had not yet sent his photos of Arnold’s repaired jeep (he only did it after having heard about Dr. Wilson’s statement) and that Coffin had not signed his affidavit (9 October) when Dr. Wilson made his statement in September, if we take into account the fact that, on the one hand, it is only after having examined the photo of Arnold’s repaired jeep that Coffin gave for the first time a description of the jeep he had seen, in terms resembling that of the photo, and, on the other hand, that Dr. Wilson particularised himself, eight years later, his first vague description of the jeep he had seen, in terms resembling the description given by Coffin at paragraph 23 of his affidavit, one cannot not only be astonished, but mystified by those surprising coincidences.
On the other hand, during this enquiry, Dr. Wilson affirmed that it was impossible for him to say that one of the two young men was more than 30 years old while Mrs. Wilson declared that she had thought at first that those young men were “college boys”, undoubtedly because they looked so young.
One cannot, however, be surprised with this other coincidence; while in July and August 1953, Coffin had mentioned, at a time, the age of the jeep occupants whom he pretended having seen as being 30 to 35 years old and, on two occasions, that he was 35 to 40 years old, in the paragraph 23 of his affidavit of the 9th of October 1955, for the first time, he gives this age as having been “30 years old more or less”, then, at that moment, he had, either by himself or by his advisors, the knowledge that in their joint statement of September 1955, Dr. And Mrs. Wilson had stated that the young men whom they had seen in their jeep “were in their late twenties or early thirties”.
These coincidences are truly too strong for not letting us more than sceptical on the accuracy of Dr. Wilson’s statements. So, we may as well think again of Voltaire’s clock maker.
Given the weakness of the diverse testimonies of Dr. Wilson and of his wife, the following information communicated to this Commission by Dr. Wilson is, in my opinion, fatal to the defence, to wit: that the jeep occupants whom he saw did not wear neither “overalls” nor “jeans”; however Coffin had, on two occasions, in his statement of 1953, declared that the Americans that he had seen in the jeep stopped near the pick-up truck « were wearing overalls, dark clothes », that they were dressed « like ordinary men with overalls or jeans.
For these reasons, I reach the conclusion that the jeep Dr. Wilson and his wife may have seen could not have been the one that Coffin pretended having seen and that any resemblance between this jeep and Arnold’s repaired jeep was artificially, but not cleverly imagined with a view to cloud the issue.
If we recall that it was the publicity, at least indelicate, given to Wilsons’ statement that was at the origin of the Tapp brothers’ and Dr. Attendu’s intervention, one cannot be surprised and even appalled at the serious consequences that may have inaccurate information and on the whole with the knowledge of irrelevant facts to those we want to communicate.
I draw your attention to the inaccurate information in Hébert’s book (pages 163 and 164) according to which the statement of Dr. and Mrs. Wilson was made to Mtre Gravel (it was made to Mtre Maloney) and, above all, that their testimonies had been communicated to the police, that is entirely contrary to the truth, and on the accuracy of Belliveau’s affirmation (p. 98) that the Wilsons signed affidavits, while they signed without being sworn a statement drafted by Mtre Maloney and obviously intended to great publicity. (To be followed)
NEXT WEEK, WE SHALL LOOK AT DR. AND MRS. ATTENDU’S JEEP