1953: Marguerite Pitre, the last woman hanged in Canada

3 comments January 9th, 2010 Headsman

Thirty-five minutes past midnight this date in 1953, the 13th and last woman executed in Canada, Marguerite Pitre, was hanged in Montreal’s Bourdeaux gaol.

Pitre was condemned an accomplice to Albert Guay in the latter’s 1949 airline bombing, which killed 23 people just to get rid of Mrs. Guay.

The “dark and buxom go-between in Guay’s affair”* with a teenage waitress had rented Guay a room to install the nymphet when the girl’s father got wise to the frolicking and kicked her out of the house.

Pitre actually testified against Albert Guay in his trial, describing how she bought dynamite at his instruction and delivered a “mystery parcel” to the air freight on the doomed plane.

In fact, she helped blow open the case at the outset by attempting suicide 10 days after the crime and blabbing in the hospital how Albert had made her do it. Pitre insisted, though, that her own involvement was unintentional, and that she thought the box held a statue even though it was her own brother who had fashioned the explosives into a time bomb.

But after Guay’s conviction, both Pitre and her brother were arrested and separately tried for the plot themselves — both of them to follow Guay to the gallows for the audacious crime.

* Chicago Tribune, Jan. 9, 1953.

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1951: Albert Guay

2 comments January 12th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1951, Albert Guay was hanged in Canada for one of the earliest commercial airline attacks — bombing a Canadian Pacific Airline flight to murder his wife.

Stuck in a loveless marriage with little recourse to divorce, Guay‘s loins burned for a young mistress.

He engaged a watchmaker colleague, Généreux Ruest, to make a bomb, and the latter’s sister, Marguerite Ruest-Pitre, to air freight it on the doomed plane. Both would maintain their innocence of the plot, but after Guay’s own conviction, he implicated both — possibly in an attempt to delay his own hanging.

A time bomb in the luggage hold of this airplane took 23 lives on September 9, 1949, for which three people were executed — and inspired a copycat crime with 44 more deaths and one more execution.

Guay had intended the plane to explode over the St. Lawrence River, eliminating the forensic evidence, but a slight delay before takeoff laid the damning debris over the land. The flight’s entire complement of four crew and nineteen passengers — including three top executives of the Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation — perished.

The crime had ample media attention both north and south of the Canada-U.S. border — flight still being something of a terrifying novelty for the general public. Guay’s purchase of life insurance for his wife on the day of the trip was not especially inculpatory, but a standard procedure for air travelers.

Guay’s last words caught the irony of his celebrity: “Au moins, je meurs célèbre” (“At least I die famous”).

A few years after this day’s events, an American attempted a similar crime, with similar results.

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