Count to 30, slowly. For someone twisting a chain around the neck of a middle-aged man, this is the maximum time it takes to force the man to shut up. The time it takes for him to pass out. If the pressure is then released, the man will regain consciousness in less than 30 seconds.
Now count to 180, maybe even 300. This is the time it takes for the strangulation to lead the victim to brain death, if the pressure is stable. Otherwise, it might take even longer. “It’s a long time to die of strangulation,” says a Quebec specialist in the field, Yann Dazé, pathologist at the Ministry of Public Security.
The elapsed time. This is probably the most important and the least questionable data when it comes to trying to assess the circumstances in which the main victim of the October crisis, Pierre Laporte, died 50 years ago on 17 October.
Historically, two versions
Since that tragic day, we know, the members of the cell that kidnapped Laporte have chosen to lie jointly on this subject. They said that the three of them, Paul and Jacques Rose and Francis Simard, intentionally and coldly executed Laporte. On one point, we know that is wrong. Paul Rose was very far from the scene of death at the fateful hour.
Then, and for years, the “accident” thesis circulated. In this version, the Felquistas present, Jacques Rose and Francis Simard, would have wanted to take their hostage to hospital, because he had been injured the day before during an escape attempt. When they were led to the trunk of the car, where they had placed the pillow and blanket, Laporte would have started screaming. It was to silence him, for fear that he would be heard by neighbors, that one of the felquists would have twisted the sweater he was wearing from the back, tightening, perhaps without knowing it, the chain he was wearing. he was wearing around his neck and dragging him to death.
This version is supported by the lawyer appointed by René Lévesque to shed light on this case in 1976, Jean-François Duchaîne. He has repeated this to me in an interview over the last few days, saying that none of the Felquistas are prepared to commit murder. It is taken up by FLQ historian Louis Fournier in the reissue of his book FLQ. History of an underground movement.
There is something Shakespearean in this version. The Felquists were on the verge of freeing their wounded hostage, to entrust him to the good care of doctors. But in a tragic twist in history, a last-minute leftist attempt would have turned the Good Samaritans into assassins, discrediting the entire work of the FLQ and changing the course of history.
Without having a video – non-existent – of the events, we will never have historical certainty on this subject. However, several pieces of evidence available paint a different picture.
What we know of the Felquistas’ state of mind in the hours leading up to the tragedy indicates that the decision to take Laporte to hospital was not made. In his book written between 1980 and 1982, To end with October, Francis Simard explains for several long and heart-wrenching pages that he and Jacques Rose constantly wavered between the idea of freeing Laporte and the idea of killing him. “We had reached an almost extreme level of tension,” he writes. And he adds, “We say ‘we have to release him’, but we can’t do that. It is again to agree with powers, with those who have. It is still accepting that they are the strongest, always. “
He says the decision was then made to kill Laporte and he drives home the point: “It’s no accident. The reason for ignoring this admission? Simard would only resume, 12 years later, the Felquist pact of guilt. Nothing, however, compelled him to recount in detail the hesitation that precedes the death.
Simard, who died in 2015, then took part in writing the script for the film October, released in 1994. There, the point of view is clear: Jacques Rose and Simard voluntarily executed Laporte, out of the field of the camera, in silence. Should we still see in this the expression of Felquist solidarity? There is a downside. Simard admits, there, the absence of Paul Rose.
Pierre Falardeau recounted having submitted to Simard, his “best boyfriend He said, each version of the script and added to have “copied the real”. Simard was also present on the set throughout the shoot.
We discover new elements. It was known that Felquist Bernard Lortie had left the house where Mr. Laporte was being held after the hostage’s attempted escape, but before his death. A scene from the film makes us understand why. Lortie is firmly opposed to the murder of Laporte. As an aside, Jacques Rose and Simard worry about this attitude and suspect Lortie of having untied Laporte’s ties, allowing him to attempt to escape. They find a pretext to make him leave. It interferes with their project. They tell him to go find Paul Rose to inform him of the hostage’s situation.
