THE CASE OF THE EX-SERGEANT HENRI DOYON
I continue the reproduction of Chapter 2 titled THE CRITIQUES, that is, the authors Belliveau and Hébert, and the investigator Doyon. We will see from which sources Jacques Hébert drew his inspiration to write his books.
(A literal translation by Clément Fortin)
THE EX-SERGEANT DOYON CASE
INVESTIGATOR FOR JACQUES HÉBERT
The case of this former Provincial Police officer is now sympathetic, now bewildering now clearly antipathetic.
Sergeant Henri Doyon was in charge of the Gaspé police station in Gaspé for several years when took place the events of the summer of 1953; he remained so until the fall of 1954. He was known as a conscientious, sober, working and efficient officer. All the administrators and justice officers whom we heard, judges, lawyers, coroner and police officers of the Gaspé area unanimously recognized that he had all the required qualities for being a competent and efficient police officer except for only one, and it is important: he obeyed with difficulty to the orders of his superiors and could hardly support that someone would play in what he considered his kingdom: the administration of criminal police in the Gaspé area; on this deficiency, there was almost unanimous agreement amongst all those who considered him otherwise as an excellent police officer.
It would appear also that in the course of his long sojourn in the Gaspé peninsula, he has come to consider himself a bit as a Gaspésien and the protector of some of his friends in the Gaspé peninsula; more particularly, he would have had very friendly relations with Wilbert Coffin.
There are, on the one hand, his weakness as a police officer, that we have underlined, and, on the other, his friendly relations with Wilbert Coffin that seemed to have been at the origin of certain flaws in the beginning of this affair, and an animosity hardly controllable towards Captain Matte, one of those «disgusting and slobbering guys” from Québec City towards whom he could not, at a given time, hide his feelings, and his increased antagonism towards Captain Matte and his superiors in Québec City and, lastly, after his dismissal from the Provincial Police in 1961, he showed a surprising over-zealous attitude for a former police officer, but he was obviously trying to obtain for Mr. Hébert material for denigrating and insulting his former colleagues and superiors.
We have seen, before, certain reasons for which the police investigation in the Coffin affair, was at all practical ends, taken away from him and entrusted to Captain Matte; let us summarize them : slowness and indifference to get interested in the search of the disappeared American hunters, since the 5th of July, the day of the first call that he received until the discovery of the first remains on the 15th of July; the abandonment of the responsibility for searches to volunteer searchers until the 11th of July, then to one or two police officers only; the contradictory information that he transmitted to Mr. Charland of the Provincial Police, as to the discovery of one or three remains; his initial suspicions about Wilbert Coffin, then about the young Lindsey and Claar, then about Donald Coffin, then again about Wilbert Coffin, but this time, with presumed accomplices ; his strange absence from the police station during one or two days during the most active period of research.
To this behaviour, must be added the other following deeds as they were established before us by a preponderant proof : his semi-drunkenness, on the 16th or 17th of July, when he went to the bush with other persons, among others, Dr. Jean-Marie Roussel from Montréal; he received captains Matte and Sirois, on their arrival on the 23rd of July, dressed sloppy, free and easy and even provocative;
The ungracious remarks that we have reported above regarding his Québec City colleagues; the lack of eagerness that he has shown, at the beginning, to cooperate with them; he was half drunk when he made a first trip with captain Matte, his drunkenness caused him to walk on the pelvis of one of the victims without even noticing it; he failed to see, immediately after the discovery of the first corpse, that it be not displaced for whatever reasons; his failure to take the American hunters’ pick-up truck to a safe place to avoid the pilferage of belongings that were in it before several days after it was discovered; his drunkenness, at the beginning of the month of August, that forced him to go to Québec City to be treated for alcoholism and that on that occasion he was severely admonished by the Assistant-Attorney General and the Solicitor General, himself; the crude and brutal words attributed by him, on this occasion, to captain Matte and taken from “a little notebook” that he wanted to bring to the knowledge of the Solicitor General and the Assistant-Attorney General who were disgusted “with the torrent of abuse” from the sergeant against his captain”. It was, nevertheless, this meeting, on the 8th of August, with the Solicitor General that he put himself together; after having expressed doubts as to Coffin’s guiltiness, Doyon learned that the day before there were discovered in Montréal at Marion of the discovery in Montréal at Marion Petrie’s apartment the things Coffin had brought there and having belonged to the American hunters, was disturbed, seemed then persuaded of Coffin’s guiltiness; and he promised his superiors to mend his way, besides, it is what he did during the period that followed until spring of 1955; it was in the course of the days that preceded the last stage of the Coroner’s inquest that he undertook to reconstitute alone the trip made by Coffin between the 12th and 15th of June, while officer Vanhoutte reconstituted the other part; it was the description of this trip and the discovery of the monies spent by Coffin that was one of the most incriminating elements against Coffin.
