Wednesday 15 February 2017

The mass murderer did it for love of another woman and for money

Joseph-Albert Guay was born on the 23rd of September 1917, in Quebec, Canada. Guay was the youngest of five children and extremely spoiled. As a young man, he sold watches and jewelry on commission and, when World War II broke out; he got a job at Canadian Arsenals Limited at St. Malo, Quebec. It was there that he met his wife, Rita Morel. The arsenal closed in 1945 and Guay opened a jewelry and watch repair shop.

After Guay and Rita were married, Albert and Rita fought regularly,  particularly after the birth of their first and only child. He was a jealous man and was also possessive. Further, his business wasn't going well and debts began piling up at the shop.

Guay began having extramarital affairs. In 1948, he started courting 19-year-old waitress Marie-Ange Robitaille. Two or three times a week, he visited her at her parents’ home, where the teenager still lived. She introduced him to her parents as “Robert Angers,” hiding the fact that he was a married man. He was madly in love with her and even bought her an engagement ring.

However, Rita eventually learned of the affair. Incensed, she went to the girl’s parents where she confronted Guay and his teenaged mistress and told the Robitailles all about their daughter’s lover. The Robitailles threw their daughter out of the house, so Guay arranged for her to stay at the home of Marguerite Ruest-Pitre, a close friend of his, and her husband. Later he rented an apartment for himself and his mistress in Sept-Îles, 500 kilometres east along the St. Lawrence River. From then on, he moved between mistress and wife—an arrangement that worked for neither woman. Fights in the Guay home became more frequent. Then young Marie-Ange decided to leave Guay. He was devastated. Then an idea came to him that if he could get rid of Rita, nothing would stand between him and happiness with his ex-girlfriend.

Unfortunately for Guay, during that time in Quebec’s history, the province was strictly Roman Catholic and getting a divorce from his wife so he could marry his girlfriend would have been almost impossible to obtain. So what does a man like Albert Guay do when he is in a situation like the one he was in?

Guaybeing devastated as he was. he devised a plan to get rid of his wife.  He made the first attempt to rid himself of his wife in April 1949, when he offered a man $500 to pour poison in her cherry wine. His offer was turned down. He then thought of another way to kill his wife.

Guay then asked clockmaker Généreux Ruest to manufacture a time bomb using dynamite, batteries that his sister, Marguerite Pitre (also known as Ruest-Pitre) had bought at a hardware store.and an alarm clock. The dynamite had also been purchased at a hardware store by Ruest's sister. She had previously helped arrange liaisons between Guay and Robitaille before their breakup so she was willing to help Guay fulfil his plan to kill his wife.

At that time in Canada’s history, the sales of explosives to civilians were recorded but not strictly regulated. Marguerite Pitre  told the salesperson that the dynamite was going to be used to clear tree stumps from a field. After hearing that explanation, the salesperson sold her the dynamite.

On September 9th, 1949, Guay persuaded his wife, Rita Guay, 29, to take a business trip to pick up a box of gems. He bought her a ticket for a Canadian-Pacific Airlines flight from Quebec City to Baie Comeau, about 250 miles away.

The airplane his wife was to be flown on was a Canadian Pacific Airlines Douglas DC-3 aircraft flying from Montreal to Baie-Comeau with a stopover at Quebec City. The airline involved is sometimes stated as "Quebec Airways", but this was a name used for some Canadian Pacific Airlines flights in Quebec.

After Guay had taken his wife to the airport, he took out an additional insurance policy on his wife’s life in the amount of $10,000. In 2016 money, that would be equivalent to $201,688.00.

Ruest's sister, Marguerite Pitre also went to the airport and air-freighted a package containing the bomb.  It was then placed in the forward baggage compartment of the plane that Rita was going to be on.

The plane (Flight Number 108) was departing L'Ancienne-Lorette airport   on a stopover flight onward to Baie-Comeau. It was there that Guay's wife, Rita boarded the plane.

The bomb exploded 41 miles into the trip, killing all 23 people on board. Later after the plane was in the air, the bomb detonated successfully and killed Guay's wife and everyone else on the plane however; the plan had failed when the flight was delayed five minutes at takeoff. Guay had calculated that the explosion was to have taken place over the Saint Lawrence River, which would have made forensic examination of the crash impossible with the technology then available to forensic scientists at that time.

The delay at takeoff meant that the bomb had detonated five minutes earlier in the flight than planned, thereby causing the plane to crash-land 9n the side of  Mt. Tourmente, close to a small district named Sault-au-Cochon  in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.

The explosion and subsequent crash killed all four crew members and 19 passengers aboard the airplane. Apart from Guay's wife Rita, the victims included four children and three American executives from the Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation. Twenty three people were murdered by Guay so that he could marry his young sweetheart and receive the $10,000 in insurance that would get him out of debt.

