(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 XII)
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 THE DUMARESQS, FATHER AND SON, AND BY MR. DUFRESNE
About the second sitting of the Coroner’s inquest, held on the 27th of July 1953, one Eddy Dumaresq, residing in Rivière-au-Renard, a small village on the Gaspé coast, located at some thirty miles north of Gaspé, paid a visit to Coroner Rioux to bring to his attention that he had seen a few weeks earlier a jeep while he was on the road mine (Murdochville).
Dr. Rioux recalls that Dumaresq did not speak to him about a jeep and not about two, that he would have told him that two Americans got out of it and that one of them had a rifle in his hands and was aiming at a bear; Mr. Dumaresq did not state having seen the same day another jeep.
Dr. Rioux thinks that his meeting with Dumaresq took place before the second sitting of the inquest, but he did not appear to us so sure about it. That this meeting took place before the 17th of July or immediately after the sitting of the 27th of July, one thing is certain: Dr. Rioux did not call Dumaresq as a witness neither on the 27th of July nor on the 27th of August.
On the 28th of July, the day following this meeting, or a few days after, police officers Fradette and Fafard were sent to interview the Dumaresqs at Rivière-au-Renard to get their version of the facts : let’s recall that, the 28th of July, was also the following day of the second sitting of the Coroner’s inquest, at which Coffin had testified and had spoken about a jeep with two Americans.
Neither Fradette nor Fafard presented themselves under the name of Matte, affirms sergeant Fradette; they took notes of the declaration of the three witnesses, returned to the police head quarter, dictated the three versions to the Police secretary who transcribed them.
These three versions were as follows
EDDY DUMARESQ, SENIOR :
On the 12th June, around nine thirty p.m., on the Murdochville road, not far from the Mississippi river, he was driving with his truck with his two sons and a man named Scott when a jeep passed them; one acre farther, it stopped and the driver asked them to stop. One of the two occupants of the jeep who had got out shot a bear. This jeep was completely covered with a canvas. He says that he is certain that the occupant who got out of the jeep was Claar.
The witness states that a little later, around eleven thirty p.m., they saw another jeep; one of the occupants asked for information; he barely spoke French; he was a man with a fair complexion and being around 30 years old, with a red face.
Dufresne would have told him that the licence plate of the jeep was yellow; this jeep was covered; he thinks the sides were empty, but he is not certain about this.
On the 12th of June, while he was going to the bush with his father, their truck was passed by a jeep not far from the Mississippi river. He observed that the jeep was covered with a canvas. The occupants of the jeep got out of it; one of the two had a sweater and he was a big man. Around eleven, eleven thirty, another jeep came to the mill where he and his father were working with Fernand Dufresne. The man who got out of the jeep to speak to them wore a leather jacket, dark brown, with fringes on the arms and on the belt.
FERNAND DUFRESNE :
On the 12th of June, around ten thirty a.m., while they were at the Beaver Dam, they saw a jeep with a yellow licence place and black letters. This jeep was covered and the witness thinks that the cabin was made of veneer and on top of the body. There were three men in the jeep; one of them asked about the Keays camp, the Garlen hills and Madeleine fork as well as the Gaspé Copper. This man was about 28 to 30 years old, wore a brown leather windbreaker with fringes on his sleeves and on his belt and he was about 6 feet tall. On the jeep, there was an American licence plate in the back only; the cabin rods were painted in green, the remainder was not. When the jeep left, it took the mine road. The elder might have been about 45 to 48 years of age; the youngest wore pants and a yellowish shirt. The one who asked questions had light brown hair.
After having seen these three unsworn statements, captain Matte decided to ask Mr. Vanhoutte to question them.
A few days after, during a short interview, Eddy Dumaresq would have told Mr. Vanhoutte : “If you had not come to see me, I was about to go and see you because I made a mistake. It was not on the 12th of June, but on the 28th of May when I saw that jeep.”
Mr. Eddy Dumaresq is dead.
Heard before this Commission, officer Vanhoutte declared that: he questioned the two Dumaresqs and Dufresne; the Dumaresqs had told Dr. Rioux that they wished to see the Police again because they had made a mistake in their first statement, about the date; at the time of their interview with Mr. Vanhoutte, they said that they were mistaken about the date of the the 12th of June and that it was in fact on the 28 or 29th of May 1953; they rectified the date they had seen the jeep after having recalled that on the same day, a first boat was loaded with pulp wood at Rivière-au-Renard; the loading of the first boat took place on the 28th or on the 29th.
