CANADA

Murder in a suburb

BARRY CAME April 17 1995
CANADA

Murder in a suburb

BARRY CAME April 17 1995

Murder in a suburb

CANADA

By all accounts, they are three troubled teenagers. Two have had problems with the law before. All have a history of recurring difficulties at home and at school. But there is nothing in the backgrounds of any of the three youngsters that comes even close to explaining the vicious crime they were last week accused of committing. For the three boys—high-school students aged 13, 14 and 15 — each face two counts of first-degree murder. They were charged in the brutal slaying of retired Anglican priest Frank Toope, 75, and his 70-yearold wife, Jocelyn, who were bludgeoned to death in the bedroom of their suburban Montreal home. And the city’s police claimed that the couple appeared to have been killed for no other reason than simply, in the words of Montreal Urban Community police Lt.-Det. Claude Lachapelle, “the kick of it.”

“It was completely senseless,” declared Lachapelle. “I’ve never seen such a merciless killing.” One of six homicide detectives assigned to the case when the battered bodies of Toope and his wife were discovered last week, Lachapelle said that the couple died soon after three teenage residents of the relatively affluent, largely English-speaking suburb on the western end of Montreal island discussed finding a victim to murder. “They talked about it the night before after one of them said he wanted to kill someone,” Lachapelle recounted. “Another boy said he knew an elderly couple who lived alone, apparently because he used to deliver their newspaper. And that’s how they picked them.”

The savagery of the murders, as much as the lack of a more understandable motive,

stunned the quiet residential community where the Toopes lived and worked for nearly 30 years. Surprised as they lay in bed early in the morning of Sunday, April 2, the two were beaten to death by an assailant—or assailants—apparently wielding a baseball bat. Autopsies suggest that Jocelyn Toope was struck about eight times, including five blows to the head that killed her. Frank Toope died from head wounds as well, but he was also repeatedly hit on the face, chest, arms and hands, suggesting that he may have been trying to fend off his attacker. Homicide detective Lieut Jean-François Martin described the scene in the couple’s bedroom as one of the most gruesome he had ever witnessed. “It was grim,” he said. ‘There was a lot of blood in there, signs of a lot of violence.”

Initially, police thought robbery was the motive for the crime. The Toopes’ bungalow in the suburb of Beaconsfield had been ransacked and their car stolen. But investigators were soon led to the three young suspects. At least two of the teenagers bragged about their exploit to friends and acquaintances, who promptly informed the police. “The kids came to the station the day after they found out what happened,” said Chief Insp. Paul Dufort. “They thought this was a repulsive act. It shows that not all teenagers in the West Island are like that.”

The suspects themselves, however, remained defiant after they were arrested. Two

Police putting suspect in a car: ‘Pve never seen such a merciless killing’

of them, said Lachapelle, “were making jokes in the back of the police car on the way to the station.” They showed a similar lack of remorse when they appeared in youth court. While the youngest, who turned 13 last month, appeared to be dazed by the attention, the two older youths seemed to be enjoying themselves. They raised middle fingers for the television cameras and, according to court officials, played cards as they waited to be formally charged.

Their behavior did nothing to assuage the outrage that swept through Montreal's nor mally tranquil western suburbs. "Yesterday, I was shocked. Today, I'm disgusted," said an angry Beaconsfield Mayor Roy Kemp. The Toopes were well-known-and highly ad mired-throughout the community. A native of Trinity Bay, Nfld., Frank Toope arrived in the West Island in 1968 along with his British-born wife. The couple had a daughter, Allison, 33, and a son, Stephen, 37, who is currently dean of McGill University's law school. And until his retirement six years ago, Toope had served continuously as rector of St. Mary's Anglican Church in Kirkland, near his Beaconsfield home. There is even a street in Kirkland named after him, a winding crescent right behind the town hall. "They were a great couple," recalled Sam Elkas, a former Kirkland mayor and provincial cabi net minister. "He gave us his church to use as a community centre before we had our own facility. He was a very decent man."

Three teenagers are charged with the brutal killing of two seniors

On Friday, about 1,300 people crowded into Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral for the slain couple’s funeral. ‘We are here because we want to honor and respect Frank and Jocelyn because in their death they were neither honored nor respected,” Canon Barry Clarke told the assembled mourners. Reflecting the shock that many of the Toopes’ friends and neighbors clearly felt, Clarke added that the crowd had gathered to “mourn our shattered illusion that our suburbs are immune to violence and evil. We are here to grieve our loss of innocence.” All three suspects, who cannot be identified under the terms of the Young Offenders Act, were remanded in custody after they pleaded not guilty to the murder charges in youth court. But Crown prosecutor Louis Miville-Deschênes is considering shifting the trials of the two older youths to adult court. There, they would face far Stifter penalties if convicted— a maximum of 10 years in custody instead of three under the Young Offenders Act. Given the public outrage in the wake of the Toopes’ cruel deaths, few doubt the course favored by most of the agitated residents of Montreal’s once placid western suburbs.

BARRY CAME