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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009

    Canada - Wilbert Coffin, hanged for '53 murder of US tourist, guilt questionable

    Wilbert Coffin was 40 years old when he was hanged for the murder of an American hunter in Quebec's Gaspé region in 1953.
    On Feb. 10, 1956, a black flag flew over Bordeaux prison in Montreal as Wilbert Coffin walked to the gallows and became the 86th prisoner to meet his end with the state executioner.

    Coffin, convicted of murdering an American tourist hunting in Gaspé, maintained his innocence.

    That might have been the end of this tale had it not been for Coffin's family and home community in Quebec's Gaspé region, who have long maintained the prospector was a scapegoat — a serendipitous fall guy sacrificed to protect the image of the region.
    "We never ever dreamt that my brother would go to the gallows," said Marie Coffin-Stewart, Wilbert's younger sister.

    Coffin-Stewart, now 85 years old, had left home and was living in Toronto when her brother was arrested. She found out about the affair on the car radio while driving to work.

    "It was a great shock," she said. "He was a very caring man. I often thought to myself what a terrible hardship it must have been for him to be locked up in prison when he couldn't stand to have an animal caged."

    The crime itself was a gruesome affair. Three Americans — a man, his son and a family friend — went missing in the woods while out on a hunting trip. Their remains, ravaged by animals, wouldn't be found for weeks.

    Coffin admitted to having met the men when their truck ran into mechanical problems before their disappearance. He was also found to be in possession of some items stolen from the victims.

    But he went to his grave swearing he had nothing to do with their deaths. He was convicted of the murder of one of the three — the youngest, Richard E. Lindsay.
    Coffin didn't testify at his trial and no witnesses were called in his defence. Many, including his family, believe he was railroaded.

    "As far as I'm concerned, it was the Quebec government that was pressured into doing it from a hunting club in the States," his sister said. "They wanted to get the case solved and they didn't care who it was."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    MONTREAL - Lawyers studying the case of a Quebec man put to death 60 years ago today say they may have new facts that will help exonerate him.

    In 1956, Wilbert Coffin was hanged in Montreal's Bordeaux prison for the murders of three American hunters three years earlier in the Gaspe region.

    Two lawyers say there might finally be new elements that prove Coffin's innocence.

    One is working on a book about the case and another has studied it separately on behalf of a Toronto-based group, The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted.

    Coffin always claimed he was innocent and his family has sought to have his 1954 conviction overturned posthumously
    - See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/efforts....L5W38meg.dpuf

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2009

    A smile plays over Wilbert Coffin's lips as he descends the steps of the Prison de Quebec, looming high above the St. Lawrence River. If not for the handcuff shackling his wrist to a burly constable, he might be out for a stroll in the late-summer sunshine.

    But the caption of the September 1955 photo explains otherwise: the affable mining prospector wearing a half-smile and his Sunday best is en route to his place of execution for the murders of three American bear hunters in the Gaspe bush.

    Fifty years after Coffin's hanging on Feb. 10, 1956, at Montreal's Bordeaux Jail, the Gaspe woodsman who maintained his innocence to the gallows remains the justice system's most potent symbol of doubt.

    Many believe he was a scapegoat, railroaded by Premier Maurice

    Duplessis's Union National government, anxious for a speedy conviction to appease U.S. authorities and protect the province's tourist industry.

    "You're talking about a case where the doubts are so large and so palpable that it cries out as a total and complete injustice," says Toronto criminal lawyer Edward Greenspan.
    "When the authorities make a mistake, don't go ask them to retract."

    - - -

    Three years went by, and they sentenced him to hang / He swore "I ain't the one" and his hangman felt the same / With seven unlucky chimes, and a single death flag raised / Wilbert Coffin was sent to an early grave.

    And then he said:

    "Into thy hands lord, I commend my soul / Into thy hands lord, I commend my soul / Into thy hands lord, I commend my soul / Lord, I commend my soul."

    - from The Wilbert Coffin Story by Dale Boyle

    Hundreds gathered at Gaspe's train station when Wilbert Coffin's body came home, Marie Stewart recalls. "The day my mum brought his body home, it was unbelievable, the crowd at the station."

    On the simple headstone that marks where Wilbert Coffin was laid to rest is inscribed: "Judge not, that ye be not judged."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2009

    Richard Lindsey (left), 17, and Frederick Claar, 20, at a cabin in the Gaspé peninsula. The picture was found on a camera discovered near Claar's body. (Canadian Press)

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