Before this Commission, Raymond Dumaresq and Dufresne were heard.
RAYMOND DUMARESQ testified as follows :
He was working, at that time, at Beaver Dam, near the Murdochville mine road, repairing an old camp, near the road that leads to camps 21, 24 and 25, some twenty five or thirty miles farther; the place where he was working was far away from the main road at around 125 feet; one day, around noon, he saw a jeep stopped before the shanty; it was in the last days of May, around the 29th or the 30th; he is almost certain of the date because there was a party at his place, at the parish hall, that night or the following day, and it was at the end of May, in the last days of May; one of the passengers of the jeep got out and asked them information; at that moment, he was unloading planks from Dufresne’s truck; he ignores what colour was the jeep; he ignores if it was closed or opened; he thinks that there were two occupants; the man who got out of it spoke to his father; he did not understand him because he does not speak English; the man spoke about ten minutes, then the jeep left and went on the old road; the man who spoke to his father wore a suede windbreaker with fringes; he was about 40 years old.
He ignores what his father told the police.
He thinks that later on, his father was interviewed by Mr. Doyon, but without the presence and knowledge of his son.
On the day they saw the jeep, but rather, while driving to the camp, his father and he had seen a pick-up truck stopped before theirs; a bear was eating from the garbage; the occupants of this pick-up truck tried to kill the bear, but missed it and left; there were three occupants in this pick-up truck; he did not notice the licence place of the truck and ignores if it was Canadian.
In his testimony, FERNAND DUFRESNE confirms that of Dumaresq, but, was more explicit on certain points :
There were three tourists in the jeep that stopped at the shanty; the driver got out first and spoke to him; as this man spoke English and asked him what place he was at, he spoke to Eddy Dumaresq because he did not know where they were for he never “worked on the mine road”; Eddy Dumaresq, then, gave this information in English to the jeep driver.
Eddy Dumaresq declared to him, Dufresne, that, in the morning, he had seen on the mine road a pick-up truck and that he had seen someone aiming at a bear and missing it; that they were three hunters in this pick-up truck.
Dufresne does not recall the colour of the jeep, but he declares that it was very dirty, that it had American licence plates whose colour he does not remember; that it was all closed.
The jeep driver was a man of about 40 years old.
The three jeep occupants “were dressed the same way, their shirt and pants were the same; the one who took the information, the eldest, wore as suede or leather shirt, all striped and fringed, a kind of wind-breaker».
All three wore pants, American army type; the one who got out and stayed near the jeep was very young.
« I always thought that it happened in the beginning of June, sometime in the month of June » says Dufresne, «because he was paid by check from Félix Dumaresq, the very same day, around five or six p.m. » and «because there was no more snow when we went there, in the spring »; « it is always at the end of May or at the beginning of June that the works begin, of roads. »
The older man might have been some forty years old. The youngest between 25 or 26 years old; as to the third, he stayed sitting in the jeep; but « it looked like » (?) » he had about the same age than the youngest; the third man was dressed like the others and he also wore a shirt.
If he mentioned Matte as one of the officers who had questioned him, it was without thinking, without wanting saying so because no one has told him that it was Mr. Matte.
He was questioned in 1962 by Mr. Doyon.
These multiple and divergent testimonies raise several questions.
First of all, at what date these events described by the Dumaresqs and Dufresne really happened?
A few days after or on the next day, following the visit of Eddy Dumaresq, senior, to the Coroner, that is to say, on the 28th of July 1953, the two Dumaresqs and Dufresne were questioned by police officers Fradette and Fafard of the Provincial Police; in the transcriptions of the information that he might have communicated to these officers, the date of 12th of June was mentioned as the date of the events, for which these witnesses gave varied accounts. According to officer Vanhoutte who questioned them a few days later, at the request of captain Matte, they would, all three of them, have rectified their statements as to the date of these events and they would have then fixed the date at the end of the month of May. Mr. Dumaresq, senior has died since; his son Raymond has however testified before this Commission; he corroborated what Mr. Vanhoutte had explained that the date of the 12th of June had mistakenly been given instead of that of the 28th or of the 29th of May and gave reasons for this correction of date. Fernand Dufresne was least certain; but he set that date in an imprecise fashion « at the beginning of June, « some time in the month of June »; However, he declared as certain that these events happened on a Friday. The 12th was for sure a Friday, but the 29th of May was also a Friday. The precise testimonies of Raymond Dumaresq and of officer Vanhoutte must be acknowledged over that least certain of Fernand Dufresne on this matter of date; it appears that the proof favours the date of the 29th of May.
