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

Terry Miller won the Rossland byelection.on Saturday.  Photo: Terry Miller
Rossland voters select Terry Miller as new councillor

City of Rossland releases results of advance voting and final voting day of council byelection

RNG plant
Construction on ground-breaking RNG plant in Fruitvale set to go in spring 2021

REN Energy partners with Calgary engineering firm for innovative West Kootenay gas plant

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

Communities like Nakusp are grappling with the challenge of hooking high-speed internet up at individual homes. File photo
‘Last mile’ debate a Gordian knot in Slocan Valley’s fibre-optic cable plans

How do you bring high-speed internet not just to communities, but individual homes?

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Follow public health recommendations, says Interior Health as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Revelstoke. (Image courtesy CDC)
Revelstoke positive COVID cases grows to 29

Interior Health announced a cluster in the community on Nov. 26

Most Read