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The Aircraft Disaster of the Canadian Airlines 108: the uxoricide with more Victims of History

8 min read

On September 9, 1949 Flight 108 crashed without apparent reasons, and the count of the victims reached 23 people.
The Canadian Pacific Airlines risk a situation of extreme hardship for the reparations, but fortunately (for the company) the airplane traveled with 10 minutes delay, a detail that seems insignificant but that allowed to reconstruct the motive of one of the most diabolical massacres of the history…

September 9, 1949, in Québec, seems a day like many others. At the airport, the control tower follows on the radar, among the many planes in flight, a Douglas DC-3 of the Canadian Pacific Airlines, the country’s main private company, which has recently left again after arriving from Montreal, with destination Baie -Comeau, a small but very important commercial town, almost on the border between Canada and the USA, a short and peaceful journey. Suddenly, at 11:15, the aircraft disappears from the radar. The searches, immediately activated, will discover after a few hours that the journey has stopped halfway, at the height of the village of Sault-au-Cochon, about 40 km from Quebéc City. The plane exploded in flight, as evidenced by the testimony of a fisherman who witnessed the event, and his wreckage spread out in a wooded and uninhabited area, on the north bank of the Gulf of St Lawrence.

Policemen and technicians sent on the spot can only ascertain that the aircraft was completely destroyed and that all the people on board (19 passengers and 4 crew members) died. Unexplained incident, case closed. For Canadian Pacific Airlines, a company that has made the quality and safety of flights its strong point, is a terrifying blow. Among other things, among the 19 passengers, there were some important entrepreneurs and managers, and the compensations to be paid to their families are apocalyptic, of a size that leads the company to bankruptcy.

One of the vice presidents of Canadian Pacific Airlines, N.R. Crumb, unlike his colleagues, does not panic. He has always been concerned with aircraft safety and the circumstances of the disaster leave him very perplexed. Immediately contact a detective his friend, Jacques Perreault, and sends him on the spot with two technicians and a lawyer, Francois Gravel. Perreault reports, already after the first survey, that there is something wrong. Above all, the larger debris emit a smell of dynamite, to say the least suspicious. Crumb and Gravel rush from Prime Minister Maurice Duplessis to request that he intervene at the Ministry of Justice to have the investigations reopen. The answer is chilling: it’s not going to happen, it is better that Canadian Pacific Airlines is concerned about how to get the money for compensation. Crumb, however, does not give up, and at least manages to wrest the authorization to continue the investigation privately at the expense of the company. Soon after, on his order, Perreault hires the 15 best Canadian detectives: any track to follow will be beaten to the end.

A few days pass and the research bears its first fruits. A taxi driver from Quebéc City reports that he had brought to the airport, on the morning of 9 September, a corpulent lady who had with her a small wooden box to deliver to someone who was about to leave. Other witnesses identify the woman as Marguerite Pitre, born Ruest, a forty-year-old maid who attempted suicide by gas on the following September 20, without succeeding, leaving an unsettled ticket in which she accused herself of an undefined crime. Marguerite, stopped by the police, speak almost immediately: the package contained a time bomb and she gave it to a 29-year-old woman, Rita Guay, born Morel, who was about to embark on that DC-3 and was obviously unaware of its contents.
But why? There must be a handler, and this is the easiest to imagine, the first that would come to mind of any cop: Joseph-Albert Guay, 32, husband of Rita.

Joseph is a representative of watches and jewelry, travels a lot for work and loves to lead an expensive life: too much for his family finances always on the verge of collapse. By contracting debts, he was forced to close his business and work for others, which is why his wife considers him a miserable bankrupt and does nothing to hide him from him or anyone else. Since the birth of their only daughter, then, she literally blocked the bedroom door. Not bad, for someone like Joseph who is certainly not led to monogamy, and in fact the representative immediately found a substitute, in the person of a nineteen-year-old waitress, Marie-Ange Rouletabille, with whom, in 1949, he have since two years a relationship. The fact, however, is that Marie-Ange begins to get tired of making the spare wheel and divorcing from Rita does not speak of it: in the Catholic and Francophone Quebéc, divorce does not even exist. Not to mention that Joseph continues to spend a lot more money than he earns.

