The blond assassin

My inquiries into the death of Mario Bachand had begun with my falling upon the questioning of DGIS John Starnes about the meetings of 24, 26 March 1971. That meant that my investigation began at the top, directed to those who ordered the killing, rather than at the bottom. For various reasons, I believe it was a fortunate choice. Principally, because it gave me some distance from the media noise, and therefore some protection, from the disinformation about the affair.

Being a blank slate helps investigation

It also helped that I had spent almost two decades in British Columbia before beginning my inquiries. I had few or no prejudgments with regard to l’affaire Bachand. I was a blank slate. I was surprised to find, during my reading and interviews, that Quebeckers knew very little about Mario Bachand and his death, and that those who thought they knew something, knew nothing and could only repeat the falsehoods disseminated through the media at the time of the murder. That, strangely, was especially so for several ex-FLQ who had personal acquaintance with related events.

Falsehood a path to truth

But let me add that falsehoods and deceit of an interview subject or accounts in the media or official documents can be very helpful in an investigation. For example, if an official, document or journalist tells a lie, you then know he or she, or document, was somehow party to the crime. It is not, in itself, proof, but it can help you to orient your inquiry. You can then follow the false statements, perhaps by following contradiction, avoidance, or denial to other tracks to the truth.

I came to think that the complete silence, the near complete ignorance, the void, behind the  murder of Mario Bachand, was now the story behind the story, and that it was as important. I still find it fascinating, but certainly very disturbing.

If I had begun my inquiries by focusing on the couple who arrived that day at 46, rue Eugène-Lumeau, banlieu St. Ouen, Paris, 28 mars 1971; to return the next day for a cous-cous lunch, to shoot Mario Bachand to death with a .22 caliber pistol or revolver, I would be dragged into the mad, crazy madness, of personalities, lies, distortions, intoxication, produced and disseminated by those who cloaked the Bachand affair in deception and lies, a fog of disinformation. I came to understand the true meaning of the Nazi’s “Night and Fog”; “night, for no information; “fog”, for the cloud of irrelevant accounts meant to confuse.

My thinking was: Bachand’s murder was linked to the meetings of 24, 26 March 1971, where my inquiries began. In such cases, the question of Who the killer or killers were, was of quite secondary importance.

Top level down cold

And I had the top-level of the assassination down cold. Particularly after interviewing the DST officer who told me, upon consulting the DST files on l’affaire Bachand, that “the RCMP knows everything about the murder of Mario Bachand.”

Operation Whitelaw and other signs

After my DST contact told me, after viewing, with the permission of ex-DST Director Jean Rochet, the DST files on the Mario Bachand affaire, and told me that the RCMP knows everything about the murder of Bachand; After interviewing Deputy Solicitor General Côté, who told me that the meetings of 24, 26 March were about the operation to murder Bachand; after finding the references in Jean-Pierre Goyer’s agenda notes regarding meetings for “Operation Whitelaw”, meetings with senior RCMP, such as DGIS John Starnes and RCMP Commissioner Higgitt; after Pierre Charette told me, confirmed by interview of a SEDEC officer who was at the French embassy in Havana, and a copy of that officer’s message to Canadian authorities, given in Last Stop, Paris, that Raymond Villeneuve had called Charette in Havana, from Paris, the day after the murder, to say “We ordered the killing of Bachand and we killed him”; after learning that SDECE and the RCMP had pressured the Brigade criminelle de Paris to not arrest Normand Roy and Denyse Leduc, identified by Pierre Barral, for whom they had created arrest warrants; that the Brigade criminelle informed the CBC Montreal journalists who had worked on the 1997 “documentary” about the murder of Bachand, that the RCMP and SDECE had pressured them to not arrest Roy and Leduc, a singular fact that the journalists chose not to mention in their ‘documentary’; well, I concluded that the journalists, media generally, academic specialists were not capable or not permitted to inquiry deeply or write or produce anything worthwhile on the killing of Mario Bachand, anything apart from recycling the untruth and the intoxication that had begun even before the murder of Mario Bachand; that even certain ex-RCMP officers who had participated in or otherwise known of the operation to murder Bachand, and who were deeply upset about it, feeling manipulated by the government that let them, and the RCMP, ‘hang out to dry’ and ‘twist in the wind’.

Here’s the thing about Operation Whitelaw

Here’s the thing. The murder of Mario Bachand was an audacious, carefully planned and executed, crime with every sign of having been committed by a government and a special service. A crime covered by sophisticated disinformation and intox, using a ‘false flag’ hit team employing two persons who were not FLQ but RCMP operatives in the guise of FLQ, and nonsensical disinformation spread by persons known to be in the pay of others, as shown by Quebec’s inquiry into RCMP wrongdoing, the Keable Commission. Most important, Operation Whitelaw was ordered, authorized and directed by the government of the day.

