Dimitry Montigny embraces Jessica Peloquin, left, after laying flowers in front of Suzanne Clermont’s house in Quebec City, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Clermont was named as one of two people killed Saturday night by a man wielding a sword. Peloquin, who took the 911 call, was in tears. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Dimitry Montigny embraces Jessica Peloquin, left, after laying flowers in front of Suzanne Clermont’s house in Quebec City, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Clermont was named as one of two people killed Saturday night by a man wielding a sword. Peloquin, who took the 911 call, was in tears. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

‘It’s unbelievable’: Quebec City residents mourn victims of deadly sword attack

The identities of the five people injured in the attack are protected by a publication ban

Residents of Quebec’s picturesque capital grappled with grief and shock on Sunday as they mourned the deaths of a beloved neighbourhood hairdresser and a well-respected museum employee slain in what police describe as a deliberate sword attack targeting random strangers.

Impromptu vigils and makeshift memorials sprang up near the stretch of Old Quebec City where police allege a young man went on a 2.5-hour rampage wielding a long, curved sword. Hairdresser Suzanne Clermont, 61, and 56-year-old museum employee Francois Duchesne died in the Halloween-night attack that also left five others injured.

Residents huddled outside Clermont’s home on Des Remparts Street, where they placed a box filled with flowers and a stuffed cat at her front door.

One neighbour said Clermont was out smoking a cigarette when the stabbing took place.

“She was my friend. She and her partner Jacques were a lovely couple,” said Lucie Painchaud, a resident of the area for 16 years. “It’s unbelievable, I can’t still compute.”

The horror of Saturday night’s events was also setting in at the nearby Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec, where Duchesne was described as a much-loved employee.

“We are all in shock,” spokeswoman Linda Tremblay said in a statement, describing the attack as an “inexplicable and unfair tragedy.”

Police offered only a handful of details about the late-night attack that played out in the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec, a popular tourist destination packed with historic buildings and landmarks.

Quebec City police chief Robert Pigeon said the suspect had been dressed in “medieval” garb and swung a katana-like sword at randomly chosen victims in an attack that stretched into the early hours of Sunday morning.

“Last night we were thrust into a night of horror when a 24-year-old man who does not live in Quebec City came here with the clear intention of taking as many victims as possible,” Pigeon said during a Sunday morning news conference.

Police were first summoned to the scene at around 10:30 on Saturday night and proceeded to pursue a suspect through the narrow streets of Old Quebec until his arrest shortly before 1 a.m.

Carl Girouard has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder in relation to the attack, according to the Quebec Crown prosecutor’s office.

Girouard appeared in front of a judge via video conference on Sunday afternoon and is slated to be back in court on Thursday.

The identities of the five people injured in the attack are protected by a publication ban.

VIDEO: Man charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder in Quebec City sword attack

Pigeon said the suspect, who hails from the north shore of Montreal, has no known links to terrorist groups. Police believe his motivations appear to be personal in nature, he added without providing further details.

He also said the alleged attacker has no known criminal record, but shared plans to commit this type of act in an unspecified “medical context” about five years ago.

The bustling sector of Old Quebec where the rampage unfolded was quiet Sunday, with large portions blocked off as part of the massive police probe. The police chief noted the investigation involved around 25 different crime scenes.

Some residents out for their morning stroll said they heard the sirens and could see flashing police lights on Saturday night.

Stanislas Thomassin, who lives just 300 metres from where one of the attacks took place, said a friend noted alerts on social media on Saturday night but they didn’t make much of it.

“This morning, I got a note from a friend in France in a panic about me, that’s when I realized the horror of what had happened,” Thomassin said. “It’s normally very calm, very peaceful in Old Quebec.”

Condolences poured in from across Canada for the victims and their families, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying in a tweet that his “heart breaks” for them.

Federal Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party, also offered their condolences, while Quebec Premier Francois Legault said the entire province had woken up after a “night of horror.”

“I don’t have the words to describe such a tragedy,” Legault said in an early-morning tweet. The flag outside the provincial legislature was also lowered to half-mast.

Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume said the attack has shaken the city, which is still recovering from a deadly shooting at a local mosque in 2017. “We’re going through a tough situation,” Labeaume said during the morning police briefing.

Back in Old Quebec, the local city councillor, Jean Rousseau, said Clermont’s death had left residents shell shocked. Community members had gotten closer during the COVID-19 pandemic, with people seeing each other on their nightly walks.

“It’s a tightly-knit community, everybody knows everybody here,” Rousseau said. “Clermont was well appreciated and everybody liked her.”

Carol Proulx, co-owner of a clothing store next door to the salon where Clermont worked, described the hairdresser as a “friendly woman.” Proulx also knew Duchesne for many years and said he was shocked by the attack.

“He’s someone who had a great career and was well loved by those who knew him,” Proulx said.

“It touches us all,” he said of the tragedy. “Quebec is a nice big city, but we see that at the same time, it’s a small village.”

–With files from Jillian Kestler-D’Amours in Montreal and Tara Deschamps in Toronto.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Quebec

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton, standing at right, sits on steering committees of two organizations that are tackling the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. File photo
Courtenay councillor leads campaign to reduce building-sector GHG emissions

Courtenay councillor Will Cole-Hamilton wants local governments to carry a little more… Continue reading

A rendering shows the entrance planned for the Hornby Island Arts Centre. Image supplied
Numerous Comox Valley projects get CERIP grants

Numerous Comox Valley projects have received grants through the Community Economic Recovery… Continue reading

Thrifty Foods. (Black Press file photo)
Thrifty Foods confirms staff member tests positive for COVID-19 in Courtenay

The company currently lists 12 stores within B.C. with confirmed cases

Comox Valley Schools’ distance learning program, Navigate (NIDES), which saw some large gains in enrolment this year, could see a return to normal numbers come September. Image, screenshot
Comox Valley Schools expects enrolment drop come fall

Decline projected online, as more students return to ‘bricks-and-mortar’ classes

Cumberland will be looking to a parcel tax to cover debt for its new water system. File photo
Cumberland plans for parcel tax to cover water debt

Parcel tax review panel would take place March 22, if necessary

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen as COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Most Read