However, notwithstanding what precedes, it appears that sergeant Doyon kept all of his bitterness for « the insult » that he felt when captains Matte and Sirois were sent to Gaspé. In a letter dated the 22nd of August 1953 that he sent to the assistant director of the Provincial Police, he requested a change of job “due to bronchitis and neurosis” and he annexed to his letter a medical certificate wherein the physicist stated, inter alia, what follows:”From a point of view strictly nervous there is no doubt that sergeant Doyon lived in an often time hostile atmosphere and he has developed a complex of over-stimulation that may result in anguish and anxiety ». The change of job was not granted immediately and it was after Coffin’s trial that he was called back to Québec City to continue to fulfill his functions.
Let us mention, at sergeant Doyon’s defence, that in the course of this « nervous over-stimulation » that he lived, his superiors Matte and Sirois reacting, doubtlessly, to his hostile attitude were not, themselves, particularly kind to sergeant Doyon; more precisely, captain Sirois did not restrain, on one occasion, to let other members of the Provincial Police, in Chandler, know that he would teach the sergeant to mind his own business.
The sergeant’s indisputable animosity toward captain Matte seemed to attenuate at the time of the trial and for several months after the sergeant’s return to Québec City; but it was latent and it was known in the Provincial Police milieu according to the testimonies of a certain number of witnesses of whom judge Dumontier, the former captain Mercier, the sergeant Vanhoutte and many others. It appeared to have had a renewal of violence when he conducted an investigation behind his immediate superiors’ back at the beginning of the summer 1955; the dispute, the quarrel, that the sergeant had on the occasion of this enquiry with the assistant director of the Provincial Police, Lambert, at Québec City, about certain expenses for a plane for the least uncommon, and the severe reprimand that he received from the Assistant-Attorney General Mr. Cantin, only revived the fire; the interview that the sergeant gave, on September 1955, to Mtres Maher and Gravel about jeep tracks and about which we talked at length and that came to the ears of his superiors, the difficulties that ensued between superiors and subordinate and the indiscretions to which, once more, the newspapers engaged in about information not least indiscreet than that has been communicated to them, were obviously not of a nature to put an end to the conflict of personalities that had shown up on several occasions between the sergeant and certain other members of the Provincial Police. There were however no more explosion before the events, which, following the sergeant’s request for his retirement, ended up in his dismissal from the Provincial Police and the lost of his pension in the summer of 1961.
What were the causes for the breaking up of all relations between the sergeant and the Provincial Police? We have refused to know about it except for one point: was his dismissal attributable to his conduct in the Coffin affair? The sergeant said yes without, however, being able to prove it; the Assistant-Director of the Provincial Police said categorically no. Mtre Cantin said also no, adding that if there had been a relation between Doyon’s dismissal and the Coffin affair “we would have not waited until 1961”. One thing is for sure: a petition for an injunction was instituted by sergeant Doyon following his dismissal and based, on, among other means, that he was unjustly punished for his activities in the Coffin affair, was turned down by the court.
Nearly two months after his dismissal, Mr. Doyon got in touch with the free lance newspaperman Jean-Luc Lacroix, to help him in an « investigation » that he pretended doing on the Provincial Police activities. We know that the contacts made between sergeant Doyon and Jean-Luc Lacroix were initially from a contact made between sergeant Doyon and Mr. Hébert; as early as November 1961, sergeant Doyon was hunting for new testimonies, more particularly, likely to establish the presence of a jeep in the Gaspé peninsula at the time of the murders and which might have been that Coffin claimed having seen. We know that sergeant Doyon was careful and clever in putting nothing in writing and to make only verbal reports to Mr. Hébert. We also know that a great number of information communicated by sergeant Doyon to Mr. Hébert were in part inaccurate or false, so much so that Mr. Hébert reproduced faithfully in his book the information he received from sergeant Doyon.
Sergeant Doyon’s bitterness reached its climax, not so much during the interview he gave the producers of the televised inquiry on the Coffin affair in December 1963, but in the course of his long, difficult and numerous testimonies before this Commission.
