Here is another jeep story. Another story not very edifying. We have two more to go; the Arnold jeep and the jeep of the McCallum camp.
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 JOHN HACKETT’S JEEP
John Hackett has, on the 27th of September 1955, signed an affidavit in the presence of Mr. F.L. Annett. This affidavit was one of the documents sent to the Department of Justice. Mr. Hackett affirms therein : on the 17th of June 1953, in the afternoon, between one and three o’clock in the afternoon, that he met a jeep while he was driving from Sandy Beach to Murdochville; he would have met it between the Mississippi River and road 17. This jeep, says the affidavit, has a plywood cab; there were two young men in it.
Examined during this enquiry, Mr. Hackett stated that he signed this affidavit at the request of Mr. Annett who was doing his book keeping and another person whose name he does not remember.
One must notice that this statement signed before Mr. Annett and which appears, according to the proof, having been written entirely by the hand of Mr. Annett, begins with the words : « To whom it may concern », the same words that one finds at the beginning of a statement obtained from MacGregor (about what he could have seen behind Coffin’s pick-up truck) in early September.
Mr. Hackett affirms that his statement was not read to him after he had made it and signed it.
Here are the most important parts of his statement at the enquiry:
He believes that it is on the 14 of June 1953 that he saw that jeep, on a Sunday night while driving along with his children, near the Mississippi River that crosses the Murdochville road.
His car was going at 60 miles an hour and the jeep could have been approaching it at 40 miles an hour.
It was a « small jeep with just a place like a little cab in the front; the back was open; I had to slow down, then I met it and there were two men sitting in a yellow jeep”
It was the colour of yellow paint rather than of plywood. The back was empty behind the cab; there were no side panels; there was no box”.
“He thought the occupants might be sportsmen going or coming from fishing.
He spoke to no one about it.
He does not read; he heard about the statement of Coffin but he did not give much thought to it.”
In a statement dated at Gaspé and obtained from him by sergeant Doyon on the 9th of February 1962, he reiterates the affirmations of his first statement and specifies :
The jeep he says having seen could have been yellow with an American licence plate yellow and black. (In his first statement, he had spoken of the occupants of the jeep as being young men; he says nothing about it in his second statement).
In his statement to Doyon on February 1962, he speaks about having met Lorne Patterson from Rivière Madeleine who told him having seen another jeep whose occupants asked him if the Lindsey’s jeep had been seen. Patterson would have told him that this jeep was occupied by two young men. (It is obviously a false interpretation on the part of Doyon, if we recall the testimonies of Lorne Patterson and Mrs. Albert Coffin and if we take into account Hackett’s denials).
The statement handed over to Doyon was either in French or in English, but he does not know how to read and he ignores it. Doyon would have told him that this statement would never be published.
The witness declares: « I must have been drunk on the night of the second statement”.
He affirms never having spoken with Lorne Patterson about a jeep.
This witness also signed a second affidavit on the 14th of December 1963 filed with this Commission.
In this last affidavit, he affirms that Lorne Patterson had never told him anything about this affair.
He does not why he was asked to sign his first affidavit. « They got a lot more than what it should be. I just made a statement that I had met a jeep when I left Montreal, on such a date. I did not hurt anyone, I just made a statement, that’s all I made ” ...“,They wanted information about a vehicle on the road and I just made a statement like that, that’s all”.
The witness affirms that on three occasions, he spoke of a “yellow jeep” and of an empty box and of an uncovered jeep, but he affirms also that he had not noticed the licence plate.
It appears to me that the information that this witness might have given to Mr. Annett as well as to Mr. Doyon was amplified by them, more particularly, as regards an American licence on this jeep and that, for the sake of their respective cause, the first one, to avoid the hanging, the second, to help Mr. Hébert and, as we shall see, to express his discontent with his former colleagues of the Provincial Police.
It is before this enquiry Commission that the witness has been able to tell the truth.
The affidavit obtained on the 27th of September 1955 was another link in the circumstantial chain that, in the interest of Wilbert Coffin, some people tried to make up to save him from the gallows.
On the other hand, with the exception of the “yellow colour” of the vehicle that Mr. Hackett might have seen, the description of this vehicle does not correspond at all to those given by Coffin which was not made with plywood, whose rear was empty and which had neither sides nor box
. It was not decidedly Dr. Burkett’s jeep, and it could not be linked to the one Coffin might have seen, according to the description given by Hackett when his own vehicle and that jeep met at a combined speed of approximately one hundred miles an hour, and it cannot be accepted as an American jeep, is it possible that this jeep was purely and solely one of the many jeeps, with a Canadian licence, driven by employees of the Murdochville mine? Everything seems to point in that direction.
Be that as it may, Mr. Hébert purely gratuitous affirmations in his second book, at page 164, that it was the jeep seen ten days sooner at Rivière-du-Loup and a little later at Rivière Madeleine (a station-wagon) are clearly contradicted by the descriptions, even though unreliable, given by Hackett about the jeep he has seen and by the one that have given Dr. And Mrs. Wilson of theirs.
There is no proof that Hackett’s jeep had American licence plates; it is in the proof that it did not have a rear box and that its sides and the rear were open.” To liken it to the one described by the Wilsons would be shear hypothesis, which, before the courts of law, would not be a legal proof or probative. To link it to Lorne Patterson’s station wagon is pure “fantasy”.
Let us recall that it was not of his own initiative that Hackett made his first statement, but at the request of Mr. Annett, a friend of the Coffin family, and let’s think again of Voltaire and his aides. (To be continued)
NEXT WEEK, WE SHALL SEE THE JEEP OF THE DUMARESQ, FATHER AND SON, AND OF MR. DUFRESNE