Richard Bros – along the banks of the Vidourle

Richard Bros - along the banks of the Vidourle
Sommières, Roman bridge over the Vidourle

The mystery of the death of Richard Bros in London, which I discussed in the post Sky with Diamonds and Blood simple – The Last Known Address of Richard Bros, led me to his birthplace, the village of Sommières, in the French Midi. I wanted to understand his childhood, his family, the village and the Midi, to learn why he and his parents left for Canada, which ultimately led to his death. I also wanted to learn if there was a link between Bros’ death and the death of Mario Bachand, something I suspected.

Richard Bros - along the banks of the Vidourle
Richard Bros and his paternal aunt, Sommières

More simply, how did a boy born in this lovely village in the Midi,  Sommières, end up hanging by the neck in a London police cell? 

Most immediately, to find out the meaning of the two dates on the two misdirected passports, discussed in the post Blood Simple – The Last Known Address of Richard Bros.

A possible source for information on whether or not Richard Bros had traveled from London to Paris, and returned, at about the time the two DEFLQ persons made the same journey, would be Bros’s widow, Francoise Peeters. I had found a telephone listing for someone of that name living in Lille, France. I had no idea if it was her, but in any case no one answered my several calls and I was unable to leave a message.

I also wished to have access to the inquest records, which would be of capital value for my inquiries into how Richard Bros died.

I had written to Dr. D. R. Chambers, Her Majesty’s Coroner, City of London Coroner’s Court, Milton Court, who had presided over the inquest, and who was still in office. I asked for copies of the Notes of Evidence of the inquest Dr. Chambers refused ‘my request, writing: 

“Rule 57 of the Coroner’s Rules refers to those persons who are entitled to copies of the notes of evidence and certain other documents relating to an inquest because they are held by the Coroner to be ‘properly interested’. The term is employed in defining those persons who may put questions to a witness at an inquest. This is the provision in Rule 20. Most coroners then use this list as an indication of those to be regarded as ‘properly interested’ for the purposes of Rule 57. He added…”unless I am informed by a member of the family that they do not object. If you are cooperating with such a person please let me know. (…) I know that in continental Europe death, and the circumstances of death, are regarded as matters of extreme confidentiality, and that this does include the French.”

I would have to find a willing relative of Richard Bros to access the inquest records. I had no idea how that would transform my inquiries into his death, and what disturbing truths I would find.

The following day, I called Pierre Serrano, maternal uncle of Richard Bros. Pierre Serrano and his wife lived near Marseilles, but happened to have a summer home in Sommières. He readily agreed to receive me the next day.

It so happened that, when meeting Pierre Serrano, I fell upon a second mystery, one closely linked to the struggle with the separatist threat to Canada. So important that, of course, it is completely unknown to the Canadian public.

The next day, at noon, I walked along the narrow rue Antonin Paris, with its small shops, through the heart of Sommières, then on to the bridge over the Vidourle. After traversing the bridge, I turned right and soon crossed square and passed the three-story 18th century building that had been the home of Laurence Durrell. Durrell lived there from 1965 to his death in 1990, during which time he wrote Tunc, Nanquam, Le Quintette d’Avignon and The Smile of Tao. Behind the building I could see an open field that had been a vineyard and beyond the Cimetière de Sommières, where Richard Bros was buried. I continued to the summer home of Pierre Serrano and his wife. A mazet, a mall secondary residence, with an orchard of fig and persimmon trees, in what had been in a vineyard. Pierre Serrano, a man in his seventies dressed casually but neatly met me at the gate and led me to a table with chairs in the garden. Almost immediately his wife arrived with fruit, cheeses and bread. And of course two bottles of  wine, red and white. I was welcomed by the hospitality of the Midi.

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