Robert Comeau and the assassination of Mario Bachand – a matter of deception
Des doutes sur deux étudiants québécois
Dans son récit, McLoughlin sème le doute quant à une possible
complicité, dans l’assassinat, de deux étudiants universitaires
québécois, Anne Legaré et François Dorlot, qui se trouvaient
alors à Paris. McLoughlin dit d’Anne Legaré qu’elle connaissait bien Bachand et lui rendait souvent visite à l’appartement de Barral, où elle l’aidait dans la préparation d’un livre qui a finalement été publié par les amis de Bachand après sa mort sous le titre Trois textes11. Anne Legaré, qui est devenue par la suite politologue à l’UQAM et a exercé la fonction de déléguée du Québec à New York et à Washington dans les années 1990, a catégoriquement démenti cette affirmation tout comme elle a nié avoir jamais visité l’appartement de Pierre Barral. Elle a aussi nié avoir téléphoné à François Dorlot deux jours avant l’assassinat de Bachand pour lui demander son adresse, contrairement à ce que prétend McLoughlin dans son récit. Elle l’a écrit dans un manuscrit non publié
qu’elle m’a confié après le colloque organisé en 2010 pour le quarantième anniversaire des événements d’Octobre, et l’a réaffirmé dans un courriel qu’elle m’a adressé en juin 2018:
Statement of Anne Legaré
obtenir ses coordonnées, quelque temps avant l’assassinat, tel que rapporté [par McLoughlin]. Donc, d’un côté, selon lui, j’allais chez Bachand pour l’aider à travailler sur ses textes et en même temps, j’appelais Dorlot pour obtenir son adresse, car je ne savais pas où il habitait!
The quotations are from the galley proof of a recent publication of Robert Comeau, a Quebec academic historian who had a brief role in the October Crisis. It mentions two persons who play an obscure yet fascinating role in the story of the assassination of Mario Bachand, Anne Legaré and François Dorlot. Two persons whose behavior illustrates the role of deception in attempts to hide the truth.
Inquiries at 46, rue Eugène Lumeau
When I first visited 46, rue Eugène-Lumeau, accompanied by a French woman, with camera, whom I had met in Montreal, in the North Paris banlieu St-Ouen, I had the fortunate experience of meeting Monsieur Seffino-Tréco, who with his wife lived in the ground floor apartment immediately below the apartment that had been occupied by Pierre Barral and his flatmate for a time, François Mario Bachand.
I arrived from central Paris on line 13, getting off at Garibaldi station. I then walked down Avenue Kléber and turned left onto rue Eugène-Lumeau, and continued the short distance to the entrance to number 46. A wrought-iron barrier, firmly locked, blocked the passage. I rang the buzzer.
Monsieur Seffano -Tréco
An older man, by appearance in his sixties or seventies, appeared. Around his neck, a lanyard carried a small blue, red and white enameled shield with the flag of France. I glanced at it. He said he had been in the Resistance during the war, a group of like himself at the St Ouen trainyards. A communist group. One night at midnight there was a knock at the door.
Two men of the Renseignement générale, the France’s political police, now in the pay of the Germans, pushed him into a car and took him to Fresnes, the prison where many of arrested Resistants were held. There he was interrogated and taken to Fresnes for interrogation. Days later he was put before a tribunal and sentenced to death. But it was just after June 6, the Normandy landings were underway, and he was sent to Rennes, the capital of Brittany, and the Gestapo headquarters there, for further interrogation.
I told him the purpose of my visit. There had been a murder in the building in 1971. The victim was a man from Canada, Montreal, and I was writing about it. Did he know about it? He did.
His wife was born in the building. They had lived there since their marriage, in 1938. Could I visit the apartment where the murder took place? He could not let me in, he said; perhaps the occupant would do so, he said, but he is not here now. At that moment, a man appeared, walking up Eugène-Lumeau in the direction from where we had come.
