Police in Quebec have long been among the worst* in Canada at solving murders. Now, one man – bolstered by decades of meticulous research – is challenging this futility with a demand for an inquiry and the formation of a cross-departmental, province-wide cold case squad. John Allore charges that Quebec police are “completely incompetent.” He knows this, he says, because of his dogged research into more than 20 unsolved killings from the 1970s and 80s, including the murder of his 19-year-old sister Theresa. Allore says police deliberately refused to investigate those cases, so he did. Allore uncovered glaring failures in the investigation of Theresa’s November 1978 murder in a small community 150 kilometres east of Montreal. Police wrongly first labelled her death an accident or suicide, fumbled the search for missing clothing and possessions and later discarded important physical evidence that could help identify her killer. More than 37 years after Theresa was killed, the unsolved murder has just been added to the website of the Quebec provincial police force’s cold case unit, thanks to John Allore’s persistence. But he’s not done. Allore (hear him in the Cancrime podcast, after the jump) is pressing for co-operation among departments with unsolved cases that could be connected. His remarkable research and sharp criticism have attracted the attention of senior police officials in Quebec and given hope to families of other victims.
You could be forgiven for mistaking John Allore for a trained homicide investigator. He has proved himself a skilled researcher and analyst with unremitting determination. He has found links between unsolved murders that police did not see. He has located physical evidence that police could not. But Allore isn’t a police officer. He’s assistant director of budget and management services in the city of Durham, North Carolina.
He’d like to see the murder of his sister Theresa solved, but he’d also like to see police in Quebec stop making the same mistakes they made in her case nearly four decades ago. Allore, who grew up in Montreal and who was 14 when his sister died, has relentlessly mined information and pressed for action. For roughly 15 years, he has maintained an information-rich website, theresaallore.com, that often discloses details withheld by police about unsolved Quebec murders. His work is so thorough, so provocative, that families of other victims contact him for help, not police.
Allore has secured access to police files, including original notes, autopsy reports and crime scene photos for his sister’s unsolved murder and some other cases. He also obtained a vast library of newspaper clippings on murders in Montreal and surrounding areas from the 1970s and 80s. In 2006, he helped organize a search of an isolated area about 50 kilometres southwest of Lennoxville, where Theresa Allore was attending school at the time she was murdered in 1978. The site may have been a dumping ground for a serial killer, a spot where, unseen, he could discard a body, clothing and other evidence. But Quebec provincial police, the Surete du Quebec, refused to take part in the 2006 search that Allore helped organize and that involved volunteers and family members of other victims. The search uncovered evidence (see photos of the findings in gallery below) that could link the location to several unsolved murders.
After years of slogging through searing autopsy reports and crime scene photos, John Allore has had some success in his pursuit of the truth, but he has grown weary of the failure of Quebec detectives. He accuses them of what he calls “investigative genocide,” a reference to the destruction of evidence and erosion of opportunity to secure eyewitness testimony or confessions because of the passage of time. People are dying. Memories are fading.
Allore’s frustration exploded across the website he maintains in a series of detailed and sometimes emotional posts over the past few months. Allore wrote that he is patient and co-operative, and he has tried to work with police but, he says, “enough is enough.”
“I have lost all belief that my sister’s case will be solved,” Allore wrote, recently. “No longer is the suspect under investigation, it is the investigative agencies that we are now investigating.”
Police have done everything in their power “to NOT solve these crimes,” he wrote. Allore believes that many cases are unsolved because police are understaffed, poorly trained, lazy and incompetent.
“I have been dealing with the Quebec police for 30 years,” John Allore wrote, in a February post on his site. “I think they are completely incompetent. A trained monkey could do a better job of investigation than they could. I am a better investigator than any Quebec law enforcement officer, and I am an amateur. I have a full-time job in government finance. Quebec Police? You are complete idiots.”
The head of the Surete du Quebec’s cold case unit contacted Allore after the blistering public attack. Allore says the SQ official pledged that the unit will add more cases to its public website so that citizens know police are still seeking to solve them and are still soliciting help.