Another scene shows a felquist approaching Laporte, who is seated and seen from behind. The felquist is not named but, according to actor Denis Trudel, it is his character, Simard. He has a rope in hand with the clear intention of strangling the hostage. But he does not dare to do this and returns to his sidekick.
Paul Rose’s recommendation
The film also reveals the fact that Paul Rose calls his brother and Simard to recommend that they execute Laporte. Paul Rose is the natural leader of the group, and while he denies giving “an order” in this conversation, his opinion counts. In an open letter to The Aut ’Journal at the time of the film’s release, Paul Rose disputes the tone of the film, not sufficiently political in his opinion, and the veracity of some elements. However, when given the opportunity, Rose does not deny the existence of this appeal in which he recommends the execution of Laporte.
Jacques Lanctôt, of the Liberation cell detaining Cross, told me that he had known “for a long time” of this phone call from Paul Rose recommending the execution, because Francis Simard would have opened it up at the time to another member of his cell, Yves Langlois.
A recent revelation by Jacques Cossette-Trudel lends weight to the version of a Paul Rose ready to take action. Cossette-Trudel, from the Liberation cell, met Paul Rose on October 13. Cross has already been held hostage for eight days, Laporte, for three. It now seems unlikely that the central demand of the Felquists, the release of 23 of their imprisoned comrades, will be obtained. Cossette-Trudel told Marc Laurendeau, Radio-Canada, that Paul Rose put his gun on the table and said: “If the government maintains its attitude, you will have to kill Mr. Cross, I think. Cossette-Trudel refuses. Rose understands that Cross’s kidnappers are never going to murder their hostage – they will write it in two press releases that unfortunately will not be made public during the crisis. As she left the scene, Rose said to Cossette-Trudel, “We’ll make arrangements with Laporte. “
This version is denied by Louise Verreault, then spouse of Paul Rose and present at the meeting. It is not, however, incompatible with the version found in the Duchaîne report, in a passage based on interviews conducted at the time with Paul Rose and members of the Liberation cell. Duchaîne indicates that it is agreed that Cross “will not be executed”, but that it is “decided that the FLQ” will not intervene in favor of Minister Laporte in the death sentence pronounced against him by the authorities in place ” . “
Obviously, Cossette-Trudel did not at the time reveal to Mr.e Duchaine Paul Rose’s desire to end one of the hostages. However, he revealed it to the other members of his cell as soon as he saw them again. This is what he says in his own book, A witch among the felquists, Louise Lanctôt, spouse of Cossette-Trudel. This is also confirmed to me in an interview with Jacques Lanctôt. He also remembers that Cossette-Trudel told him about Rose’s revolver.
All these elements invalidate the account according to which the Felquists had made the decision to release Laporte. They had mentioned it, yes. Simard says he spoke at length with Mr. Laporte. But they were also, and obviously above all, juggling with the will to execute.
Francis Simard and Jacques Lanctôt were prisoners together, at the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul penitentiary. Lanctôt says that Simard only told him once about the circumstances of Laporte’s death. “Francis no longer spoke to the Roses because he was against the idea of making the murder an accident,” says Lanctôt. The execution was deliberate, Simard told him, adding that “it took many minutes before Laporte breathed his last.”
Where does the information come from that Laporte started screaming and that a felquist wanted to silence him? Once arrested, Jacques Rose is entitled to an interview with his lawyer, Robert Lemieux, protected by confidentiality between lawyer and client. But an SQ team records him illegally. Me Duchaîne heard this tape. In an interview, he specifies that Jacques Rose does not give a precise account of the unfolding of events, but indicates that Laporte had a panic attack and began to cry. “It would not have ended like this if he had not acted as he acted,” said Jacques Rose, very up against Laporte whom he considers responsible for the events and whom he overwhelms with insults and blasphemies.
