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

Just Posted

The river behind the ball field. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Pulled by the flow: river stirs up childhood memories

Gazette editor makes trek through Port Hardy wilderness to swim in the river

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Alert Bay council has decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations. (Alertbay.ca photo)
Alert Bay council cancels Canada Day celebrations

The decision was made in wake of the mass graves being found at former residential schools

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read