CANADA

The end of a manhunt

A sense of relief swept the Miramichi

PEETER KOPVILLEM December 4 1989
CANADA

The end of a manhunt

A sense of relief swept the Miramichi

PEETER KOPVILLEM December 4 1989

The end of a manhunt

A sense of relief swept the Miramichi

Drivers passing the RCMP station in Newcastle, N.B., honked their horns in joy. People on the street embraced. In the hospital in nearby Chatham, the announcement on the public-address system led to a spontaneous coffee-and-doughnuts party in the cafeteria. The reason for the elation that swept across New Brunswick’s Miramichi area late last week: after a manhunt that had lasted more than six months, police had finally captured escaped killer Allan Legere, 41, the prime suspect in a string of brutal murders in the region. Declared Chatham gas-bar owner Wayne Jeffrey: “It’s the greatest Christmas gift since Jesus.”

The events that led to Legere’s recapture began during a snowstorm in the early hours of Nov. 24 when a vacationing RCMP officer noticed a man flagging her down and a taxi in the ditch beside the Trans-Canada Highway west of Moncton. When the officer stopped, the man identified himself as Legere and, brandishing a sawed-off .308 rifle, got into her car, along with the taxi driver. Legere ordered the officer to drive off the Trans-Canada and go to Chatham, 120 km north of Moncton. But the officer took a wrong turn and the trio ended up back on the highway they had left, heading west. At about 2 a.m. they stopped for gas 70 km southwest of Moncton. Taking the car keys with him, Legere pumped gas and then went to pay for it— with the RCMP officer's money. The officer took spare keys from her purse, started the car, and drove off with the taxi driver—heading directly to the local RCMP detachment.

Legere then commandeered a parked flatbed tractor trailer. About V-h hours later, a truck driver in the Newcastle-Chatham vicinity noticed the hijacked truck on a side road not usually used by such large rigs. He alerted the police, who quickly set up roadblocks in the area. At about 5 a.m., the hijacked truck came to a stop at a police barrier on a back road near the community of Nelson-Miramichi, across the Miramichi river from Newcastle. The driver at once jumped out shouting, “It’s not me! Don’t shoot!” But then Legere—30 lb. lighter and with his hair much shorter and greyer than when he escaped—surrendered without a struggle. Said Rick MacLean, editor of the weekly Miramichi Leader: “Now we can get on with our lives.”

Indeed, as news of his capture spread, many residents of the Miramichi expressed hope that the reign of terror they had endured since May was finally over. On May 3, Legere, serving a life sentence for the murder of an elderly shopkeeper in the Chatham area, escaped from guards during a hospital visit in Moncton. Only 26 days later, Chatham shopkeeper Annie Flam, 75, was found beaten to death in her

partially burned home. On Oct. 14, sisters Donna Alberta Daughney, 45, and Linda Lou Daughney, 41, died as a result of another brutal attack. Both had been sexually assaulted and beaten before their assailant set fire to their Newcastle home. Then, on Nov. 16, Rev. James Smith, 69, a Roman Catholic priest in nearby Chatham Head, was found beaten to death in his rectory. Last week, New Brunswick RCMP officers said that Legere remains the major suspect in all four murders. They added that an RCMP tactical squad would escort the shackled former bar manager back to the Renous penitentiary where he was serving his sentence—and this week to a Moncton court, where new charges will be laid against him.

And there was one final comfort for residents of Newcastle and the surrounding communities last week. Until Legere’s recapture, police had suggested that a second man might be an accomplice in his crimes, as well as helping him to escape their pursuit. In fact, the RCMP even circulated a sketch of the second suspect. But with Legere back in custody, they withdrew the “second man” theory and acknowledged that the sketch matched the thinner, clean-shaven fugitive himself. For the weary people of the Miramichi, that knowledge reinforced their relief at the capture of the man whom many believe held their community in a thrall of terror for half a year.

PEETER KOPVILLEM

EUGEN WEISS