A 24-year-old man appeared in court Sunday afternoon to face murder charges over a Halloween-night rampage in the streets of Quebec City’s old town that killed two people and injured five others.
Carl Girouard of Sainte-Thérèse, north of Montreal, made the court appearance by video on two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder. Quebec City police and the Quebec coroner identified the two dead as François Duchesne, 56, and Suzanne Clermont, 61, both residents of the city.
The attack played out late on Saturday night, leaving victims in several locations across the city’s historic district. The suspect wore a medieval outfit and attacked his victims with a katana, a samurai sword, according to Quebec City Police Chief Robert Pigeon.
Some of the injured victims suffered severe cuts but their lives are not in jeopardy, Chief Pigeon said.
The suspect had no criminal record but investigators are checking whether, more than five years ago, he uttered threats “in a medical context” that echoed Saturday night’s attack, the police chief said.
“We are digging deeper into this question but [Quebec City police] had no contemporary information that he would have attacked us on our territory,” Chief Pigeon told reporters. Sainte-Thérèse is about 270 kilometres from Quebec City.
Investigators currently have no evidence that the suspect has ties to terrorist groups or had any political motive for the attack. They believe he had acted on “personal motives,” the police chief said, adding that he seemed intent on killing as many people as possible.
Friends and neighbours gathered outside Ms. Clermont’s apartment Sunday and recounted the night’s horror to reporters. They also remembered Ms. Clermont, a hairdresser, as a great friend who they often saw walking her dog around the old city’s walls.
The friends had a gathering spot between two cannons in the city’s fortifications. “She was our sunbeam,” Francine Matteau said. “We are all feeling very vulnerable. We are all in a lot of pain.”
Mr. Duchesne was the director of communications and marketing at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. “We are all in shock,” said Linda Tremblay, a museum spokesperson. “It’s a great loss. Our hearts are with François’s family and we also send our sympathies to the families and the victims of this inexplicable tragedy.”
Jean Rousseau, the local city councillor and an acquaintance of Mr. Duchesne, said the tourist area’s few permanent residents form a tight-knit community. “Everybody knows everybody here on the ramparts,” he said. “Especially with the lockdown, and so few people around. It’s a shock.”
The violence began Saturday night at about 10:30 when a suspect stopped his car near the Château Frontenac, the landmark hotel in the walled part of the city.
Three women discovered Mr. Duchesne, the first victim, lying on the ground near the Château Frontenac. Police later found a car in front of the hotel, its engine still running, with a sword sheath and cans of gasoline inside, Le Soleil reported.
The suspect then moved on foot through the winding streets and public stairways of the historic district. Victims appeared to have been targeted at random.
About 1.5 kilometres away from where Mr. Duchesne was found, near the walls of the old city, Ms. Clermont was outside her apartment on Ramparts Street having a cigarette when she was attacked. Photos from the scene showed a pack of cigarettes on the ground.
Moments after the attack, neighbours said they heard yelling and rushed outside after Ms. Clermont’s husband, Jacques, found her. “I could see immediately that it was Suzanne,” Sandra Pacas told reporters.
A witness told radio station FM93 that he was near the water fountain in front of the National Assembly, just outside the walled district. “We heard someone shout ‘there’s a sicko with a knife!’ Further away, we heard screams. It was Halloween. In the beginning, we thought it was pranks, then …”
Police surrounded the upper town with patrol cars, two tactical units and canine squads, ordering residents to remain indoors.
After a search of more than two hours, a man was intercepted at about 12:50 a.m. Sunday, at the waterfront. The suspect was spotted by a harbour security guard who alerted police. A photo in Le Soleil showed two police officers taking away a long-haired man in dark clothes.
The suspect was taken to hospital before being questioned by detectives. Chief Pigeon said the man suffered from hypothermia.
Police investigated 25 sites, including the suspect’s residence in Sainte-Thérèse, his vehicle and several crime scenes through the old town, though Chief Pigeon said some of those forensic scenes could be places where a few blood stains needed to be recorded and collected.
“Quebec is awaking after a night of horror. Words fail me to describe such a tragedy. I offer my condolences to the families of the victims,” Premier François Legault said in a message on Twitter Sunday morning.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement with his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, saying their “hearts are broken for the loved ones of the victims of this terrible tragedy, and we wish a full recovery to those who have been injured.”
Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume said the attack brought back memories of another multiple-homicide tragedy in the city, when a gunman murdered six worshippers at a mosque.
“I had this morning the sharp feeling of reappearing in an old movie, a movie that took place Jan. 29, 2017,” Mr. Labeaume said. “This is a hallucinating, terrifying event, an event that’s unfathomable.”
With reports from Bill Curry in Ottawa and The Canadian Press.
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