The scene of the crime
“Steve” turned out to be a Palestinian, an English teacher, with an easy manner and the wry sense of humour common to Palestinians. I told him of the murder twenty-five years before, a murder in room you now occupy. A man had been shot to death by a young man and young woman, I said. They said he had been killed by terrorists, but I had some doubts. Perhaps, however, he had been killed by persons pretending to be terrorists but who in reality belonged to a special service. “I know what you mean”, he said, with rueful smile”. He led me down the walkway along the front of the building. It was Spring, and the blue petunias along the edge gave a peaceful air, as if it were not at all a question of murder.
At the far end of the building we turned to the right towards the stairs. There was a smaller building on our left that, Steve said, was the basement for the main building. I went in and found a dark interior with a dirt floor, a smell of damp earth, that had two ground-level openings, ventilation holes that shed a faint light. I had the feeling that this room had something to do with the killing of Mario Bachand.
Steve led me up the stairs to the next floor, the door straight ahead.
The killing zone
A simple room, across from the entry, a simple sheet-metal shower, white. Then a simple kitchen, four-burner stove, small refrigerator, curtain on a string. Then a bed, by a window overlooking rue Eugène-Lumeau. At the further end, two windows overlooking the front walkway, small courtyard before a two-metre tall fence.
The bullet in the ceiling
I looked up to the ceiling, above the entrance to the kitchen. I told Steve that that a bullet had been found there, buried in the plaster. The Brigade criminelle investigators concluded that a bullet had struck Bachand in the forehead, deflected off and struck the ceiling. Pierre Barral, Bachand’s friend who had discovered the body, noticed it the following day. While probing the hole, the very deformed lead bullet dropped out and fell on the floor. Barral took it to 36, Quai des Orfèvres and gave it to the investigators.
Steve handed me a knife and said to dig into the spot in the ceiling. When I did so, I found soft plaster, evidently the plaster that Pierre Barral had used to fill the hole. The hole itself was fairly large, two or three centimeters; the bullet had been much deformed when it struck the bone of Bachand’s forehead.
Last supper for Mario Bachand
I had interviewed Pierre Barral by telephone and would soon take the train to Limoges, where he was now professor of mathematics at the University of Limoges, residing with Françoise Laville, now his wife, and their two children. He and Françoise, at the time of the murder students at the University of St. Ouen, had spent two hours lunch with Bachand and the mysterious couple. Bachand at the far end of the table, his back to the windows overlooking the walkway along the front of the building; of the two mysterious visitors, the man on Bachand’s right, the woman, blonde, with a piercing gaze from her blue eyes, at the far end, facing Bachand. The man on the right of Bachand, behind him the bed and the two windows overlooking rue Eugène-Lumeau. Pierre Barral, and Francoise Laville on the left, facing the man.
Pierre Barral finds the body of Mario Bachand
They lunched with a cous-cous that Pierre had prepared, after an Algerian recipe with clams. The two visitors said little and ate almost nothing. After they had sat down at the table, the man, who was seated on the long side, laid his jacket on the bed behind him.
The heavy object in the jacket pocket
Are you professional?
Bachand had been struck by three bullets. The first deflected off his forehead then striking the ceiling, 30cm from the entrance to the kitchen. The trauma caused him to vomit his cous-cous lunch onto the table before him. The second struck the right side of his head, penetrated the brain, as he attempted to rise and escape. He fell to the floor, landing on his stomach. A pencil-thin jet of blood coursed from the right side of his head and began to gather. The man seated the right, the man with the pistol, rose, went to him, pointed the pistol at the top centre of the skull, and fired the third bullet into Bachand’s brain.
What the KGB calls the “control shot”, to ensure that everything is under control.
They left hurriedly, leaving the door ajar.
There can be no doubt that the killers were well-trained professionals, of which the Brigade criminelle investigators were immediately aware. But who were they? Who in Mario Bachand’s entourage had helped them? More important, who had ordered the murder?
