Richard Blass (October 24, 1945 – January 24, 1975) was an infamous Canadian gangster and a multiple murderer. Born in Montreal, he was nicknamed Le Chat, French for The Cat, because of his luck in evading death after surviving at least three assassination attempts and a police shootout, and escaping from custody twice.
Born in the Montreal neighbourhood of Rosemont, Blass would turn to amateur boxing as a way to channel his anger when he was a child. It was after a boxing fight that Blass committed one of his first known crimes, attacking fellow boxer Michel Gouin with a knife after losing a fight to him. Blass pleaded guilty to assault and spent one night in jail.
As time went by, Blass became more obsessed with the mafia activity going on in New York city, south of Montreal. As obsessed as he was with the mafia, however, he was also known for his hatred of mafia organizations: resenting the fact that the Italian mafia held a stronghold on Montreal's underworld business during the 1960s, Blass was involved in minor fights with many mafia members, particularly those related to Frank Cotroni and brothers Jos and Vincenzo DiMaulo, all of which received death threats by Blass. He had also worked as hitman for notorious West End Gang.
Richard Blass and Robert Allard were to ambush Frank Cotroni on May 7, 1968. But the ambush attempt was broken by a policeman who saw them act suspiciously and proceeded to try to investigate them by following them in his patrol car. Cotroni's life was saved by the policeman who was not able to arrest Blass or Allard as they escaped.
By then, Blass had a sizable number of members in his own criminal gang. Angered at the fact that they could not kill Cotroni, Blass and his gang then became more violent, committing a number of murders against Italians, some of whom had nothing to do with crime. The first such killing took place on May 27, twenty days after the attempt against Cotroni's life, when Giuseppe Collizza was killed with five shots to the head.
On August 24 of that year (1968), the first mafia attempt against Blass' life took place, when two hired gunmen entered a bar where Blass was enjoying some drinks. Although shot at multiple times, Blass was able to escape unscathed.
Two weeks later, Blass was tracked by the mafia in a motel named "Le Manoir de Plaisance", in a Montreal suburb. The motel was set on fire and three people died, but Blass escaped the blaze. Police investigation indicated arson as the fire's cause.
On October 1968, Richard Blass was injured by bullet shots to the head and back after being ambushed, alongside partner Claude Menard, inside a garage. The two were able to save their lives when Menard drove the car they were in through the garage's door, and Blass required hospitalization for his wounds. He refused to identify his attackers, a fact which may have led him to earn respect among Canadian mafia members.
On January 1969, Blass and his gang tried to commit a bank robbery but the attempt failed before Blass shot a policeman as he was fleeing from the financial institution. Blass was consequently arrested, and sentenced to four consecutive terms of ten years in jail.
On October 16 of that year, Blass became a fugitive for the first time, when he and other prisoners overpowered a jail guard and fled the van in which they were being transported to a court. Already married, Blass was caught after an anonymous caller informed the police that he was hiding in his wife's apartment.
Blass waited five years, until 1974, for his second attempt at an escape. An unidentified woman friend of his brought in some firearms during a visit, and Blass broke the jail visitor's window. Armed with various types of guns and rifles, he and other men were able to escape jail, in Blass' case, for the second time.
Blass wanted to kill Raymond Laurin and Roger Lévesque, both of whom had participated in the 1970 bank robbery and testified against him. He found them both at a bar on October 30 and shot them to their deaths. Convinced that he needed to kill all witnesses of the deaths of Laurin and Lévesque, Blass and gang partner Fernand Beaudet returned to the bar on January 21, 1975. They locked ten men and three women inside a bar locker before killing all thirteen.
What followed that act was one of the largest manhunts in Canadian history. On January 24, 1975, police located the chalet where Blass was hiding. At 4:30 AM EST, three officers, led by Albert Lisacek, broke the windows of the chalet door and entered. As Blass approached them, the officers opened fire, and Blass was hit by 27 bullets, dying within seconds. Police reports and testimony stated that Blass had shot first; however, in May 2012, Lisacek told journalist Warren Perley that Blass had been unarmed, and had only been 'wielding' a sock.
The 1992 film Requiem pour un beau sans-coeur (Requiem for a handsome bastard) is loosely based on Blass's career, the film centres around the last three days of a fictionalized, pseudonymous version of Blass. A book about Blass was published in 1983 by famous criminal attorney Frank Shoofey, who previously represented him.
- Canada’s toughest cop wrestled with a big secret at the Montreal Gazette; by Catherine Solyom; published December 1, 2012; retrieved December 2, 2012
- L'Actualité 18: 56. 1993.
- McIntosh, Andrew. "Requiem pour un beau sans-coeur". Canadian Film Encyclopedia. Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- Frank Shoofey, Nom: Blass, prénom: Richard, alias: "le chat", profession: criminal (English translation: Name: Blass, first name: Richard, aka "the cat", occupation: criminal), Québécor, 1983, ISBN 2-89089-204-2.