On the other hand, if one relies on the description given by the Dumaresqs and Dufresne of the clothes worn by the occupants of the jeep, and, particularly, to the description of “the suede or leather shirt striped and fringed of one the occupants » which corresponds literally to the clothes that wore Patterson, Dr. Burkett’s guide; if we consider the number of three occupants given by Dufresne, if we also consider the ages of 40 and 26 years given by Dufresne to two of the occupants whom he had seen outside (the third one having remained seated inside, ages that correspond to those of Ford and Patterson, and if we take into account the information communicated by Russel Patterson, at the Coroner’s inquest, that he and his companions had the opportunity, in the course of their hunting party, to speak to several persons in the bush, a lot every day, it is almost impossible to believe that the occupants of this jeep might have been other than those of Dr. Burkett’s jeep; on the 12th of June, Dr. Burkett’s jeep had left the bush and returned to Pennsylvania; it is however in the bush on the 29th of May; one thing is also certain; these men of 24 and 40 years of age and these three occupants whose one of them was dressed like the guide Patterson were surely not the two Americans of about 30 years old whom Coffin claimed having seen and they were not, according to Raymond Dumaresq, the same ones than those who were in the first vehicle seen earlier in the morning and about which we will speak hereafter.
What precedes justifies us therefore to believe that the jeep seen by the Dumaresqs on the 29th of May and that it was that of Dr. Burkett, Ford and Russel Patterson.
There is more, however: the error of date was not the only one the Dumaresqs committed; they committed another one, equally important: in his deposition of the 28th of July of 1953, Eddy Dumaresq had spoken almost exclusively of seeing, he and his son, the same day, a first vehicle, a jeep they met on the Gaspé-Murdochville road; he had added being certain that the one who got out of it to shoot a bear with his gun was the young Claar for “having recognized him in the newspapers»; he almost had said nothing about the jeep seen at more length around noon. Young Raymond Dumaresq had only made an allusion to « another jeep » seen on the highway, without however speaking of Claar. Before Coroner Rioux, only one jeep was mentioned and there was no mention of young Claar; now, before this Commission, young Dumaresq declares that it was not a jeep but a pick-up truck that he and his father had seen first; for his part, Fernand Dufresne, who did not see that other vehicle, told us however that Eddy Dumaresq, senior, would have told him having seen, earlier, in the morning, not a jeep, but a pick-up truck occupied by three hunters. It would seem, therefore, that the Dumaresqs’ declarations of the 28th of July 1953, they might have not only been inaccurate but that the mention that the first vehicle seen by them was a jeep was also inaccurate, while it was actually a pick-up truck occupied, according to Dufresne before this Commission, by occupants other than those of the jeep seen later.
It would be one of the occupants of this pick-up truck that Dumaresq, senior, would have recognized as being Claar; however, it is “not possible that the pick-up truck of the Lindsey’s and Claar had been on the Gaspé-Murdochville road on the 12th of June in the morning; this pick-up truck, Wilbert Coffin had seen it on the 10th of June, late in the afternoon, on Tom’s Brook Road while it was out of order; he had seen it again at the same place on the 12th of June in the afternoon, he so pretended, this time without any occupant; it was found anyway, absolutely at the same place, one month later; the pick-up truck seen by the Dumaresqs, even in supposing that it had been seen on the 12th of June, could not have been that of the Lindseys’ and Claar. But there is more: apart from it being unlikely that the young Claar might have been so far from the Lindsey’s pick-up truck and from the place where his cadaver was found later on near that of young Lindsey, the very day or the day after where, according to the experts, he would have been murdered, it is really impossible that the Dumaresqs had seen young Claar the same day than the Burkett, Ford and Patterson; the Lindseys and Claar arrived in Gaspé on the 8th of June while Burkett and Ford had left.