I looked forward to travelling to Limoges, to learn what I could from Pierre and Françoise Barral to help find the answers to these, and other, questions
Blood simple, or, every crime leaves something behind
I told Steve where, according to what Pierre Barral had told me during our telephone conversation, stood the table at which Bachand took his last meal, and where he had fallen, in the gathering blood. Steve said to cut into the green felt floor covering, an underlay serving as a carpet, firmly stuck to the floor, to see if I could find evidence. He handed me a sharp-blade cutting knife and said I should do it. I did so and immediately found a round spot, about 10 centimeters in diameter, about two or three millimeters thick, dark red, firm but rubbery to the touch. The colour and texture of dried blood. I cut out a small piece of the floor covering to which some of the material had attached, and placed it into an envelope that I happened to have.
There was a knock at the door. Four tenants had become aware of my inquiries and were curious. One of the men had been living in the building at the time, and told us what he knew. A discussion became to be an autopsy of murder.
A meeting an autopsy of a murder
Not long after the murder, the troubled tenants met. Mr. Seffano -Tréco told them that, before the event, he had overheard voices coming from the basement, through the ventilation holes. A basement that was never visited or used, and voices unknown. The also discussed the young woman who visited Mario Bachand from time to time to assist him with a book he was writing, a short pretty girl with dark brown hair, a student at the Sorbonne, a Québecoise. Her name, which I later verified by interviewing her and others, including Pierre Barral? Anne Legaré.
I called her not long after I had begun my research into the Bachand killing, primarily to ask about the telephone call François Dorlot claimed she had made to her, the morning when he took Bachand’s sister for a three or four day road trip outside of Paris, during which time Mario was murdered. The timing, I thought, was a bit convenient, and I wanted to ask about Dorlot’s claim.
Typist with a PhD
She would not meet with me, she said, unless Dorlot were present. I found the refusal amusing, she being well aware that Dorlot categorically refused being questioned about his, quite special, FLQ-related activities, which began not long after the FLQ came into existence. Associations with, to my count, at least three persons who ended up dead, Mario Bachand being one. I also asked to speak to her about her assisting Bachand with writing the texts published after his death as “Trois Textes”. She said she was just typing when she visited 46, rue Eugène-Lumeau, distancing herself from any notion of association with the writing, the text, the ideas, the thinking expressed in Trois Textes.
After my ” Last Stop, Paris: the assassination of Mario Bachand and the death of the FLQ” was published, in 1998, I called Legaré. I wanted her reaction, and any informative comment on the Bachand affair. The only comment I received was “I was not Mario Bachand’s friend”, in a hostile tone that clearly said that she would not talk about the murder of Bachand
In “Last Stop, Paris” I refer to her as Bachand’s “friend”, which seemed appropriate, not knowing otherwise, given that she had refused an interview with me. The interview of Anne Legaré that I had requested might have revealed what went on, with the writing, when she would visit Mario Bachand at 46, rue Eugène-Lumeau, in the one-room apartment in which, by the evidence not long after such a visit, a young couple arrived from Montreal and, during a welcoming meal, took the trouble to fire three bullets at his head, the last, as he lay in what would soon become a pool of blood, to the top centre of his skull, to make ensure sure that his life was over.
The telephone call
It might be helpful to give my research notes on the Dorlot-Legaré telephone call:
Michèle and Lanctôt had spoken with Dorlot recently at lunch. Michèle asked Dorlot about the telephone call to Dorlot on the morning of 28th, about 9:30. Dorlot closed the door to the room but Michèle was able to hear that he gave Mario’s address to the caller. After Mario’s death, Michèle asked Dorlot who that party was and Dorlot replied that it was Anne Legaré and that she wanted Mario’s address so she could invite him to a party.
