Stoddard Online: Continued from part seven. . .
The days wore on. It was now more more than six weeks since anyone was recorded as having seen any of the American hunters alive in the Gaspe' region. Proof of their existence was now nothing more than several cardboard boxes containing human bones in a back room at the police station. Stark reminders, they were indeed, however, the American administration was neither impressed or satisfied. This situation must conclude immediately in an expeditious fashion. There was only one way of making a very grim situation appear better, and that would be by bringing someone to justice. These words would be echoed by Premier Maurice Duplessis through his crack investigative team that he had assembled in Gaspe'.
Captain Alphonse Matte decided to embark upon a search of the area in the woods, a search that very definitely should have been carried out before the remains were removed to Gaspe'. This is where Captain Matte and Sgt. Henri Doyon would again lock horns. Sgt. Doyon had repeatedly insisted earlier that the area should be scoured for any and all clues, however, he could see very early on that Captain Matte was on a witch hunt. He could now see that Matte had found his witch. The witch in this case was none other than Wilbert Coffin.
You will recall earlier that it was Captain Matte who had ordered the only way that Wilbert Coffin could partake of the search for the bodies would be in a police car in the accompaniment of police officers. These officers consisted of Conatable Lewis Sinnett as driver of the patrol car and Sgt. Henri Doyon as team leader. In reality, Wilbert Coffin was not actually taking part in the search in Captain Matte's mind, he was subjecting himself to a secret study of his movements.
Captain Matte was now anxious to learn about Wilbert's movements during his trip into the forest with the officers. Constable Sinnett pointed out that he felt that Wilbert kept looking more to one side of the road than the other, although Sgt. Doyon stated that Wilbert's movements were not out of the ordinary, and that his conversations and responses to questions appeared quite normal, and as well, he seemed anxious that the boys would soon be found. Sgt. Doyon would report later that he saw absolutely nothing incriminating in Wilbert Coffin's movements during the trip that could possibly implicate him as a murder suspect, nor was there anything in his conversations that would point toward involvement. This was definitely not what Captain Alphonse Matte wanted to hear.
We will later become aware of the fact that exerpts of conversations with Wilbert Coffin and the two officers during this trip would be taken out of context by Captain Matte, and used as incriminating circumstantial evidence at the upcoming murder trial. If this case were compared to the pitching of a tent, very definitely, Wilbert Coffin was the centre pole, and the pegs were now being hammered into place.
It was at this point that Captain Matte would send some of his top officers into the woods to search for, and gather evidence from around the crime scene. They were to conduct a systematic search, covering the immediate area where the bodies were recovered, as well as an exhaustive search of the surrounding area. The main problem here appears to be that none of these officers had ever been involved in a search of this magnitude. Equally disturbing is the fact that these officers knew little, if anything, of forensic crime scene testing beyond the use of a metal detector. One can ask the question here, Did Captain Matte really care? In his mind, he already had his man, so why complicate things?
Little was learned from the search in the woods. True, they did find one of the boys' wallets with five dollars in it. They found another wallet with no currencey in it. The crown would later argue at trial that this wallet had been robbed. A few canned goods were found that were somehow identified as those belonging to the hunters. Along the road leading from the crime scene, some other items were found that were identified as those of the American hunters. These items consisted of a camp stove, gas can, binocular case, and two sleeping bags. It was decided that these items were thrown from a moving vehicle, based on the fact of where they landed in the ravine adjacent to the road.
As alluded to earlier in the story, Captain Alphonse Matte's search leader, Captain Raoul Sirois found what could have been a very key piece of evidence. He stumbled upon the carcas of a bear in close proximity of where the bodies of Richard Lindsey and Fred Claar were discovered. One can only assume that Captain Sirois sensed a grave danger to his own safety from this dead bear, so he did as he was taught at police school. The rule states, when an officer senses danger, or fears that his life is threatened, he is justified in deploying deadly force to control the situation.
The application of deadly force to an already dead bear takes that rule to a whole new plateau.
In reality, there should most definitely have been an autopsy done on the bears carcass to determine cause of death. Did it mysteriously die there at the crime scene of natural causes? Had it feasted on the human remains? Did it die from bullet wounds? Sadly, it was destroyed as a crime clue when Captain Sirois shot it with his service revolver. Again, the high level of stupidity reigned supreme.
Meanwhile, back in Gaspe', Dr. Jean Marie Roussell, the provincial pathologist had conducted his investigation of the boxes of bones at the police station. He was later taken to the spot in the woods where both had been found. He was there to conduct the site investigation that should have been done before the remains were disturbed. After completing his notes he was returned to Gaspe' and Doctor Lionel Rioux, the area coroner convened a private inquest that was slated for July 27, 1953. This would be an opportunity for Wilbert Coffin to be questioned by the coroner in the presence of the police, in order to determine if there was enough evidence to take the case to trial. The inquest was originally slated for 1:00 PM, however, Wilbert did not arrive until later in the day when the inquest was reconvened for 7:00 PM.
At the conclusion of the private inquest hearing of July 27, the findings in short form were that three human remains found in the forest near Gaspe' had been identified as those of Eugene Lindsey, Richard Lindsey, and Fred Claar, all of Hollidaysberg, Pennsylvania. It further stated that all three had met death in an unnatural way, by a person or persons unknown. Again, this would not be what Captain Alphonse Matte wanted to hear. It was very apparent that an inquest jury would not be quick to condemn anyone without a much more orchestrated plan on the part of the Quebec justice ministry.
Captain Matte, was about to set just such a plan into motion. In his mind, Wilbert Coffin was his man, and this man presented the path of least resistance. In his mind, it should be easy, because anything that he did to accomplish this feat, would fall within the graces of Premier Duplessis, because they shared a motive for quick resolution. The end result of course would be that Ottawa and the American government would be off the back of Premier Duplessis, and Captain Alphonse Matte would emerge the hero and be subject to all the perks that were sure to follow after cracking such a case that presented an international audience of this magnitude.
In reality, with the lack of a real investigation that should have been broad in nature, Captain Matte was in a quandry. Afterall, the Americans were after Ottawa, Ottawa was after Duplessis, and Duplessis was after Captain Matte. Without doubt, it would be full speed ahead to build a case against Wilbert Coffin, and woe unto anyone who got in the way. The next day, July 28, 1953 would truly be "the beginning of the end" for Wilbert Coffin.
Posted to site August 03, 2006
The next posting will deal with the time frame leading up to and including the public inquest of August 27, 1953. The results of this inquest will showcase, perhaps one of the ugliest displays of "justice" known in the Canadian justice system. You will also read of the investigation of Wilbert Coffin, his arrest, his treatment, the treatment of Marion Petrie, right up to the trial date in Perce', Quebec. This is the part of the story where deceit, manipulation, and dirty tricks take on new meaning. It is also the part of the story where you might want to study exactly what "democratic process" really means when the system is allowed to tailor it's own meaning, as a means of touting a hidden agenda. . .