Romy and Norah: the first hours of research away from “an ideal world”
In July 2020, the police had to drive through a densely wooded area in order to find Martin Carpentier. (File photo)
Lack of staff, communication problems: two witnesses returned to the critical first hours of the search operations in the field to try to find Martin, Norah and Romy Carpentier, the day after their disappearance.
On July 9, 2020, the first specialized research teams were understaffed.
This is what Paul Gosselin, field research coordinator sergeant at the SQ, said during the sixth day of the public inquiry into the death of Norah and Romy Carpentier.
As soon as he arrived on the scene, around 8 a.m., he knew that he was looking for three people and that Martin Carpentier might be depressed. He was at that time a research technician in charge of targeting and mapping research areas. He also had to profile the people he was looking for.
An SQ policeman is taking part in the search for Martin Carpentier in a wooded area of Saint-Apollinaire.
However, he had to wait until 9 a.m. to receive the first reinforcements. No Quebec team was available. The twenty police officers specializing in field research were either assigned to the protection of the Prime Minister, or on leave.
“We were definitely shorthanded. »
— Paul Gosselin, SQ field research coordinator sergeant
Six specialized police officers came from the Montreal area to accompany him, a number he said was insufficient to form an effective marching line, which usually consists of seven specialized walkers.
At 9:50 a.m., when the first teams began the search in the woods, Paul Gosselin had ten people, including four patrollers who were not trained in field search.
So he decided to form two teams of five.
If I had had three lines of seven [people], I would have been very happy with the surface to cover, explained the policeman.
This testimony confirms information disseminated within the framework of the program Enquête, according to which there was a lack of manpower for field research.
That day, Paul Gosselin should have been accompanied from the start by a research coordinator to supervise the operation.
However, the person who was to be assigned to the task, Marc Leblanc, was only on site for an hour.
Mr. Leblanc was at the time in charge of the emergency response module unit for the Quebec region. He testified on Tuesday before the coroner.
Shortly after his arrival on July 9, he had to be reassigned to Natashquan, on the North Shore, to manage a conflict in an Aboriginal community.
Before his departure, he also noticed a lack of arms on the ground. I had no staff in Quebec, he said. I was pretty much the only one in the emergency module.
He doesn't remember meeting an officer there to paint a portrait of Martin Carpentier .
I had no profile there. It helps research a lot. In particular, he did not know if his teams were looking for a man in crisis or a man who was trying to hide.
He left around 9:30 a.m.
At the time of Saint-Apollinaire, it was not crowded ideal, he summed up, adding that he never had time to work.
A new coordinator, Michel Lapointe, also arrived on the scene around 9:30 a.m. However, due to the lack of manpower, he had to walk with the specialized teams to contribute to the search.
It's for lack of manpower, otherwise he would have been more effective with me at the PC [command post], said Paul Gosselin, who had to walk too. The two police officers wore two hats all day.
On that critical day of July 9, ten people were tasked with raking the woods.
It wasn't easy. I was poor [in manpower], said Paul Gosselin.
During the day of July 9, several footprints were discovered in the area south of Highway 20. The last of these was found by a dog handler. The search was abandoned around 8:30 p.m., after the animal lost track.
The discovery of the first footprint corresponds to Norah's sandal found in Martin Carpentier's car. (File photo)
Given his lack of manpower, Paul Gosselin accepted the help of an SQ helicopter, dispatched to the search locations on July 9.
A Sûreté du Québec helicopter flew over the scene on July 9. (File photo)
According to him, the presence of a helicopter is far from ideal when one is looking for; a man with a non-communicative profile, i.e. who might seek to hide rather than be found.
That morning, with the few resources and experience I had, the helicopter was welcome. That's why I kept it, added the policeman.
Inspector Michel Patenaude also testified on Monday. During the events, he was responsible for the activities of the Crimes Against Persons Investigation Service as captain.
Michel Patenaude is today he is now an inspector and deputy director of the criminal investigations department at the Sûreté du Québec.
He was the highest-ranking police officer at the scene of the event in July 2020. He was acting in support of the person in charge of the operation, Martin Robert.
Like Mr. Robert, Captain Patenaude learned from the mouth of the coroner of the existence of testimonies which indicated the distress of Martin Carpentier on the night of July 8 to 9 .
Before 11:50 a.m., the thesis of the disappearance was still not prioritized by the various investigation teams, which seemed to irritate Coroner Malouin.
It is not normal for commanders to learn of the statements obtained by the patrol officers two and a half years after the existence of the statement, exclaimed the coroner Malouin.
I was not there at the beginning as it happened. We arrive from the 9th. I expect that all the information will be transmitted to the investigators in the file, replied the witness, visibly short of explanations.
“Normally there is knowledge transfer. »
— Michel Patenaude
The coroner also pointed to the low number of walkers available to do research in Saint-Apollinaire on the morning of July 10.
Police pointed out the lack of manpower during search operations in July 2020.
That morning, the police decided to redirect the search to the area of rue Veilleux because of witnesses who indicated that they had heard screams. However, no one was busy looking in the area where footprints had been discovered the day before.
At that time, dozens of investigators were working on the investigation side, but only seven people were busy with field research, according to the police officer's testimony.
Are you surprised that there, in an urgent case at 7 a.m., you are told that we are expecting walkers […]?, questioned the Coroner Malouin. Wouldn't it have been easier to warn them at night?
It's hard to say, Mr. Coroner. I don't know what arrangements have been made, replied the policeman.
Michel Patenaude also testified to the changes made to the Sûreté du Québec after the Carpentier case, including the establishment of the integrated coordination team for disappearances and abductions. This team began its mandate last October.
A working group has been appointed to improve the practices of this type of intervention.
There was also talk of an operational debrief following the events. Captain Patenaude says he participated in this one as a witness.
However, he does not recall discussing the communication breakdowns in the field during the first hours of the operation or a lack of resources in the field .