A ‘false flag’ terrorist or intelligence operation

A ‘false flag’ operation is one in which there is deception about its provenance, nationality or origin. A hypothetical, but also very real, example. A man or woman approaches someone and declares that he is working for, let us say, British service and “We need your help in a very serious, confidential matter. Very hush-hush. We are worried about a possible penetration of our service and we wish that you help us. In complete confidentiality of course.” The depth of concern and sincerity is evident, and clearly, by the tone of voice and manner, is an Oxford or Cambridge graduate, ‘one of us’. A quick check uncovers a photo of a diplomatic garden party in which she can be seen. And it is a she, in fact, it is a she, and you recall having seen her somewhere. You should of course immediately report this encounter to the security officer but then, you think, Who knows what trouble may arise if I were to do that?, and surely it is quite by chance that she is slim and lovely, attractive, so sympathetic and truly genuine. It is only much later, after you have ‘helped her’ with a tiny bit of what you are sure was completely inconsequential information, after she has returned to Prague, Moscow, Berlin, Washington or Beijing, or wherever, that you realize you have been played. But by then it is too late, there is no way out without putting yourself in an end-of-career position. You decide, reluctantly of course, in support of world peace or of whatever line they gave you, or rationalization to help you sleep at night, to continue ‘helping’ them.

Strategy of Tension

Or, you want the citizenry to think the right thoughts, and support the government in its trials with the growing unrest, disorder, opposition, an obvious political threat. A little bit of terrorism might help citizens to think positively. So you have a service set a bomb or two, or more, perform a kidnapping, an assassination. Call it ‘Strategy of Tension’, from the Italian, for the Italians have experience in such matters – Strategia della tensione.

And if you want to assassinate someone, perhaps to leave a message for the public or for the enemy, what is the way to do it? An ‘accident’, perhaps a ‘suicide’, a sudden ‘health problem’. The most fruitful and elegant, if you want to relieve yourself of a terrorist or opposition figure, is to have ‘terrorists’ do it. Under the guise of ‘dissention within the group’, an ideological difference, real or constructed. You recruit persons for the task, train and indoctrinate them. You have them perform ‘terrorist acts’ to ensure they have the right ‘legend’ worth of their status as ‘terrorists’. A bomb or two, and the correct media presentation will do that nicely. For that, a strategy of tension works nicely.

Journalists may not know it, but they are important

Just make sure that the journalists and the media are in line. A small inducement – a position, promotion or award – will do. If necessary, accompanied with a small, hardly recognized, a hard to define unease, no more than a a gust of wind, threat. In any case, journalists are controlled by the assignment or executive editors, who are controlled by upper management, who are controlled by the owners, and finally, the government. They won’t be given the opportunity to investigate potentially troublesome stories, and, in any case, if they do, the stories won’t see the light of day.

What it means is that to cut a path through the disinformation, one has to be analytical, think carefully and logically of the evidence, be wary of the false information presented to you through the media. You might have to read a few documents. Read the signs as if they were Holy writ. And learn to recognize deception.

The killers

At one point in this disturbing business I decided I should interview the presumed killers of Mario Bachand. If I did not, I reasoned, some would use that fact to diminish the results of my investigation.

For some time I had known who they were, having been told of presenting themselves to lawyer Robert Lemieux for legal representation, at which time they acknowledged their role in murdering Bachand. Their names? Normand Roy and Denyse Leduc.

When visiting Montreal during my inquiries, I would stay in an apartment on Duluth, close to St. Laurent Boulevard, the Plateau.

I knew about Roy’s role leading a cell of Pierre-Paul Geoffroy’s Reseau. A second cell was led by Pierre Charette, whom I had interviewed. I approached a friend who knew Roy and asked if I could interview Roy, and learned that Roy had refused to meet with me. That was unfortunate, but at least I had given him the chance to speak. There remained Denyse Leduc.

In search of the blond assassin

I called a contact at La Presse, and asked him if he knew how I should find Denyse Leduc. He mentioned that she lived somewhere on Clark Avenue and that she worked as a real estate agent at a a firm on Mont Royal, which happened to be not to far away from where I was staying. She had refused to speak with him.