Allore believes his sister may have been the victim of a serial predator who claimed a number of other victims – and he believes other serial predators operated throughout the period. He has identified the unsolved cases of five other women and girls murdered in the late 1970s where there may be links to Theresa. All of the victims were found within a 150-kilometre-long corridor stretching east from Montreal to the city of Sherbrooke. Several of the victims were strangled, in some cases with a bootlace. Quebec investigators have never publicly identified the cases as being linked. But John Allore links them, in part, because of the 2006 search.
The spot was selected because, at that location, on March 25, 1977, the body of a 20-year-old woman, Louise Camirand, was found. Camirand, who lived in Sherbrooke, had been raped and strangled. A bootlace was around her neck. She was naked, except for a glove on her left hand. She had suffered devastating internal injuries, likely from a blunt instrument inserted into her vagina. It appeared she had been killed elsewhere and her body left at the wooded and secluded spot, an area where locals discarded trash.
The 2006 search organized by John Allore uncovered a purse that appeared to match the purse of another unsolved murder victim, Lison Blais, 17, who was found dead in Montreal June 4, 1978. Blais had been struck on the head, choked and raped. The search of the Camirand dumpsite also turned up the remnants of a decaying shoe that appeared to match missing Chinese slippers that Theresa Allore was wearing when she vanished, five months after Lison Blais was murdered. Police never expressed any interest in examining the purse and slipper found at the Camirand dumpsite.
The 2006 search did not locate vital, long-missing evidence in Theresa Allore’s murder. Two hunters passing through the area on November 5, 1978 – two days after Theresa Allore disappeared – reported seeing what appeared to be a woman’s shirt and blue pants, neatly placed on a log. They described a location about three quarters of a kilometre from the spot where Louise Camirand’s body was found. The description matched clothing that Theresa Allore was wearing when she vanished and that was never found. It appears that local police got lost in 1978 trying to find the clothing that the hunters reported seeing.
A Chronology: Who killed Theresa?
» Nov. 3, 1978: Theresa Allore, 19, disappears from Champlain College, in the Lennoxville, Quebec area (a suburb of the city of Sherbrooke) about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.
» Nov. 5: Hunters in an isolated area about 50 kilometres southwest of the college report seeing what appeared to be a woman’s shirt and blue pants on a log. A police officer got lost trying to find the items. The spot is about three quarters of a kilometre from the location where murder victim Louise Camirand’s body was found 20 months earlier, on March 25, 1977
» Nov. 10: Police tell Theresa’s father that there isn’t much they can do. They don’t believe she has been murdered. Theresa would probably be found when the snow melted, police say.
» April 13, 1979: Theresa’s body is found at the edge of a river near Compton, about 20 kilometres south of the college. She was naked, except for her bra and underwear. A police investigator notes what appear to be strangulation marks on her neck. In a nearby cornfield, searchers find two pieces of green scarf. Theresa was wearing a green scarf when she vanished. Forensic experts could not establish a cause of death. A final coroner’s report concluded it was “violent death of undetermined nature.”
» April 20, 1979: Theresa’s wallet is found by a farmer on a service road just west of Lennoxville
» 2001: Surete du Quebec tell John Allore that all of the physical evidence in Theresa’s case, including her undergarments and scarf, were discarded. He also learns that physical evidence in at least three other unsolved Quebec murders has been discarded or lost.
» 2006: A search of the area where Camirand’s body was found in 1977 turns up a purse that could belong to another victim and the decaying remnants of a shoe that could be one of Theresa’s missing Chinese slippers that she was wearing when she disappeared.
John Allore created an interactive online map that charts the location where some of the cold case victims disappeared and where their bodies were found:
* Below is a Statistics Canada report on homicide released in 2005. The report included a rare analysis of the solve rate of murders across Canada over a 30-year span. The report found that Quebec had the lowest solve rate for murder among all provinces. Montreal had the lowest solve rate among big cities, although Laval was second poorest and Longueuil was fourth worst.