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

Neurologist and medical educator Dr. Alexandre Henri-Bhargava, seen here speaking at the 2020 Breakfast to Remember in Victoria, will delve into the latest in dementia research during an interactive research event exclusively for attendees of this year’s virtual Breakfast. Access to the March 10 research event is included with the purchase of a Breakfast to Remember ticket. (Kevin Light Photography)
Blast off with Chris Hadfield at Alzheimer Society’s Breakfast to Remember in March

The Society hopes people in all corners of the province will make the most of this opportunity

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Duncan initiates pilot project to deal with graffiti

Project based on a successful one in Port Alberni

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Lead donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at the Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

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

Beginning late Tuesday, anti-pipeline protesters blocked the intersection of Hastings Street and Clark Drive in Vancouver. (Instagram/Braidedwarriors)
Demonstrators block key access to Vancouver port over jail for pipeline protester

They group is protesting a 90-day jail sentence handed to a fellow anti-pipeline protester

A discarded blue surgical mask is shown hanging in a bush in Montreal, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
B.C. RMT suspended for not wearing a mask after confirmed by undercover clients

College of Massage Therapists has 5 open files, said suspension necessary to protect public

Victoria Police Department vehicles outside the headquarters building. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police investigating sudden death in Beacon Hill Park

Police, paramedics responded to a report of an unresponsive person early Wednesday

Dozens of reports of sexualized violence against a former employee of downtown Victoria restaurant Chuck’s Burger Bar were posted online in January. A police investigation is ongoing. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Chuck’s Burger Bar in Victoria closes doors after sexual assault allegations

Victoria police investigating reports of sexual misconduct, assault by former restaurant employee

Most Read