Offer my books to your friends and relatives.
On the left, young François de B. Gravel
one of Coffin's lawyers.
Of all the jeep stories that of Arnold is certainly the most exciting and the most important. I invite you to read this excerpt from the Brossard report. If you wish to see a picture of the Arnold jeep, that Coffin might have recognized as the one he claims having seen, I refer you to the “Fonds Gravel & Associés” at Library and Archives of Canada (LAC). Mtre François de B. Gravel, one of Coffin’s lawyers, has entrusted LAC with his files. This fund constitutes an interesting source of information on the Coffin affair.
Next week, we will examine the McCallum camp jeep (and that Régis Quirion claims having seen.) During the following week, we shall terminate this jeep saga in reading the GENERAL CONCLUSIONS on jeeps and the list, drawn up by the Brossard Commission, of the inaccuracies in Jacques Hébert’s books.
IN THE MEANTIME, FOR A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW, I SUGGEST THAT YOU HAVE A PEEP AT MR. LEW STODDARD’S BLOG:
(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 XIII)
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 ARNOLD JEEP
It is this jeep that Wilbert Coffin has seen on a photo taken after its body had almost been completely remade, on December 1953, and about which he says, at paragraph 23, of his affidavit, of the 9th October 1955, admitting, however, that he is not sure, that this jeep is the one he pretends having seen « looked very much alike and both were built in the same way ».
It is above all the jeep about which Mtre Raymond Maher spoke in his statement sent to the Department of Justice and, as to which he admits, before this Commission, has we have already seen, having known, at the time of the trial, that it was not the one that Coffin might have seen.
One mister John MacLean, reporter-photographer for the Toronto Evening Telegram, who covered the Coroner’s inquest and the preliminary enquiry on August 1953, had met in Montréal, during October 1953, Mr. T.E. Arnold, a friend of his father; he had spoken with him of the Coffin affair; Arnold mentioned that he knew perhaps something about this; This gentleman Arnold was an American carrying on business in New Brunswick and was the owner of a jeep with licence plates from Pennsylvania and New Brunswick.
At the beginning of the Coffin trial, in 1954 or some time before, MacLean received a long letter from Mr. Arnold about which he informed his publisher; the latter and MacLean sought the opinion of the attorney for the Toronto Telegram who advised them to put this letter in the hands of the attorneys for the defence as soon as possible. At once, MacLean communicated with Mtre Raymond Maher and met with him at Matapedia, at the very beginning of the trial. He and Mtre Maher went to Percé and decided, in the course of their trip, that the information contained in Arnold’s letter justified an investigation in New Brunswick. Neither Mtre Maher nor he informed the Québec Provincial Police of their initiative
A few days after, while the enquiry on voir dire was proceeding, at the Court House, in connection with information that Jean-Guy Hamel might have communicated to the police, MacLean and Mtre Maher travelled to New Brunswick for three days, trip during which they had interviews with some fifty persons.
As Mr. Arnold was no able to tell them where his jeep was, at that time, they started investigating. They were informed that it had been abandoned in the vicinity of a camp located at some sixty miles from Bathurst, New Brunswick and found it there.
After several interviews that Mtre Maher and MacLean had, MacLean thought that Arnold’s jeep could not be the one connected to the Coffin case; eventually, Mtre Maher and MacLean agreed « that it did not seem conceivable that this jeep could have been in the murder area. »
Before leaving New Brunswick, Mtre Maher and MacLean asked a taxi driver who knew the area well to find the jeep and take a picture of it.
A few days after MacLean and Maher’s trip to New Brunswick, MacLean went back to pick up the photos that he sent to his employers the Toronto Evening Telegram.
These photos that were later on shown to Coffin for the purpose of his affidavit of the 9th of October 1955 and one of them was annexed to his affidavit for identification purpose.
In the course of his testimony before this Commission, Mr. MacLean declared what follows :
« My belief was that there was a great doubt whether this particular jeep that my paper had spent a lot of money trying to track down could possibly have been in the murder area. I felt it would have been an unjustified story, it would have involved people, people’s names and it would have been very poor ethics journalistically to have written a story.”
