The Wilbert Coffin Story
You will recall from the last posting that heavy emphasis would be placed on the autopsy reports from these crimes involving the murder of the three American hunters. That stance has not changed, although due to the broadening of available information, the relevance of this decision has increased ten fold.
I cannot begin to remember the number of times that folks have suggested to me that this case happened over fifty years ago, and that the events as depicted on these pages could never happen in modern day. In other words, accept it and get on with life, and at the same time be happy that times have changed.
There are a couple of things that I wish to make abundantly clear with reference to the following report on the autopsies of the murder victims in this case. Firstly, statements that I shall be making are not based on my personal opinion. For the lack of a better choice of words, I have literally attempted to conduct an autopsy on the autopsy reports themselves. As I have stated previously, in order that a report be fair and factual, it must contain research and investigative material which relates to the specific crime, and not be reflective of unqualified opinion simply because he or she happens to carry the banner of provincial pathologist. The sad reality here of course is the fact that in many cases these so called professionals surface as a result of patronage appointments. I am not for a moment suggesting that was the case here, even though the premier of the day, the late Maurice Duplessis was known to have looked after his friends in many cases.
With reference to ballistics regarding this case, I have sought out and enlisted the support of persons in the field who have gained and earned the respect of many. Over the years it would not be an uncommon occurrence for various police agencies to access the same sources. It simply is not enough to merely state that “yes, this was done with a firearm.” What is important is to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the firearm was the weapon of choice, and be able to show that it existed, and further if it existed, would it be capable and probable to cause the results exhibited? In the absense of a direct answer of yes or no to these questions, then it is incumbent upon investigators to search in other directions.
In my search for professional information I went to Victoria and chatted a number of times at length with Mr. Dale Hayton. Mr. Hayton has been connected with the firearms industry in excess of 40 years. Over the years Mr. Hayton has routinely answered queries from law enforcement and has done much study on ballistics. He is well versed on all aspects of firearms, both handguns and long guns, and is equally knowledgeable on bullets and manufacture. Mr. Hayton does not dwell on assumptions. Dale was able to answer my questions in a clear and independent manner. In a former conversation with him, he had related to me that it would be next to impossible to get shot five times in the chest area by a 30 calibre type firearm without sustaining bone damage, considering the mushroom effect that results from bullet fragmentation.
I have been a member of the shooting fraternity for a lot of years. During those years one acquires much knowledge of various facts and figures. In the fraternity of shooting sports, I have personally pulled the trigger well in excess of one hundred thousand times at various recreational gun clubs and shooting facilities across Canada and The United States. This is not an estimate, but based on documentation. This is why I get incensed when I read “official” reports such as those as presented by Dr. Roussell and Bernard Peclet. To officially report that Frederick Claar may have been shot a total of five times sums it up well. In my view, I am being kind when I refer to it as absolute crap.
If you simply accept the belief that these things could never happen in modern day, I would suggest that you pay close attention to current news coming out of Ontario. The late news of are indeed confirmation that the government is not the one to be depended upon with reference to innocence and guilt. Here was a glowing example of wrongful conviction. As a consequence, the convicted served twelve years in maximum security for the most ugliest of crimes, the brutal rape and killing of a young child, in this case his young niece. This conviction was made possible because of the decisions of one man, the government pathologist.
It now turns out, this person was not qualified to sit and act as a pathologist. As a result, a path of wrongful convictions looms over the head of every citizen of Ontario and the rest of Canada. These things should never happen. There is no excuse when they do. In the case of Ontario, surely the Steven Truscott case should have ensured that. The case that was dispensed with last week was not isolated. There are close to twenty cases where convictions attritutiable to the same government pathologist are in serious question. Many of these cases smack of wrongful conviction.
Because of the severity of the recent court determination, the rape and killing of a child would very definitely have scored a wrongful death penalty if we still subscribed to capital punishment. In it's aftermath the real guilty party would have been allowed to walk free, while an innocent man would have gone to the gallows.
Enter the Wilbert Coffin case of fifty-four years ago. Other than the death penalty aspect, have things changed for the good? I think not. It can be argued that things have got progressively worse, considering that we have much more modern tools and technology to work with and we still can not get it right. This is serious stuff. Every murder charge should be backed by air tight forensic evidence that leave no questions. This is why I stress the importance of the autopsy report in this case. If you remove the autopsy report in this instance, you have no case. If you read the real information that the autopsy report provided in this instance, you also have no case. It was therefore critical and crucial to the conviction that satisfactory information emerge. That is precisely where I shall start, because it was through the government being able to manipulate people, that Wilbert Coffin did not live to see old age.