When the plane slammed into the mountain 16 minutes after takeoff, it appeared to have just dropped from the sky. One witness at the scene said that there was no fire, just a mass of wreckage and all those bodies.

The bodies of nineteen passengers, among them three babies and four crew members who died were horribly mangled. Only one corpse—the remains of Rita Guay had a recognizable face.

A forensic analysis of the debris taken to Montreal concluded that the accident had been caused by a time bomb planted in the forward baggage compartment of the airplane. Sorting through the names of the crash victims, the police came upon Rita Morel, Albert Guay’s 29-year-old wife. They learned that he had purchased the plane ticket for his wife and, at the same time, taken out a $10,000 insurance policy on her life.

One suspicious package, a metal box, became the focus of the investigation. The 28-pound parcel had been rushed on board moments before takeoff by an unidentified shipper. A cab driver recalled a woman dressed in black who had hired him to take her to the airport that day. She was in a hurry, but warned him to be careful. “These aren’t eggs I’m carrying,” she said when he swerved sharply to avoid a truck. It had been stuffed with dynamite. The package carried by her and whisked onto the plane had been addressed to “Mr. Larouche,” which turned out to be a made-up name.

In the days after the accident, Raymond Chasse, a journalist for Quebec City’s Le Soleil, reported that a mysterious “woman in black” had air-freighted a parcel on the ill-fated plane just before takeoff. Police soon identified the woman as Marguerite Ruest-Pitre, 43, of Quebec City.

As investigators followed this lead, Guay was making a spectacle of his grief — with a five-foot cross of roses — at Rita’s funeral. “If God wanted it, I accept,” he moaned to a priest. Within two weeks, it would be clear that his sorrow was all an act. He was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife and the 21 other passengers and crew.

While Marguerite Ruest-Pitre was recovering from an overdose of sleeping pills in a hospital and being questioned by the police, she claimed that the parcel was from a Mr. Delphis Bouchard of Saint-Simeon to be delivered to a Mr. Albert Plouffe of Baie Comeau and that it had been entrusted to her by Albert Guay, a 31-year-old watchmaker and jeweller from Quebec City who employed her brother Généreux Ruest. The police interrogated Bouchard, who denied having sent any parcel. Further, no traces of an Albert Plouffe were ever found in Baie Comeau. It was obvious to the police that she was lying to them—which appeared to them as a sign of her guilty part in this disaster.

Pitre then confessed about her role and the roles of Guay and Ruest.  Pitre and the other two were arrested and charged with first degree murder which if convicted, is a hanging offence.

In 1949, in-flight bombing was virtually unheard of. Four months before the arrest of Guay and the other two suspects, two ex-convicts had planted a time bomb on an aircraft in the Philippines that resulted in 13 fatalities. It was one of the first incidents of its kind.

The novelty of the explosion near Sault-au-Cochon had newspapers from all over North America rushing correspondents to Quebec City to cover Guay’s trial five months later. While the bombing was not the first proven instance of sabotaging a passenger flight for criminal purposes, it was the first to be solved. 

Guay was tried and convicted of the 23 murders in February 1950. During the trial more damning evidence emerged: a man testified that in April 1949 Guay had offered him $500 to poison his wife. After his conviction, Guay issued a statement claiming that Ruest and Pitre acted knowingly to help him.

In June 1950, the brother and sister were arrested and tried separately—Ruest in November, Pitre in March, 1951. Ruest first claimed he thought he was making a bomb to clear tree stumps from a field. Later, he said that Guay told him he needed the bomb to go “dynamite fishing.” Pitre claimed she thought the package she delivered to the airport contained a statue and that she found out about the crime only after it had happened. Both of their juries were unconvinced of their innocence.

Albert Guay was hanged for the murder of 23 people in 1951. Le Soleil reported that his last words were “Bien, au moins, je meurs célébre!” (“Well, at least I die famous!) Généreux Ruest was hanged in 1952. Because he was crippled by TB, he was taken to the execution chamber in a wheelchair and Marguerite Ruest-Pitre was hanged in 1953. She claimed her innocence to the end, but her appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected. She was the last woman to be hanged in Canada. Their executions took place in the Bordeaux prison in Montreal. During their hangings, I was a sailor in the Canadian navy. Many years later I was invited by the prison authorities to visit that particular prison.

Though airplane sabotage is a rare occurrence in Canadian history, it is the cause of Canada’s worst case of mass murder. On June 23, 1985, Air India Flight 182 en-route to London, Delhi and Bombay from Montreal exploded 31,000 feet in the air over the Atlantic Ocean south of Ireland. All 329 passengers and crew on board, the majority of them who were Canadian citizens, were killed. The explosion was caused by a bomb placed in the Boeing 747’s baggage compartment.

That mass murder will be the next article I will be placing in my blog. 

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