During this trip to New Brunswick, MacLean and Mtre Maher communicated with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, at their head quarters, in New Brunswick.
This trip that Mr. MacLean made with Mtre Maher was also described by Mtre Maher in his testimony before this Commission; Mtre Maher confirmed Mr. MacLean’s testimony, but declared, however, that on his return from this trip, with MacLean, he was sure or almost that the Arnold jeep could have been the one Wilbert Coffin spoke of; it is why he asked Mtre Gravel to have the subpoenas prepared to summon a certain number of witnesses and for this purpose, he retained also the service of Mtre Harris, a New Brunswick lawyer, to proceed to the summon of certain witnesses.
Around the 30th or 31st of July 1954, during the trial, information was sent to Mtre Maher which “prevented him to locate the Arnold jeep in the Gaspé bush between the 1st and the 15th of June »; on the contrary, « it appeared that the Arnold jeep was definitely located in the Bathurst area, between the 8th and the 13th of June”; all hopes vanished then and he sent a telegram to Mtre Harris asking him not to summon the witnesses.
For his part, Mr. Arnold, summoned before this Commission, said that after a prolonged absence, he returned to Bathurst, on the 9th of June 1953, that he got in touch with Mr. Allard to whom he asked to bring his jeep to him, that he jeep was delivered to him by Mr. Allard, on the 10th or the 11th of June, but most probably on the 11th of June, at « Hartland, near Fredericton, and that he saw it before his hotel at Hartland; on the 10th or on the 11th of June; it was in very bad condition and before starting it, his employee Allard had to do some repairs. At this time, the old cabin of the jeep was still there, but its doors had been removed; the entire cabin was still painted in red.
To support this information, Mr. Arnold filed before this Commission a series of cheques and receipts related to the repairs that had been made on this jeep by Léo Allard of which three checks bearing the date of 11th of June to the order of Léo Allard and another one bearing the date of the 11th to the order of Kilpatrick Motors. From the 10th or 11th of June until the 16th of June, the jeep remained at Juniper, New Brunswick, under the custody of Frank and Ernest Kearney of Glassville, New Brunswick.
In the month of August, the jeep underwent serious damage and it had to be repaired and significant changes ensued.
Here is how Mr. Arnold described the state in which his jeep was in the month of June 1953 before repairs:
« I was an ordinary jeep with an aluminium metal cab on it; it was painted red, it had two windows, it had two doors, one metal door in the front and one metal door in the back; it had side windows made of Plexiglas.
The front doors, at that time, had been removed, but the rest was there.
There was also a luggage rack on the top of the cab that had been built on with angle iron.
The jeep was painted red with yellow wheels.
The hood was dark maroon”.
Here us how he describes it after having been repaired:
« One of the boys working for me, by the name of Evelyn Pentland had a wooden body put on, made of plywood, with a plywood top; he didn’t use the old top, but he used the side doors and the tail door. »
It is in this state that this jeep was photographed in the summer of 1954 following the trip Mr. MacLean and Mtre Maher made.
Mr. Arnold does not recall if it was in 1953 or in 1954 that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police communicated with him. He explains that before the authorities communicated with him « I had no reason to suppose this jeep was involved, actually ».
From these testimonies, it appears, therefore, clearly that Mr. Arnold’s jeep could not have been the one Coffin pretends having seen, that Mtre Maher and Mr. MacLean and Mr. Arnold, the owner of this jeep, were sure about that and that an information to that effect was communicated to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but not to the Québec Provincial Police, at a given time in the fall of 1955, at the latest, by Mr. Arnold himself.
We already know from Mr. Maher the reasons for which, notwithstanding this certainty acquired by him at the time of Coffin trial, he has sent to the Department of Justice, in September 1955, a statement tempting to prove the contrary.
We understand that Mr. Arnold was not asked to sign an affidavit.
