September 23, 1917
|Died||January 12, 1951
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Cause of death||Execution (hanging)|
|Motive||Avoid divorce, Life insurance money|
|Partner(s)||Généreux Ruest, Marguerite Ruest-Pitre (both executed)|
|Date||September 9, 1949|
|Location(s)||Cap Tourmente, Quebec|
|Target(s)||Wife and passengers|
|Date||9 September 1949|
|Site||over Cap Tourmente
|Aircraft type||Douglas DC-3|
|Operator||Canadian Pacific Air Lines|
|Flight origin||Montreal, Quebec|
Quebec City, Quebec
Joseph-Albert Guay (23 September 1917 – 12 January 1951) was a Canadian mass murderer, who on 9 September 1949, killed 23 people aboard Canadian Pacific Air Lines Flight 108 near Sault-au-Cochon, Quebec using a dynamite time bomb. Guay planted the bomb in his wife's suitcase, the intended victim, to bypass a divorce, obtain life insurance money, and elope with his mistress.
Joseph-Albert Guay was born on 23 September 1917, in Quebec, Canada. Guay was married to Rita Guay (née Morel) and a resident of Quebec City, where he worked in the jewellery and watch industries. During his marriage to Rita, he became enamoured with 19-year-old waitress Marie-Ange Robitaille, and the two began a clandestine affair. At the time Quebec was strictly Roman Catholic, and a divorce would have been almost impossible to obtain, so Guay began to plot his wife's death so he could elope with Robitaille. Guay first considered poison, but later decided on the airplane bombing, believing it would be harder for the authorities to link him to that method. The day of the flight, Guay purchased a $CAD10,000 insurance policy (roughly equivalent to $104,000 in 2016) on his wife, which he attempted to collect three days later. There was also a prior $5,000 policy (roughly $52,000) dating from 1942.
Guay had asked clockmaker Généreux Ruest to manufacture a bomb using dynamite, batteries and an alarm clock. The dynamite had been purchased at a hardware store by Ruest's sister, Marguerite Pitre (also known as Ruest-Pitre, wife of Arthur Pitre), ostensibly to be used in clearing a field. At the time sales of explosives to civilians in Canada were recorded but not strictly regulated. Pitre also delivered the package containing the bomb to the plane, for mail delivery. She had also helped arrange liaisons between Guay and Robitaille.
The airplane was a Canadian Pacific Airlines Douglas DC-3 aircraft (registry CF-CUA S/N: 4518) flying from Montreal to Baie-Comeau with a stopover at Quebec City. The airline involved is sometimes stated as "Quebec Airways", but this was simply a name used for some Canadian Pacific Airlines flights in Quebec. The Flight Number was 108 departing L'Ancienne-Lorette airport on a stopover flight onward to Baie-Comeau. It was there that Guay's wife Rita boarded the plane, unknowingly bringing along the bomb in her suitcase.
The bomb detonated successfully and killed Guay's wife, however, the plan was ruined when the flight was delayed five minutes at takeoff. Guay had calculated the explosion to have taken place over the Saint Lawrence River, which would have made forensic examination of the crash impossible with the technology then available to forensic scientists. The delay at takeoff meant that the bomb detonated five minutes earlier in the flight than planned, causing the plane to crash-land before the river, over Cap Tourmente, near a small locality named Sault-au-Cochon (sometimes incorrectly given as "Sault-aux-Cochons"), in the Charlevoix region of Quebec. The explosion and subsequent crash killed all four crew members and 19 passengers aboard the airplane. Apart from Guay's wife Rita Morel Guay, the victims included four children and three American executives from the Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation including the retiring president, E.T. Stannard; his designated successor, Arthur D. Storke; and Russell Johnston Parker, a vice-president and father of typographer and type designer Mike Parker.
While the bombing was not the first proven instance of sabotaging a passenger flight for criminal purposes, it was the first to be solved and, as such, received wide news media coverage both locally and abroad.