In a telephone directory I found a Leduc quite far north on Clarke Street and the next day hopped on the appropriate bus. It was a fairly-long stretch before disembarked at a stop and crossed the street to where the address should be. There was no such address, but a found a rather new double-residence where the address should be. I knocked on on of the two doors. A young girl answered and I asked her to speak with Madame Duclos. The girl said that she did not live there. I asked if she know where Madame Duclos lived. She did not. It was clear she was not telling the truth. I then knocked on the door of an adjacent residence. A woman answered and I asked about Denyse Duclos, who I thought lived there, pointing at where I had been, where the girl who answered said she did not live there. The woman, in a lowered voice, said she did.

Spy at my shoulder

I meet the blond assassin

I went to the real estate agency on Mont Royal and asked to look at their listings, which fortunately include the name of the agent responsible for the particular property. Several had the name of Denyse Leduc. I selected one, noted the telephone number, and told the desk clerk I would like to speak with the agent. She gave me the telephone and I rang the number. A woman answered, a slight note of concern in her voice. It was Denyse Leduc. I said I would like to speak to her about a book I was writing. “What is it about?, she asked. The title is “Last Stop, Paris”, I replied. There was a sharp intake of breath; she was shocked. Nonetheless, she agreed to meet with me, probably to learn what I was about. We agreed to meet at the café that was at the corner of Duluth and St. Laurent at nine that evening, when she would be finished her work. She asked how she would recognize me, I said I would be inside, with my laptop on the table before me.

Meeting with one of the assassins of Mario Bachand was going to be both important and interesting. Perhaps a bit scary. Important, because I wanted to verify the claims that had been made that Denyse Leduc and Normand Roy had murdered Mario Bachand. The charge was so serious that confirmation was necessary for me. I also wanted to confirm that the Canadian government was ultimately responsible. Interesting, because I was curious what a special service assassin would be like. And, of course, I would have liked to know what exactly happened that day in Paris. Scary? Well, perhaps special services are not enthusiastic about writers inquiring into their very special activities.

A tall blond woman approached

Well before nine that evening I set myself and my laptop at a table in a crowded room, largely in darkness. I had carefully chosen a table near the front row to ensure that Denyse Leduc could easily find me.

At precisely 9 that evening a tall blonde woman approached, scanning the crowd, and stopped upon seeing me with laptop before me. She came to me and lowered her head. “I think we should find a quiet spot”, I said; she said “Ok”, turned, and headed back toward the exit. She entered the small foyer, where she stopped and looked at me. What is this about?”, she asked. “It is about the killing of Mario Bachand”, I replied. “You know nothing about it!”, she said, agitated. “Well, “I know that you and Normand Roy took the ferry from Calais to Dover on the 31st of October 1970, travelled to London, then on the 4th of November returned to Dover and took a return ferry.” She stepped back, white faced. She then came close to me. “Look”, I said, I know that you and Normand were manipulated by Solicitor General Jean-Pierre Goyer and the RCMP. She lowered herself, almost to a crouch, and asked, plaintively, “Please don’t include my name”. I said, “Certainly. On one condition.” What?” , she asked. “That you tell me how it went down“.

She thought for a few moments, and asked where I was staying. I said that I was in an apartment just there, I pointed, a block down Duluth. She said “I will let you know.” “Call me next week”, I said. I gave her my telephone number.

She left, I watched her cross to her vehicle and drive off.

I found that I liked her very much. She was alert and decisive, and had that combination of strength and apparent vulnerability that is very appealing. I say “apparent vulnerability” because her manner also showed evidence of exceptional awareness, self control, and likely of security training. In sum, I sympathized with her plight, and was, and still am, upset at those dark forces, much larger than her, that implicated her in a murder.

At the same time, I find the thought of murder is so disturbing, so terrible, that I have difficulty, impossible really, to think about it clearly, or to think about it at all.

She did not call the following week. The week after that, I called her and asked “Why did you not call? She said “I can’t speak with you.” It did not surprise me. I was sure that after our meeting she had immediately spoked with Normand Roy and with their RCMP or CSIS minders. I can imagine what the response of the minders was to the idea of her revealing to me “What went down” that day, the 29th of March, 1971, in the modest apartment at 46 rue Eugène-Lumeau, banlieue St.-Ouen, Paris, when she and Normand Roy, guests at a cous-cous lunch, shot Mario Bachand to death.

Nonetheless, she had confirmed all of my suppositions.

The blond assassin
Denyse Beaudry Leduc

the hope and optimism portfolio

Some years later, I came across a photo of a painting Denyse Leduc made, likely not long before her death. A portrait, in blood red and white, of chaos. A portrait, in my mind, of ‘How it went down’ that day in Paris.