There are two main reasons for an autopsy where a suspicious death has occured. It is mandatory that the cause of death be determined, and as well, determine the time of death. In the case of the autopsy for the three American hunters, it was not as cut and dried as the authorities would have you believe.
In spite of what the authorities want us to believe, they are lying to us when they tell us that these three individuals represented a crime scene. In actuality there were three crime scenes simply because the three individuals were not killed together. They may or may not have been killed by the same murderer, however, there were crime signatures left behind in all three instances.
let us look at the murder scene of Eugene Lindsey, whose remains were found in close proximity to camp 24 in the Gaspe' woods. His head and thorax had been separated from his body. Was this the work of the murderer or was it the work of forest animals, presumably bears? We do not, and we will never know for certain the answer to that question. The missing body parts were never located. Was Mr. Lindsey shot or was he clubbed to death? Again, we do not know and we never will. We do know that some skin and hair follicles were found on the telescopic sight on his rifle. Were those traces of body parts representative of his body making contact with the rifle being used as a club? The same answer to this question prevails, we do not know.
The one other sign of trauma to Mr. Lindsey's rifle was a slight indent on the wooden stock of the firearm. The medical examiner, Dr. Roussell pointed out that this was the result of a bullet. Clarenec Claar, the father of Frederick Claar pointed out that the indent looked more like a gouge from carrying it through the brush than a bullet mark. I tend to lean toward acceptance of Mr. Claar's theory. He was after all, well versed in hunting and the elements. It would make sense to assume that Clarenec Claar would offer his opinion only after careful consideration, chiefly because whoever was responsible for this death, may be responsible for his son Frederick's as well.
It is also important to note that at this point positive identification of Eugene Lindsey had not been established. There was no wallet, no license, no identification papers. All the flesh had disappeared from the bones as a result of intervention of animals and birds of prey. The only bits of clothing was that found in animal droppings. His friend Clarence Claar would state that Mr. Lindsey had long finger nails. The remains of the corpse on the forest floor did indeed have long finger nails, and thus, according to Dr. Roussell he had established that it was in fact that of Eugene Lindsey. Dr. Roussell would go on to state that in establishing positive identification he had employed more scientific means as well. I have a tough job accepting that statement as truth, simply because if he would have had more concrete and scientific evidence, he most definitely would have stated what it was. Later on in court at Wilbert Coffin's trial Dr. Roussell would make the same statement, however, he was never challenged by the defense.
It has been reported over the years that Richard Lindsey and Frederick Claar were located in exactly the same location. This is furtherest from the truth. Some two hundred feet separated their remains. Part of that two hundred feet contained the width of the river St. John, a small stream on the Gaspe' peninsula. Already, a whole new set of boundaries suddenly emerge for the victims. It also lends credence to the obvious fact that these murders were carried out by "more than one person."
It is a known fact that more than two miles separated the remains of Eugene Lindsey from that of his son, Richard. It was accepted as evidence at trial that Eugene Lindsey was the first hunter to fall prey to murder. If it was accepted as evidence, then it should be considered the truth. In a perfect world, that is the way that it should be, however, in the case of the three murders in the Gaspe' woods there is absolutely no hard evidence to prove who was killed first, nor was there a declared date when any of them truthfully died. We simply do not know that. It can be argued that since all three were killed, does it really matter? I suppose not, but the answer may shed some light as to the number of persons who were involved with the actual killings.
Let us separate the crime scenes of Richard Lindsey and that of Frederick Claar. To do otherwise and treat them as one does not appear plausible. It would mean that while one was being executed at the hands of the murderer, the other would be standing by waiting for the murderer to turn onto him. When one considers two healthy, young, and heavily armed males, standing idly by waiting for his turn with the executioner and not exhibiting any sign of force, suddenly the theory lacks serious credibility. Very definitely, at least two persons participated in the actual murders of Richard Lindsey and Frederick Claar
I ask that you very carefully read and comprehend the following chain of events leading up to and including the murders, taking into account the motives, and those responsible for carrying out the crimes. True, some elements of the story will not end here, however, I am confident that had a proper investigation been carried out by the authorities in 1953, the events that I shall be describing here would have formed the basis for murder charges to have been brought forward against three indivuduals who managed to elude capture, made possible by the inept government and the judiciary of the province of Quebec. In the past few weeks certain questions were asked of me with reference to this chain of events. Hopefully, these questions will be answered as well.
