I awoke with a start, the first light of the morning seeping through the curtains. My first thought, “How did I end up in Paris, investigating a 25 year-old unsolved murder?” Karma, foolishness, or both. Whatever it was, there was vanishing close to zero chance of finding out who had shot Mario Bachand to death that day, the 29th of March, 1971, at 46 rue Eugène-Lumeau, in the Paris banlieue St. Ouen. And if by some miracle I was to discover who the man and the woman who had killed him, they were out there, somewhere. Terrorists, or something more occult that I did not want to think about too much, they would not be happy that I was on their trail.
Every investigation has a beginning. A moment before, a moment after, and that mysterious moment between. How innocent that mysterious moment was, after turning the page of a document in the National Archives of Canada. It spoke of three meetings. They first included the Minister responsible for the RCMP, Solicitor-General Jean-Pierre Goyer; the Director General of the RCMP Security Service, John Starnes; and, the Deputy Solicitor-General, Ernest Côté. The second, between Goyer and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau; The third included Goyer, Starnes and the Commissionaire of the RCMP, William Higgitt. The subject of the meetings was not given, but from the wording of Starnes’s testimony, they concerned a security threat outside of Canada, from the Front de Libération du Québec, the FLQ. The dates of the meetings? The 24th and 26th of March, 1971.
“What were the meetings about?”, I asked myself. The terrorist event that had shaken Canada – the kidnappings of British diplomat James Cross and of Quebec minister Pierre Laporte, and the murder of Laporte, had ended months earlier. James Cross had returned to Britain. The body of Pierre Laporte, who had been strangled to death by his FLQ captors, was in his final resting place, in the cemetery on the slopes of Mt Royal, overlooking Montreal. Laporte’s murder so horrified the Quebec public than any remaining support for the FLQ disappeared at a stroke.
What was going on at the end of March, 1971, outside of Canada, that might be related to a security threat from a moribund FLQ?
One thing going on was the visit of Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa to several European countries, including Britain, Italy, Belgium… and France. Robert Bourassa had been threatened several times by the FLQ. In particular, by Mario Bachand, and by a group of felquistes in Algers who called themselves the Délégation Extérieure du FLQ (DEFLQ). Was there a link between the killing of Bachand and the DEFLQ?
The newspaper accounts of the murder of Mario Bachand suggested that the FLQ had developed hostility against Bachand because of his personality and his intransigence. The accounts went back several months to December, 1970. These were linked to the DEFLQ.
“We will see about that.”, I thought.
A Research Plan
I developed a research plan. First, I would read whatever literature I could find on the FLQ, Mario Bachand, and related events and personalities. Second, I would request the RCMP’s file on Mario Bachand under Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy Act (AtIP). Surely the RCMP would have important information of the killing of Mario Bachand. I would cull the names of RCMP officers and Canadian and Quebec officials, locate them and approach them for interview. I would take all of the facts and enter them into a chronology, which I would analyse to find out who did what to whom. Including who had visited Mario Bachand that day in Paris, and shot him to death.
I envisaged the chronology and the information generally as a very large field of signs that I would scan and interpret.
I was quite sure that whoever was responsible for Bachand’s murder had deformed the facts, and had hidden other facts, and that somewhere, somehow, they had made a mistake. I would find that mistake, and a name.