With regard to Mr. MacLean, he also sent, through Mtre Maloney, a long affidavit to the Department of Justice dated the 11th of October 1955, here are his explanations.
It occurred at the time Mr. Malone was seeking the permission to appeal to the Supreme Court that MacLean handed over to him his notes as well as information taken from the newspapers and photos of the Arnold jeep, after having read in the Toronto Evening Telegram news about the jeep that Dr. and Mrs. Wilson pretended having seen.
MacLean declared that Mtre Maloney has not influenced him to obtain his affidavit, but that it is Mtre Maloney, however, who drafted the affidavit after one or two interviews they had during which Mr. Maloney would have taken notes on a Dictaphone.
MacLean signed the affidavit on the 11th in the presence of Mtre Maloney, after the latter had informed him that the Arnold jeep photographs that he had obtained had been shown to Wilbert Coffin and that Coffin had expressed his belief that there is a similarity between this jeep shown on the photos and the Coffin jeep.
Mr. MacLean stated, inter alia, to explain his conduct, what follows :
« Previous to this interview with Maloney, there had been considerable news in the newspapers concerning a doctor and his wife who had seen a jeep, and this jeep that Mr. Maher and I had found, I still wondered about it... I believe that the only reason that I would go and see Mr. Maloney was because of newspaper stories of a jeep actually crossing on a ferry boat in the Province of Québec and the doctor and his wife had seen this and I still wondered whether it might be possible that this jeep, that Maher and I.. I felt it could be it. If it was, I felt Mr. Malone should have this information, since, as I understand, Mr. Maher was not with the case at that point. At least, Mr. Maloney was closer”.
The witness affirms also having declared to Mtre Maloney that « there was a disparity between dates as near as one knew », but that he cannot swear that he said to Mtre Maloney that the Arnold jeep might have nothing to do with that of Coffin: « There was still some element of doubt in my mind whether or not it could be.. I did not draw any conclusion”. He further adds that he told Mtre Maloney that the only reason for which he had seen him was the statement made by Dr. Wilson that he had read in the newspaper.
It is not certain that he or Mtre Maher has ever brought to the attention of Mtre Gravel the decision they had reached that the Arnold jeep could not be that of Coffin. From what precedes, it appears definitely established :
That the Arnold jeep could not have been the one might have seen Coffin;
That at the beginning of the trial at Percé, Mtre Maher and Mr. MacLean had reached this conclusion;
That the jeep whose photo was shown to Coffin and that Coffin compared to the one he had seen was not for sure that of the jeep that Coffin might have seen;
That in the course of the drafting of the affidavit of Mr. MacLean, as to the Arnold jeep, Mtre Maloney had on hands sufficient documents and information to allow him to entertain serious doubts as to the possible relation between the Arnold jeep in the state it was in, in June 1953, and that Coffin pretended having seen and, to believe, on the other hand, that no comparison was possible between this Arnold jeep in the state it was photographed in the summer of 1954 and the jeep that Coffin might have seen.
That the Québec Provincial Police was never informed about this Arnold jeep by whomever before the fall of 1955.
On the other hand, there is cause to presume that the information Mtre Gravel had about this jeep was the same Mtre Maloney had, and doubts that might have had Mtre Maloney were shared by Mtre Gravel, because our inquiry has established, to our satisfaction, that Mtre Gravel knew the reasons why the serving of the subpoenas was cancelled the issuing of which had been obtained with a petition supported by an affidavit signed by Mtre Gravel.
The clockmakers must have been busy! But their occupations were not all edifying!
In the light of what precedes, the long dissertations of Mr. Belliveau and those of Mr. Hébert (obviously drawn from those of Belliveau) about Mr. Arnold’s jeep, look like fairy tales; It would be so funny if it were not so unjust. (TO BE FOLLOWED)
NEXT WEEK, WE WILL READ ABOUT ANOTHER EXITING JEEP STORY: THE JEEP OF THE CAMP McCALLUM (AND THE JEEP RÉGIS QUIRION CLAIMS HAVING SEEN)