Canada · Executions

Man hanged, possibly wrongfully, for the murder of a teenage tourist

February 10, 1956
Montreal, Quebec
Wilbert Coffin (pictured) is hanged for the murder of an American tourist

Eugene Lindsay, his 17-year-old son Richard, and 20-year-old family friend Frederick Claar traveled from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania to the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec to hunt bears. They departed on June 5, 1953 and were last seen on June 10, in the presence of Wilber Coffin who was assisting the trio with automobile issues. By July 5, after they had not been seen or heard from in nearly a month, they were reported missing.

Eugene’s mangled body was found within weeks of being reported missing. His scalp was found on one side of a river while his headless body was on the other; the rest of his head was not recovered. He had bullet holes in his clothing and his discarded gun, found nearby, had hair and blood on the butt. It was theorized Eugene had been struck with his gun then shot to death, and his body left to be mauled by bears. Two miles away, the bodies of Richard and Claar were found in a similar state, likely shot and left for bears to dispose of.

As Coffin was the last one to be seen in the company of the slain hunters, he was the first suspect and questioned immediately. He was found to be in the possession of some of the hunters’ property. Coffin admitted to stealing from the group but denied killing them. Nevertheless, Coffin was tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang.

The execution took place on February 10, 1956. Coffin firmly stated his innocence until his death.

Doubts regarding Coffin’s guilt were immediate, and the court was criticized for mishandling Coffin’s trial, based on the facts he had been convicted purely on circumstantial evidence and his trial had been conducted in French despite Coffin only speaking English. Coffin’s family, among others, believe the government was quick to convict Coffin simply to close the case, likely in an effort to prevent a bad reputation with American tourists. Coffin’s sister was quoted as saying, “They wanted to get the case solved and they didn’t care who it was.”

In 2006, Philippe Cabot reportedly confessed to his family he had killed the hunters and is considered by many in true crime communities to be an “unofficial suspect.” Meanwhile, regardless of who actually killed the Lindsays and Claar, Innocence Canada (formerly the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted) is attempting to appeal Coffin’s verdict and posthumously clear his name.

Sources:
LeBlanc, Daniel. “L’affaire Coffin sous la loupe.” Le Droit. April 4, 2019. Accessed: February 10, 2020. https://www.msn.com/fr-ca/actualites/other/laffaire-coffin-sous-la-loupe/ar-BBVBiwL (French)
Campbell, Kathryn M. Miscarriages of Justice in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018
“The Wilbert Coffin Case.” Canadian Human Rights Commission. Accessed: February 10, 2020. https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/historical-perspective/en/timePortals/milestones/70mile.asp
Dalton, Melinda. “Wilbert Coffin’s guilt still in question 60 years after his execution.” CBC News. February 10, 2016. Updated: February 11, 2016. Accessed: February 10, 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.3441076 (image source)
O’Leary, Richard. “DE L ESPOIR POUR LA FAMILLE.” Radio Gaspesie. February 10, 2016. Accessed: February 10, 2020. https://www.radiogaspesie.ca/nouvelles/de-l-espoir-pour-la-famille/ (French)
Fanthorpe, Lionel and Patricia. The World’s Most Mysterious Murders. 2003
“Is There Another Chapter To Story Of 3 Hunters Murdered?” Tyrone Daily Herald. July 26, 1956

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