The medical examiner, Dr. Roussell, lacks credibility in many of his statements with reference to the deaths of Richard Lindsey and that of Frederick Claar. I simply cannot believe that a Judge of the Superior Court of Quebec would allow a jury to focus attention on evidence submitted by Dr. Roussell in this instance, considering that a man's fate was at hand.
Of particular interest is the fact that Dr. Roussell, the provincial pathologist and Bernard Peclet the provincial police chemist would concur that death was brought about as a result of gunshots. This is particularly disturbing considering that no murder weapon was ever located, and both crime scenes were void of bullets or bullet fragments. These gentlemen were allowed to swear testimony that in the case of Frederick Claar, he was possibly shot at least five times and Richard Lindsey, a total of two times.
Firstly, we must realize that when we see a ballistics chart making reference to thirty calibre bullets, the chart is not suggesting that thirty calibre is a solo calibre to itself. Calibre simply denotes bullet diameter. Situated within the thirty calibre range, would be everything from .300 inch diameter to .399 inch diameter. The thirty calibre range of bullets contains the widest range of bullet diameters and weights available on the market. A graphic example can be exhibited very easily. Simply go to your favorite hunting goods store and ask to see a selection of bullet calibres within the 30 calibre range. Both Dr. Roussell and Bernard Peclet were touting the theory that the murder calibre of the mystery firearm was a 30 calibre. This is also where both these gentlemen do a very fine job of displaying a double helping of stupidity.
Dr. Roussell officially stated that he found circular perforations in the clothing of the two victims measuring 7/16 inch diameter to 1/2 inch diameter. Unfortunately this threw the theory of 30 calibre into the garbage. Both 7/16 and 1/2 inch far surpasses the parameters of 30 calibre specifications. This is where the hunting goods store manager or a firearms specialist would quickly advise that these diameters would be far beyond anything that was available.
There is only one reasonable explanation as to the oversized holes in the victims clothing, combined with an absense of spent cartridge cases and fragmented bullets. These cartridge cases and fragmented bullets could never be located because simply they never existed. As I have stated in the past, it is clear that neither Richard Lindsey or Frerderick Claar were murdered by firearms. The holes in the clothing and lack of damage to tissue and bones within the bodies exhibited clear evidence of this fact. It is prudent to deduce that both of these victims died of stab wounds.
The fact that some of the circular perforations measuring 7/16 inch diameter and some 1/2 inch diameter is consistent with the diameter of a wound that would be created as a result of being stabbed by a round tapered object. As I have mentioned previously, a bayonet type of weapon would be a likely prospect. Some bayonets from WWII were a detachable type that could be used on the muzzle end of a rifle, or they could be removed and used in arm to arm combat. Either way, these weapons though perhaps crude, were effective in accomplishing what they were designed for, which was to cause death by bleeding and creating little or no noise.
In total length a military bayonet was approximately 17 inches. The average distance to penetrate the full thickness of the average male soldier was approximately 12 inches. The round spike bayonet was pointed and got larger in diameter as one progressed toward the hilt of the device. The average maximum diameter of the spike bayonet was “7/16 to 1/2 inch” in diameter. The deeper that the bayonet was thrust into it's target, the larger the entry hole followed in it's path. The war surplus stores were full of this sort of souvenir after the Second World War. Souvenirs of this nature sold for little more than a dollar.
Another type of tool that could be used in a similar way was the miners pick. Hardware stores were full of them and they would have been most effective. This would not be a rare item in the Gaspe' region in the early 1950's. Some months back I spoke to Keith Baker about the miners pick. Of course it was not developed to become a weapon or tool of death, however, I did ask Keith if it would be effective. Keith's immediate reply, "I sure would not want to be struck by one."
In the case of Richard Lindsey, he was found some distance away from his rifle which still had the firing mechanism in the cocked position, meaning that it was ready to fire. The searchers and pathologist could not determine why the muzzle of Richard Lindsey's rifle was plugged with mud and debris. This is relatively easy to explain, especially to anyone who has actively hunted over the years. One of the more common stances that most hunters adopt is the carrying of their rifle by resting the barrel in the crook of the arm with the other hand near the magazine and trigger assembly. It is probably one of the quickest methods of shouldering the rifle when game is sighted.
Think now for a moment as to what would happen if someone came up behind you by surprize and thrust a bayonet into either your front or back. At most you would gasp. You would not scream. You would instantly commence dropping to your knees. Your rifle would instantly be pointed downward to protect you from falling. The first part to make contact with the earth would be the muzzle, which in turn would fill the muzle with mud and debris. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may leave the rifle there and stagger away for a short distance until you succumbed to certain death. I mention these things because Dr. Roussell and Bernard Peclet should have considered them years ago, but I do not believe that they did, because, an investigation of this magnitude was far beyond their capabilities.