So one day, the ineffable representative, comes to mind the idea with which to solve all the problems, the classic story of the two pigeons taken with one stone. Rita, since she longs for the Paradise, will join it as soon as possible, thanks to a fake incident, and will leave to her devoted husband a beautiful memory: the 15,000 Canadian dollars (equivalent to 156,000 dollars today) of the two life insurance he has promptly stipulated in his name (one from 5 and one from 10 thousand dollars, on the day of the flight) in the sad event of having to console the loss.
Joseph’s plan is as simple as it is cynical. He will convince her to take a trip with a time bomb in the luggage, which will explode as the plane flies over the sea. So, with the technology of the time, it will be impossible to recover artifacts that can serve to indict him. Accidentally, in the explosion, all the other passengers will die too…but perfection does not belong to this world, Joseph thinks while rubbing his hands, believing that he has perfected, if not the perfect crime, what comes closest to it.
Despite the bad relations between them, he manages to convince Rita to start with the only topic that the woman is sensitive, that of work and money: she must make two trips at the same time, explains, one from a customer in Montreal and one to recover a sample at the Baie-Comeau. Can you help him? Rita accepts and leaves for Baie-Comeau. At the last minute, Joseph gives her another package in which, officially, there is only goods for another customer. However, to implement the plan, he needs accomplices….
One is precisely Marguerite, which brings to Rita the package with the bomb while Joseph shows up himself as many witnesses as possible while walking with Marie-Ange on the famous Dufferin terrace, from which you can also admire the planes taking off from ‘airport. The other is the Marguerite’s brother, the watchmaker Généreux Ruest, who prepares the device in time that will detonate the device at the pre-established time.

Unfortunately for Guay, the plane is 10 minutes late and does not explode on the water, but on the mainland, leaving easily recoverable finds. The trial, despite the clues and evidence, and the confession of Marguerite, is not easy. Guay bluntly accuses his two accomplices of having been aware from the beginning of what they were preparing, while they reply that they never knew anything about it. Généreux Ruest states that Joseph commissioned the time bomb to clean up his own land from the roots of the cut trees (a very common practice at the time), while Marguerite claims to have understood everything only after learning the news of the explosion (and attempted suicide could prove that it really is).

After all, it is quite possible that Joseph accuses them only to take time. The death sentence is certain but, if he must testify in the trials against them, the execution will be postponed and, the more time passes, the more likely it is that the pressure of public opinion will fade and make possible the granting of a possible grace, which Joseph has every intention of asking. Instead, the judges are in a hurry to hand him over to the executioner, because behind them is the government pressing. The business of the investigation not reopened after the request of the Canadian Pacific Airlines burns a lot. If everything had depended only on Duplessis, now Joseph would have fun, so the prime minister is anxious to recover credit by showing himself inflexible against the ruthless murderer. So the requests for postponement are rejected, and Joseph Guay ends hanged in Montreal on 12 January 1951. On the gallows, before the executioner pulls the lever, he has time to pronounce the sentence that will definitely deliver him to the annals of the Criminal History: “Au mois, Je meurs célèbre! “(” At least, I die famous! “).

On the sole basis of his accusations, with the country now in the throes of an unprecedented justicialist fury, Ruest and Marguerite Pitre are also sentenced to death. Ruest is hanged, also in Montreal, July 25, 1952. The health conditions of the watchmaker, already suffering from bone tuberculosis at the time of arrest, are aggravated during the detention and must be led to the gallows on a wheelchair. Instead of being hanged, he will be beheaded because, when the noose is tightened when the trapdoor is opened, the head detaches from the body. Not even this horror arouses a shred of pity towards Marguerite, who will be the twelfth and last woman to be executed in the History of Canada. On January 9, 1953 her turn arrives: at the sight of the gallows, the woman faints and, since she weighs over 100 kg, it takes the effort of four guards to lift her and proceed with the procedure provided.
Several jurists and other scholars have examined the case and the conclusion is almost unanimous: regardless of whether they were guilty or not, Ruest and Marguerite were condemned to death too lightly, on the basis of absolutely insufficient elements to pronounce any verdict, not only that capital.

Marguerite Pitre.
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