Another person, a judge, also heard the tape and told reporter Carl Leblanc the following for his book on Cross, The secondary character : “Jacques Rose is very angry, he rants against Laporte, as if the latter had forced him to take action. That says a lot about the degree of premeditation. And the way he indulges doesn’t leave much doubt as to who the strangled was. “
What about the blanket and pillow placed in the trunk of the car with the hostage’s body? In the Good Samaritan version, the two Felquistas allegedly put them there in order to get Mr. Laporte to hospital, before the “accident” that allegedly caused his death. In the version Simard recounts in his book, it is instead an expression of remorse, “as if we could still save him.” We carefully deposited it in the suitcase of the car. We put on blankets, a pillow. We bundled him up. “
A two-step explanation
Once we put the event in context, which was not benevolent, a review of the medical evidence of death gives us arguably the most useful answer.
First of all, it is true that Laporte’s injuries were impressive. The bandages on the wrists were soaked in blood. But the medical examiner on file, Dr Jean-Paul Valcourt, concludes: “Mr. Laporte’s corpse, as far as I’m concerned, we can’t say that it lost a lot of blood when I did the autopsy. “
According to coroner Jean Brochu, consulted for this article, and according to the “bible” in terms of strangulation, Forensic Pathology Drs Dominick and Vincent Di Maio, it takes a dozen seconds and at most thirty to silence a person by applying strong pressure around the neck. It’s not the air it lacks, it’s the blood that no longer oxygenates the brain.
If the Felquistas’ goal was to silence Laporte, this pressure would have been enough to make him lose consciousness. But to strangle a 57-year-old man who has lost some blood requires continuous pressure for a few minutes. How many ? It’s variable. At least three, four or five. The Dr Valcourt concludes from his examination of the deceased that strong pressure was applied first, then lighter pressure. Which suggests that there are two moments, two outcomes.
The pathologist Yann Dazé, who has supervised more than 50 cases of strangulation, is categorical: in less than 30 seconds, the felquists had before them an inanimate body. They couldn’t be wrong. “To continue the pressure beyond this deadline is a matter of another desire” than that of silencing the man, he explains. After 30 seconds, the victim “is like in a coma”, he adds.
“We finished it”
We are therefore in the presence of only two probable versions. There is that of pure and simple execution, defended by Simard in his book, in Falardeau’s film and in his discussion with his fellow prisoner Jacques Lanctôt.
There is the slightly more charitable one of death in two stages. We would be there in the presence of felquists uncertain of the fate they want to reserve for their hostage. Maybe even decided, at the key moment, to take him to the car, but forced to stop him from screaming. The occasion making the thief, the felquist having started the strangulation, angry with the hostage, decides to go to the end of his process and to make the man pass from life to death.
This scenario can be supported by an illegal second registration. When Paul Rose recounts the events to Robert Lemieux after his arrest, SQ Constable Claude Lavallée arranges the recording. He mentions it in his book Revelations of an SQ spy. In an interview, he claims to have transcribed into his book the notes he had taken on the spot and swears that it is really Paul and not Jacques Rose.
Paul Rose says: “When we saw that we could not do much for him, because it was impossible for us to bring a doctor or bring him to the hospital, we finished him. , with the chain he had around his neck. “
The police believe they just heard a confession. They have yet to understand that Paul Rose was absent from the stage and that he is telling what his brother Jacques told him. But this “we are done” is evocative.
Francis Simard’s story provides the context: “You create events, but there comes a time, a moment, when it is the events that you created that carry you. We had the feeling that Laporte was already dead. He was like someone whose life had been taken away. He looked completely “drained”. You felt that he had already been killed for him. “
This terrible but plausible hypothesis is that, to begin with, they wanted to silence him. And finally, they finished it. For starters, it was an accident. In the end, it was murder.
The author wrote Insurgency apprehended – The Great Lie of October 1970, Carte Blanche editions / The Lisée box.