As I have reported previously, there was no flesh left on the bones of these two young men. Consequently, no bullet entrance or exit points were visible on the bodies. The most startling fact of all was that no bones were found to be fractured. One small bone from Frederick Claar's remains contained a marking that according to Mr. Pecelet, might have been made by a firearm, but he also stated that it could have been made as a result of a forest animal such as a black bear. If a firearm was used in these crimes, it was an impossibility to declare the calibre even though both Dr. Roussell and Mr. Pecelet made vain attempts to cover their butts. They did this by suggesting a very large and vast range of calibres, both in handguns and in long guns. They both appeared to lack comprehension as to the meaning of the word “calibre.” They placed heavy emphasis on thirty calibre, with little or no regard for bullet weights and diameters, and the fact that even though a cartridge could be in the thirty calibre range, the bullet weights and actual hitting power of the bullet from this array of diameters was vast. This is where it is necessary to grasp some elementary laws of ballistics. As an example, let us determine what this is all about, and in doing that, you will quickly realize what I am talking about here.
Upon finding the two skeletons in the forest at Gaspe' the searchers were quick to contact Captain Alphonse Matte, who in turn contacted Dr. Roussell, the provincial medical officer. His response was simple. “Box up the bones and deliver them to Gaspe'” and he would look them over and do his investigation when he could come to town. I can cope with ignorance, but I have a real tough time with sheer stupidity. Here you have two sets of skeletal human remains. Quite probably these remains will be those of two persons who have been declared missing. This was the point where the complete area should have been cordoned off and the area secured with the order that no one is allowed in.
As you can see, properly attacked in a court of law, any defense law team who was worth their salt could have sent the autopsy reports spinning into a wild orbit through outer space. Never should that report have contributed to the guilt finding of Wilbert Coffin at his trial. Simply put, it should have worked in his favour. Unfortunately, because of a dud for a lawyer, the most vital piece of evidence in the defense's favour never got cross examined.
I realize that a lot of space has been alloted to the autopsy reports in the writing and my investigation of this case. I have gone over it many many times, and approached it from many angles. The bottom line is and has always been, it was very badly handled. I do hope that the CCRG (Criminal Conviction Review Group) in Ottawa, who are now conducting an inquiry into this case equally allot as much time as is necessary to understand and learn all the facts regarding ballistics. I can guarantee you that in the present form, they do not understand everything that needs to be examined. They must do it with an open mind and spirit, and be prepared to bring in people who know what they are talking about. To merely review what was done 53 years ago is not enough. That will only show the errors of the 1950's and what was accepted at trial. In other words, if they did not know it was in error back then, to not look beyond the box today, the effort becomes fruitless.
I have received additional information that was supplied by the late Constable Lewis Sinnett. It has not changed those that I have named as suspects, but it does tighten the case against them. I have also acquired additional information from a report by Sgt. John Charles Vanhoutte of the Quebec Provincial Police that ties in very nicely with my roundup of suspects. I can now tell you that I now know for a fact that there were people from the Gaspe' region who knew the Lindsey family by name, and as well, knew that they were in the forest before they were reported as missing. That fact is interesting because it has always been reported that Wilbert Coffin was the last known person from the Gaspe' region who was known to have seen them alive. I have a police report that states otherwise, and I am not speaking of persons who may have been at the Lindsey truck the day that Wilbert returned young Richard to his Dad's hunting party.
I have heard from the FBI in the United States. In response to my querie to them with reference to this case, I have been invited to prepare them an official request to look into the matter. As I pointed out to them some time back, three United States citizens were brutally murdered on Canadian soil. Canada hung one of our citizens for the murder of one of the victims. That case is now falling apart, and the other two cases have never been brought to justice. Hopefully, this will put some pressure on Ottawa to do something about this matter.
I have been informed that the CCRG in Ottawa is not progressing well on this case. I am told that the lawyer who was studying the case is no longer involved with it, and that another has been appointed, however, not a lot of headway has been accomplished over the summer. I think this is atrocious and appalling. This has gone on far too long.
A new posting will be coming in just a few days. Again sorry for all the delays. Trust me, it is very near complete. Thanks so much to one and all.
This manuscript is protected by copyright. Reproduction in part or in whole, by whatever means, is not permitted without the express written permission of the author, Lew Stoddard.