Alleged murderer tried to make sure trial didn’t happen — including brazen escape from prison bus
Thursday was the day John Boulachanis allegedly tried his best to prevent from happening.
A jury finally began hearing evidence in a first-degree murder trial involving the death of Robert Tanguay, who was killed around Aug. 9, 1997. Tanguay’s remains were discovered, in September 2001, by passersby who noticed them in a sandpit in Rigaud.
On Thursday, six men and six women who make up the jury in a case being tried at the Gouin courthouse in northern Montreal were told, in the Crown’s opening statement, that since his arrest Boulachanis has made a few efforts to prevent his trial from happening. Prosecutor Pierre-Olivier Gagnon said that while detained Boulachanis has tried tried to tamper with two witnesses, including one of two men who were accomplices in the murder.
To this day I still don’t know. How did the saw blades get there?
Also, the Crown’s first witness, prison guard Sylvain Moses, testified about how, on Nov. 6, 2013, Boulachanis managed to escape from a prison transport bus while he was being transferred from the Montreal Detention Centre to the Valleyfield courthouse. The jury was told Boulachanis pulled off the brazen escape minutes after having calmly told a fellow detainee that he was “going away for a long time.” Instead, Boulachanis was apprehended seconds after somehow removing handcuffs and leg shackles and jumping from a window.
Moses said there were four men and one woman being transferred to the courthouse on the bus and each were locked into metal cages on the bus. When it came to a stop at an intersection in Valleyfield, Boulachanis slipped out the window and tried to run away. He was quickly caught by one of Moses’s colleagues and was wrestled to the ground before a Sûreté du Québec officer who was on patrol nearby helped out and arrested Boulachanis.
Moses said that from his vantage point on the bus he didn’t see how Boulachanis escaped and then he only realized something was wrong when a fellow guard set off an alarm.
“When my partner said someone had escaped I said ‘What!?’ I just couldn’t believe it,” Moses said. He said Boulachanis’s leg shackles and handcuffs were joined by a lock that was also secured to the cage on the bus.
Moses said part of the explanation came when he returned to the bus. Among the handcuffs, chains and shackles lying on the floor of the cage were two small metal saw blades.
“To this day I still don’t know. How did the saw blades get there? Maybe the defence lawyer knows,” Moses said, prompting lawyer Marc Labelle to leap from his seat in the courtroom.
“This attitude, that is enough! This makes no sense!” Labelle said while raising an objection.
Superior Court Justice Michael Stober told the jury to ignore what Moses said about Labelle.
“There is no foundation for that comment — none at all,” Stober said.
SQ Constable Francis-Paul Gerard testified after Moses about how he helped to arrest Boulachanis following the escape and about how he transported the accused to a hospital because he complained of a pain in his leg.
Gerard said he found a small instrument commonly used to break windows on the ground close to where Boulachanis was tackled. He found a small cylinder that held $50 bills and a key Boulachanis likely used to free himself from his handcuffs.
Gerard also said that when he did a more thorough search of Boulachanis at the hospital he found several documents including a series of business cards and a list of names of people with addresses next to them. The patrol officer said that when he did a quick Google search on the names on the list he realized they were people connected to the murder. Based on a question Labelle asked of an earlier witness, the document was a list of the witnesses expected to testify in this trial.
The trial resumes on Friday.