Twenty Quebec provincial police force officers dressed in camouflage fatigues and carrying semiautomatic rifles surrounded the Hell’s Angels clubhouse in Lennoxville, Que., last week. Then, moving in cautiously to avoid bear traps and sensor wires around the three-storey house, they reached the steel-reinforced door and demanded entry. Inside, two members of the motorcycle gang admitted the police without resistance. It was the second time in four months that a police tactical squad had raided the house in the quiet college town 160 km southeast of Montreal in the hope of learning more about the violent deaths of six Hell’s Angels last March. And last week’s raid suggested that five of the six bikers may have been murdered there in an internal gang quarrel: a search of the house revealed bloodstains on the floor and bullet holes in the walls.
The July 23 raid occurred five days after sensational testimony in Joliette, 35 km northeast of Montreal, at a coroner’s inquest into the deaths. There, 29year-old Gerry (The Cat) Coulombe testified that he was on the Angels’ 13-acre property on March 24 when gang members shot five men. The reason: according to Coulombe, the victims were killed because they had squandered drug payments and appropriated club-owned co-
caine for their personal use. But Coulombe’s dramatic appearance was interrupted when defence lawyers attempted to have the coroner removed from the case. Two lawyers representing nine Angels held in custody as material witnesses managed to halt the inquest by questioning the impartiality of the coroner, Quebec Sessions Court Judge John D’Arcy Asselin. Then, last week, in a Superior Court hearing in Montreal on the matter, lawyer Léo René Maranda applied for the release of his five clients, arguing that Asselin had acted illegally by issuing arrest warrants before he had been sworn in as coroner.
Judge Pierre Pinard did not release the five men, but he ordered them to appear in a Joliette courtroom this week. There, another Superior Court judge will decide if there are sufficient grounds to keep them in custody. And he removed Asselin’s power to make any further decisions concerning Maranda’s clients, ruling that the public might now doubt his impartiality. For one thing, Pinard noted that Maranda’s clients have filed a civil suit against Asselin in which they ask for $293,000 in damages for unlawful confinement. Pinard’s decision left the future of the inquest in doubt as lawyer Jacques Bouchard will present similar arguments when he rep-
resents his four clients in Quebec Superior Court this week. At week’s end, as a result of Pinard’s ruling, Quebec Justice Minister Pierre Marc Johnson was considering appointing a new coroner to the case or scrapping the inquest and laying criminal charges in connection with the slayings.
Before the controversy over Asselin halted the inquiry, Coulombe testified with immunity from prosecution about what he said were details of the killings. As a recent recruit—in biker slang, a prospect—he said he had to prove his worth by £ standing guard outside «Í the clubhouse while the ^ killings took place. He ^ also testified that he had a heard shots being fired in the house and even saw one victim, Guy-Louis (Chop) Adam gunned down as he tried to escape the massacre. Coulombe then told the inquest that he had later seen four bodies lying on the floor of the clubhouse garage. After the bodies had been piled in a rented van, Coulombe, driving a rented car, escorted the van on a 150-km journey to St -Ignace-de-Loyola on the St. Lawrence River. There, Coulombe said, he and other Angels parked the vehicles near a pier and went for dinner in a restaurant before returning to throw the corpses into the river. The bodies remained there until June 1, when a citizen noticed a decomposing corpse in the St. Lawrence near St-Ignace-de-Loyola. During the next seven days the police recovered the bodies of five more male club members, all displaying characteristics common to biker killings: the victims had been chained to weights and stuffed into sleeping bags.
The disappearance of the six Laval club members—and the eventual recovery of the bodies—has prompted more than 100 raids on clubhouses and bars that bikers frequent. During the provincewide sweeps, which police spokesmen said were designed to end or at least inhibit the gang’s activities, tactical squads seized cocaine, amphetamines and marijuana worth up to $8 million on the street. The killings and drug seizures reinforced a conclusion reached by the Quebec Police Commission Inquiry into Organized Crime five years ago: along with the Outlaws, another biker gang, the Hell’s Angels were the most important traffickers in the province.
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