In the course of the following weeks, I shall reproduce Chapter 2 of the Brossard Report titled THE CRITIQUES. In this chapter, justice Brossard identifies those responsible for this gloomy affair. He underlines the inaccuracies contained in the books of Belliveau (The Coffin Murder Case) and of Jacques Hébert (I Accuse the Assassins of Coffin).
IN THE MEANTIME, FOR A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW, I SUGGEST THAT YOU HAVE A PEEP ON MR. LEW STODDARD’S BLOG:
REPORT OF THE BRISSARD COMMSSION OF ENQUIRY IN THE COFFIN AFFAIR (27TH OF November 1964) VOL. 3 CHAPTER 2 (Part I)
THEIR SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Most certainly, Mr. Jacques Hébert was not one of those who participated in the preparation and presentation of the proof regarding the Coffin affair; certainly not! In fact, as we shall see, this instant, it was only after the beginning of this enquiry and in the course of this enquiry that he learned, for the first time, the scope and nature of the proof submitted to the Percé jury. But, among those who strived to raise doubts as to the guiltiness of Coffin, as to the work of those who participated, directly or indirectly, in whatever capacity, to the preparation and the presentation of the proof, he was most certainly the one who made serious accusations, formulated caustic critics, raise doubt as to the honest conduct of the trial and made groundless hypotheses with the most passion and extent. Therefore, we think appropriate to report on the sources Mr. Hébert has drawn from to support his statements.
I had the opportunity, in the course of this report, to underline, regardless of the inexcusable insults that the last book of Mr. Hébert contains, the numerous inaccuracies and falsehoods contained in his second book; in so far as Mr. Hébert might have drawn from the same sources Mr. Belliveau did and might have based his statements on these sources, that is the very book of Mr. Belliveau, I consider necessary to recall what Mr. Belliveau has stated before us as to his own sources of information.
I quote the following passages from Mr. Belliveau’s testimony :
t. page 690 : « Now, let us say that in preparing the book, I have used three sources : it was almost entirely from my own investigation, my own coverage of the affair from the beginning, taken from the records of the Toronto Daily Star, and from a newspaper in Altoona, Pennsylvania.”
t. page 705: “I talked to a great many people in Gaspé; I talked to Coffin himself; Il talked to his counsel, Mr. Gravel, and Mr. Arthur Maloney; I talked to local policemen in Gaspé Village and in Percé; I talked to just anybody who ever had anything to do with the case, in the period of the trial, the summer of the trial; I talked to many local people, whom I no longer can recall.”
t. page 706: “THE COURT:
Q. Haven’t you said Mr. Belliveau, that you were reporting for the Toronto Star, at that time?
A. That’s correct, Sir.
Q. And the Toronto Star reported at length what it had received from you; it covered the case fully, more fully, you said, than any other paper?
A. No Sir, I said that the Altoona paper had covered it more fully.
Q. Not the Toronto Star?
A. The Toronto Star covered it spasmodically. There were occasions when they gave it extensive coverage, or occasions when all of my material did not appear.
Q. And whatever coverage the Toronto Star gave, I suppose must have been placed in what has been described here, on previous days of this inquiry as “the Toronto Star Library”?
More specifically, regarding what he wrote on the mysterious note, he based himself solely on the information that was communicated to him by the reporter-photographer Edwards, and as to the bad treatments that Coffin would have suffered, the information would have been given him, not by Coffin himself, but by a third party whose name he does not recall. Therefore, it appears certain, that, to the exception of the facts that Mr. Belliveau might have noticed personally, his information sources were limited to the following : reports from other newspapermen, either from his own newspaper, the Toronto Star, or from other newspapers, conversations that he might have had with several people, so he pretends, and his own reports; now, as to his own reports, if they do not have more reliable sources than those whereupon he based his fanciful story about the mysterious note and his description of the brutal treatments suffered by Coffin, and if the reports of other newspapermen from which he drew the material for his book were themselves based on hearsay, it is not surprising that we have been able to find in the book of Mr. Belliveau several errors of which it will suffice to mention the following:
a) The statement, at page 6, that Coffin’s defence attorneys were convinced of his innocence. How could they be if they deemed necessary to not call him to the witness stand for fear that he would condemn himself because of contradictions in his diverse statements?
b) At page 11 : the suggestion that the Lindseys were interested in prospecting mining claims in the Gaspé area; this was denied by the proof.
c) The false information as to the existence of a pretended mysterious note; we already have spoken about that.
d) The information regarding the brutal treatments Coffin would have been victim of; we just talked about it at length in a distinct chapter.
e) At page 6 : the reference to Coffin’s last letter addressed to the members of his family; the falseness of this statement has been established before us.
f) At page 39 : the statement put in the mouth of Mr. Ritz as to the amount of money Mr. Lindsey might have had on him; Mr. Ritz has declared to us that he ignored what amount Mr. Lindsey had on him on his departure from Altoona.
g) At page 71 : a false reference to a letter that Coffin would have written on the eve of his execution; the reference should have been to the « Last Will and Testament » drafted by his attorney, Mtre Gravel.
h) At page 82 : the statement that Coffin would have had to face up to obstacles in his search of mining claims in the Gaspé forest; no proof has ever been submitted to whomever about this subject.
i) At page 87: the mention that a garage owner of Rivière Madeleine would have seen a jeep along the north shore; we know that this garage owner, Lorne Paterson, did not see a jeep but a station wagon with only one man in it.
j) At pages 100 and following : several errors regarding jeeps, errors that we have pointed out separately in a special chapter.
k) At page 133 : the statement that Coffin « left some insurance and his mining claims which one day might be worth a fortune »; we have no proof that Coffin has left insurance and the proof has established that the few mining claims registered in his name were worthless.
I cannot refrain from mentioning, because this is part of the “res gestae”, with what cleverness Mr. Belliveau alluded oh! so discreetly and so veiled to the particular difficulties of administering justice in a region like the Gaspé peninsula, « Gaspé the inscrutable », where a small group of “Loyalists”, descendants and “colonizers” from the Manche and not being always unanimous among themselves, form around Gaspé a majority but is just a minority in the whole of the peninsula where a majority speaking French also lives inward looking; a region where “the processes of law are conducted by Québec French officers representing the Provincial Police who are concerned with the non-French as well as the French”. In what polite but subtle words these things are said!
The inaccuracies and the insinuations that I have found in Mr. Belliveau’s book may not be numerous, but are important; as we do not believe having jurisdiction to express an opinion on the value of Mr. Belliveau’s book, we will limit ourselves to the preceding, in so far as the same errors and inaccuracies or falsenesses might have been committed by Mr. Hébert, and in all fairness to Mr. Hébert, in as much as he himself has drawn from Mr. Belliveau’s book or reports. (TO BE FOLLOWED)
NEXT WEEK, WE SHALL READ WHAT JUTICE BROSSARD HAS TO SAY OF JACQUES HÉBERT’S WRITINGS.