Arrest and conviction
Trial and execution of Guay
Albert Guay was arrested two weeks after the crash and put on trial in February 1950; on being convicted he was sentenced to death by hanging, and was executed on 12 January 1951, at the age of 32. His last words were Au moins, je meurs célèbre (At least I die famous).
Trials and executions of Ruest and Pitre
In the aftermath of the bombing, Marguerite Pitre attempted suicide but failed. Ruest and Pitre both later maintained their innocence. Pitre claimed that Guay had told her that the package she was transporting contained a statue, and Ruest also claimed that he thought the bomb was to be used to clear tree stumps from a field. After his conviction, Guay issued a statement, claiming that Ruest and Pitre had knowingly abetted his plans. As a result, Ruest was arrested on 6 June 1950, tried and convicted in November of that year, and sentenced to death by hanging, which was carried out on 25 July 1952; at his death, he was aged 54. Suffering from osseous tuberculosis, he had to be transported to the gallows in a wheelchair. Marguerite Pitre was arrested on 14 June 1950, and tried separately, beginning 6 March 1951; following a guilty verdict, she was hanged on 9 January 1953, the thirteenth and last woman to be hanged in Canada. All three executions took place in Montreal.
Dollard Dansereau, author of Causes célèbres du Québec, studied the case and concluded that Ruest may not have known of Guay's intentions when the latter asked him to make the bomb; he also concluded that Pitre may have been innocent. It has been speculated that Guay's motive in denouncing his accomplices was to buy time to delay his own execution, believing that he would be called to testify at their trials. In any event, he testified at Ruest's trial, but was hanged soon after, thus could not testify at Pitre's trial.
On 1 November 1955, six years after the bombing, a later copycat airplane bombing was apparently inspired by the Guay affair. The bombing of United Airlines Flight 629 by Jack Gilbert Graham killed 44 people, all aboard the flight including his mother. Graham's reported motive was his mother's alleged mistreatment of him as a small child, but featured similarities to Guay's bombing including placing a dynamite time-bomb in the target's suitcase, and collecting life insurance on them shortly before the flight departure.
The incident in fiction
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The incident, subsequent trials and execution of Guay and his accomplices was notorious in Quebec and served as the inspiration for the fictional Le Crime d'Ovide Plouffe, a 1982 novel by Roger Lemelin and 1984 film of the same name by Denys Arcand. In 1949, Lemelin had been a friend and neighbour of Guay, as well as being the Quebec correspondent for Time magazine. A novel, Cape Torment by Richard Donovan, is based on the case.
- Canadian inflation numbers based on Statistics Canada. "Consumer Price Index, historical summary". CANSIM, table (for fee) 326-0021 and Catalogue nos. 62-001-X, 62-010-X and 62-557-X. And Consumer Price Index, by province (monthly) (Canada) Last modified 2016-01-22. Retrieved March 2, 2016
- Headsman (January 12, 2008). "1951: Albert Guay". ExecutedToday.com. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
- "Genereux Ruest Dies on Gallows". The Ottawa Journal. 25 Jul 1952. p. 8. Retrieved 25 December 2016 – via Newspapers.com.
- Headsman (January 9, 2010). "1953: Marguerite Pitre, the last woman hanged in Canada". ExecutedToday.com. Retrieved 25 December 2016.
- Causes célèbres du Québec, Dollard Dansereau, Editions Leméac, Montréal, 1974
- Jeffrey David Simon The terrorist trap: America's experience with terrorism, Indiana University Press, 2001 ISBN 0-253-21477-7, pages 47–49
- Timeline of the bombing
- Biography of Albert Guay
- Description of accident
- Aviation Safety Network data on accident
- List of sabotage bombing incidents on airplanes
- A 1947 photo of the airplane involved
-  MULTIPLY Group of discussion in French & English. Many rare pictures.
-  Link to information about Cape Torment, a novel based on the case.