Note this is in contradiction with Legaré’s statement to me that she was visiting 46, rue Eugène-Lumeau to help Bachand in editing Trois Textes and M. Serrano’s statement to me of her visits to, providing a physical description, saying that she visited Bachand to type the manuscript, because Bachand did not know how to use the machine. The contradiction being that Legaré knew Bachand’s address. She also knew that there was no telephone in the apartment where Bachand was staying. making it reasonable that she should ask Dorlot to pass on any message, if she knew that he would soon be seeing Bachand.
The latter is quite significant, because how could she know that Dorlot would be seeing Bachand?
At the recent meeting with Dorlot, Michèle again asked about the telephone call. Dorlot told her that Legaré had called to ask him to speak to Mario about Trois Textes, which she was ‘transcribing’.
Following the murder, Dorlot and Legaré were brought together before the Juge d’Instruction to give testimony about the events surrounding the murder. When the telephone call that Michelle overheard was raised, Legaré denied having made the call at all, in direct contradiction with Dorlot. Since that time, Dorlot and Legaré have not spoken to each other. (My interview of Michèle Bachand and Jacques Lanctôt, May 1993)
Politique – Politisation – Ideologie – Engagement
At the time of the murder of Mario Bachand, Anne Legaré was a doctoral student in political sociology at the Sorbonne. In December 1967, she joined the CYC (Company of Young Canadians)as “animateur cadre” for “Project Centre Est” in Montreal, of which Mario Bachand was a worker. Legaré co-led a week-long session, from the 5th to the 8th of February 1968, on “Les problèmes de fonctionnement du groupe”, for Centre Est project members, including Mario Bachand, with discussion directed along the themes “politique – politisation – ideologie – engagement”, more specifically:
L’objectif de l’animation, on l’admet, est la participation de la population aux décisions qui la concernant. Si on regarde la société dans laquelle on vi, il apparaît qu’une minorité de personnes détient les pouvoirs de décision et que le reste de la population subit ces décisions. Et c’est pourquoi l’animation, en poursuivant son objectif de participation, rejoint le politique. L’objectif de l’animation est donc la participation politique. (…)Information sur le Projet Centre-Est presentée aux volontaires de La Compagne des Jeunes Canadiens au Quebec, CJC-Quebec, vol. 1, no. 13, 15.3.68, RG 116, vol. 112, file 509 operations.
No unworthy objectives, merely a simple foundational truth of democracy. Of course Mario Bachand would interpret ‘social animation’ rather as a recipe for revolutionary action’, revolutionary action as labour violence, disorder, subversion, terrorism, none of which ever had anything to do with Anne Legaré. None of which, as shown by her exemplary personal and professional life, and as evidence by her Curriculum vitae, Anne Legaré has shown interest or sympathy. However , why would she wish to conceal her visits to 46, rue Eugène-Lumeau and her assistance to Mario Bachand in writing Trois Textes? Why exactly was she doing in her visits, and for what purpose?
As for Robert Comeau, why should he be coming to the defence of Anne Legaré, impossible as it is in the face of the evidence? In my view, I think of Legaré and Comeau as what the East Germans, citizens of the GDR (German Democratic Republic), referred to as ‘Golden Pheasants’, preening themselves as they support each other to receive the state-given benefits of academia, the occasional participation in a study or inquiry, or office. For which association with Mario Bachand, and his assassination, would be inconvenient.
Troubling questions remain
By the evidence, Bachand’s killers were well-trained professionals, in a well planned, resourced, organized and directed operation, in complete secrecy. Covered by a false story through the media; protection from inquisitive police. Only governments, and their special services, can do these things. Which raises the troubling questions.
Who were the killers, the young couple from Montreal who turned up at 46, rue Eugène-Lumeau carrying a .22 calibre pistol? What government, and service, was in the shadows, behind them? Was France implicated? Who in Mario Bachand’s entourage had helped them? Did anyone else die? Why did the Canadian journalists in Paris, with the keenness of youth, not rush to the scene to ask a few questions? More important, who had ordered the murder, because it certainly had been ordered, and why?