It would therefore be a third error that Dumaresq, senior, would have committed when he pretended, on the 28th of July, having recognized the young Claar on a newspaper photo; if this fact had been true, it would surely had been a fact important enough for Dumaresq, who considered important to speak to the Coroner of his having seen a jeep, to speak specially of having seen the young Claar as well. He said absolutely nothing about this.
In his last book (page 167) Mr. Hébert states having obtained, in 1962, the testimony of Eddy Dumaresq, who passed away since. Was this testimony obtained by himself or by Mr. Doyon? The author does not say. What is interesting noting, it is the information given by Eddy Dumaresq that it was « at the end of May) that he would have seen a pick-up truck and a jeep. This confirms therefore, as to the date, the testimonies of officer Vanhoutte and Raymond Dumaresq and, as to the pick-up truck, those of Raymond Dumaresq and Fernand Dufresne and the errors on these two points in the statements of the 28th of July 1953. But what is even more interesting, it is that this time, once more, at the time of his interview with Dr. Rioux, Eddy Dumaresq has not spoken about young Claar.
Mr. Hébert supposed that the pick-up truck was that of the Lindseys; he ignored, without a doubt, or had forgotten that the Lindseys entered the bush on the 9th of June through the St. Jean river road, that they took that of the York river and the Tom’s Brook Road only on the 9th in the evening or on the 10th in the morning, that this pick-up truck was seen by Wilbert Coffin on the 10th, early in the morning, at a few miles only from camp 21, that this pick-up truck was then out of order and remained so until the 11th of July and that it was on a Friday that the Dumaresqs saw the pick-up truck and a jeep; therefore, the 10th of June was a Wednesday. Mr. Hébert’s supposition is therefore not very strong; it was equally a sheer fantasy his suggestion that one of the occupants of the jeep met the same day might have been « a guide of a special type.. who could have been called Thompson”; on the whole a guide in the name of Thompson who, by chance, might have worn a “suede or leather shirt striped and fringed” like the one Russel Patterson was wearing.
If one takes into account what precedes and if one connects the ones to the others, the, inaccurate statements of Dumaresq, senior, on three essential points, it appears obvious that he, with a view of being interesting, or for other motives least disreputable, he might have confounded conscientiously or unconscientiously, the true facts of which he just had taken cognizance, either at the Coroner’s inquest or in the newspapers, with the events for which he might really have been a witness; his case is not unique in the judicial annals; this case was not the only one, as we have seen or will see, where a few Gaspesians showed little importance to the strict truth and how few consider the consequences of the inaccuracies committed thoughtlessly, even sometimes under oath; for an example, John Hackett (above) and Régis Quirion (hereafter).
If, therefore, we consider that the gate-keepers did not record, between the 27th of May 1953 and the 12th of June 1953, entrances in the bush of any American hunting party other than Burkett and Ford and the Lindseys and Claar, if we take into account the information communicated to the Coroner by Eddy Dumaresq and the relative importance that the Coroner appeared to have given to it, since he did not call Eddy Dumaresq to testify, if we consider the corrections made by the young Dumaresq and Fernand Dufresne to their first versions to the police, if we take into consideration Mr. Vanhoutte’s testimony on the reasons for which these corrections were made, not only before this Commission, but also at the Coroner’s inquest, if we take into account the contradictions between the versions given by the young Dumaresq and Fernand Dufresne and that of Eddy Dumaresq, as to the type of vehicle they have seen in the morning before seeing the jeep, if we consider the strong quasi-uniformity, of the descriptions of the jeep and of his occupants and if we take into account, above all, that the Dumaresqs and Dufresne seem to not have given anymore importance not only before this Commission, but also a the Coroner’s inquest, events after their interview with officer Vanhoutte, it does not appear that there is a doubt that it was Dr. Burkett’s jeep that they saw, that they saw it on the 29th of May and, from that moment, Eddy Dumaresq, senior, could not have seen, on that day, the young Claar.
On the other hand, it is certain that this jeep could not have been the one Dr. Wilson might have seen at Rivière-du-Loup, on the 5th of June.
Nevertheless, if the Crown’s representatives were justified in their conviction that it was a jeep other than that of Dr. Burkett and Mr. Ford with the Dumaresqs and Dufresne, they were reckless in not confronting Dr. Burkett and Mr. Ford with the Dumaresqs and Dufresne, when they had the opportunity to do so. We will speak about this later. (To be followed)
NEX WEEK, WE WILL HAVE A LOOK AT THE ARNOLD JEEP