I shall not undertake a detailed analyses of these long testimonies of sergeant Doyon; I shall mention, however, at first, his equivocal attitude as to the mysterious note, whose existence he tried to make us believe, without going as far as stating that he might have seen a note other than that of Mr. and Mrs. Claar, that the grocery note and that the torn up note of which we know that it was from a man named Miller; I shall mention also the efforts he attempted to shift on captain Matte the responsibility for not taking finger prints on the bottles found in the forest in the surroundings of the pick-up truck, even though these bottles might have been found when, he, Doyon was in charge of research before the arrival of captains Matte and Sirois; I shall also mention the efforts he made, maybe awkwardly, but, in my opinion, of a doubtful intellectual honesty, to not contradict three sworn statements he made as to the absence of jeep tracks in the surroundings of the abandoned pick-up truck while trying to support what Mtre Gravel said about this subject; I shall mention the numerous statements that he has made, apparently for the first time, as to certain events that would have happened in the course of the 27th of August 1953, with a view to show a bad side to captain Matte, statements whose inaccuracy was contradicted by a great number of police officers and lawyers who lived that day, except for former agent Sinnett; I shall mention the doubts he expressed about Mtre Maher on his return from a fruitless trip to Wilbert Coffin’s camp, on the morning of the 28th of August 1953, doubts that he could not support by any real fact or serious reasoning whatever; I shall mention his equivocal attitude, about the same subject, to justify the signing of his affidavit in support of the issuance of a search warrant, affidavit in which the name of Mtre Maher was not mentioned; I shall mention the false information that he first communicated to us as to the circumstances in which he got in touch with Mr. Jacques Hébert and was obliged, in a subsequent testimony, to correct and retract; I shall mention his attitude regarding the question that was asked from him as to an agreement he had proposed to Eustache Sirois and Sinnett to work together against captains Matte and Sirois, by the answer he gave the legal counsel to the Commission:”I do not believe and try to prove it»; I shall mention the obvious bitterness that he had at the time of an interview he gave a newspaperman of the Éclaireur of Beauceville in (clik on the above pictures to read that interview) stating that Mr. Jacques Hébert had not said all that he knows and that if one tried to stop him, he, Doyon, it would be too bad for certain high ranking people whose role in the Coffin affair has not yet been unveiled; I shall mention his efforts to get the credit for the fact that captain Matte could, in the course of his trip to Montréal in the beginning of the month of August 1953, obtain from the brother of Mrs. Marion Petrie, the exact information on how Coffin had disposed of a gun that he had pawned and repossessed, the same night of his departure for Montréal, gun that could not have been otherwise the crime weapon; I shall mention the entangled explanations given the Commission between a belief in Coffin’s guiltiness and the belief in Coffin’s simple complicity; I shall mention that he admitted that the only information that he could obtain in writing from the “numerous” witnesses he examined during his investigation for Hébert, were given to him by Donald Coffin and by John Hackett; I shall mention at last his statement that, when Wilbert Coffin described to him the occupants of the jeep that he claimed having seen, Coffin would have given their age, that is, from 25 to 30 years old, while we know that in three statements made in the course of July and August 1953, Coffin had mentioned the age of the occupants of the jeep, once, that is, from 30 to 35 years old, and twice, that is, from 35 to 40 years old, and that it was in fact for the first time this age of 30 years old approximately, the whole as we have already noticed.
That Mr. Doyon might have, at a given moment, honestly and seriously believed that Coffin had not committed his crime alone, I cannot reproach him for this, or approve him, or contradict him, in taking into account the opinions expressed in the same direction at the beginning of his investigation, by Mr. Carter and Mr. Johnson who were among the first searchers to go to the bush to find the three disappeared hunters, in taking into account Dr. Roussel’s opposite opinion and having in mind that this theory was brought to the attention and judgment of the Percé jury; but I cannot refrain from underlining that the doubts expressed today before this Commission appear contrary to the attitude that had, in fact, the former sergeant, at the time of Coffin’s trial, and to that he also had at the time of mute investigation about a rifle lever found on the Québec bridge.
I must also underline the attempt almost insulting for this Commission that the former sergeant has made to cause it to accept the unlikely story of his private plane flying over the Québec bridge in search of a rifle thrown from the road located at half height of the bridge.
Finally, I must recall Mr. Doyon’s failure, before this Commission, in his efforts to make us believe that, at Hamel’s trial, while witnesses had been asked to step out of the court, captain Matte has, before being, himself, called to the witness stand, invited the sergeant to listen, through a half-open door, a testimony that was then heard by the Court.
I think that I have said enough to be justified now to express the opinion that it is not possible to believe in the objectivity of Mr. Doyon and that there is cause to seriously doubt the truthfulness of his testimonies before this Commission; his testimonies were the result, the ultimate exteriorization of his bitterness toward captain Matte and his former superiors of the Provincial Police going back to that far-off morning of the 23rd of July 1953 where he was then apparently by the events, his spirit of indiscipline and his proud independence toward his superiors received a shock from which he never recovered; judge Blanchard who met Doyon in 1963 noticed that he had preserved all his bitterness against his superiors.
Just as well, in as much as the falsenesses of Mr. Hébert’s book might have echoed the information communicated by Mr. Doyon, it would seem that Mr. Hébert should have been more cautious towards Mr. Doyon and his information. (To be continued)