A brother missing since 1981: ‘Why didn’t the police do more?’

When René Bernard Laflamme didn’t return to Ottawa after a visit to Montreal, his household knew one thing had gone desperately fallacious. In these essential early days, they are saying, overlapping police turf bought in the best way of a correct investigation.

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“I would love a response in writing,” the letter begins, written in longhand on a yellow authorized pad. “To know why the police did no inquiry into the mysterious disappearance of my brother.”

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Addressed to the chief of the Montreal police in 1982, the letter was written by Ottawa resident Coreen D’Angelo. 4 pages lengthy, it lays out intimately why D’Angelo believes the police aren’t taking his case severely.

“I’ve mentioned this with the (Ontario provincial police) and different police and all stated a extra thorough investigation was due,” it states towards the top. “I’m certain you’ve seen related instances however, please, look at this one.”

D’Angelo, 77, final noticed her brother, René Bernard Laflamme, in the summertime of 1981, when she dropped him off at a freeway exit in Ottawa with little else than a brown, sticker-clad suitcase. A frequent hitchhiker, he was to discover a trip to Montreal for the weekend.

The household is aware of Laflamme made it to town, however they haven’t heard from him since. Formally, he’s been thought-about lacking since Monday, June 1, 1981.

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Greater than 40 years later, Laflamme’s siblings stay satisfied there was foul play concerned. A reality they’ve expressed intimately to a number of police forces for many years, in at instances determined pleas for somebody to take the case to coronary heart.

“To me, it’s clear one thing occurred,” one among Laflamme’s sisters, Darlene Laflamme, stated in a latest interview.

“The query is what, precisely. And the opposite query is: Why didn’t the police do extra?”

Unsatisfied with the police response, Coreen D’Angelo began writing to anyone she thought could help find her brother. “After all, I think when someone disappears, the last person to see him should be questioned,” states her initial letter to the Montreal police.
Unhappy with the police response, Coreen D’Angelo started writing to anybody she thought might assist discover her brother. “In spite of everything, I feel when somebody disappears, the final individual to see him needs to be questioned,” states her preliminary letter to the Montreal police. Picture by Jean Levac /Ottawa Citizen

4 many years later, there are particulars about Laflamme’s disappearance which have been misplaced to fading recollections and the shock introduced on when he didn’t return house.

However for D’Angelo, the drive she constituted of Ottawa to Montreal quickly after nonetheless stands proud in her thoughts.

For the almost two-hour-long drive, she remembers protecting her eyes fastened on the facet of the street, scanning the ditches and roadcuts for any indicators of her youthful brother — be it garments, his suitcase or, she feared, a physique.

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“That was the worst half,” she stated on a latest afternoon. “Even for years after, on any lengthy drive, I’d nonetheless be trying within the ditches.”

At age 24, Laflamme, or “Barney” as family and friends referred to as him, was on the verge of beginning a brand new chapter in his life.

Although he had been residing in Montreal, he was about to maneuver to Vancouver, the place a girlfriend was ready for him to maneuver in collectively. From his household’s house in Ottawa, he was heading to Montreal for one final weekend, primarily to choose up a welfare cheque to safe cash for his journey west.

“Barney had a strong relationship with his family, especially his mother, and would not have disappeared or ceased to have contact with them,” the missing person file notes. Photo courtesy Coreen D’Angelo.
“Barney had a robust relationship along with his household, particularly his mom, and wouldn’t have disappeared or ceased to have contact with them,” the lacking individual file notes. Picture courtesy Coreen D’Angelo.

The plan was to spend the weekend in Montreal, then return to Ottawa to gather his belongings. He had made preparations with a pal to choose him up in Ottawa on Monday. The 2 would then drive to Vancouver collectively.

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When Laflamme didn’t return by then, his household knew one thing was off — it doesn’t matter what sort of scenario he would get into, they are saying, it was not like him to not name house. Additionally they insist he wouldn’t have disappeared with out a hint, understanding the ache it might trigger his mom.

One in all six siblings, Laflamme was a “happy-go-lucky” kind who was additionally fiercely protecting of his sisters, they are saying. Given his transient nature, and the way typically he was on the transfer, they have been by no means precisely certain what he was concerned in however suspected it wasn’t all the time good.

They knew he may be temperamental when ingesting, and had been entangled with the regulation on multiple event. One of many identifiers in his lacking individual file is a scar from a stab wound on his leg.

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“Barney had a robust relationship along with his household, particularly his mom, and wouldn’t have disappeared or ceased to have contact with them,” the file additionally notes.

Coreen D’Angelo shared images of her brother in the hope that it might lead someone from his past to step forward with information to help solve the case. Above: seated, centre, in white shirt and vest. Below: far left, leaning against wall. Photos courtesy Coreen D’Angelo.
Coreen D’Angelo shared photographs of her brother within the hope that it would lead somebody from his previous to step ahead with info to assist remedy the case. Above: seated, centre, in white shirt and vest. Under: far left, leaning towards wall. Images courtesy Coreen D’Angelo.

Whereas residing in Montreal, Laflamme had been renting an residence close to Montreal’s Little Italy neighbourhood, the place he lived along with his landlord and, later, rented an residence subsequent door.

Laflamme’s siblings by no means actually grasped the character of their brother’s relationship with the person, and have questioned whether or not they had a extra intimate relationship than Laflamme let on.

They’ve described the person to police as each somebody who noticed Laflamme as a son however may be controlling and jealous. Additionally they detailed having overheard heated cellphone arguments between the 2 within the days earlier than Laflamme’s disappearance, bickering over Laflamme owing him cash.

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“He was very offended with my brother,” Darlene Laflamme later wrote to police, “and he was the final one with my brother.”

When the household confronted the owner after Laflamme vanished, they are saying he appeared calm and indifferent. He instructed them he had pushed Laflamme to a nightclub that weekend, and that was the final he noticed of him.

He handed over a pillowcase with a couple of of Laflamme’s belongings, together with an handle e-book, a set of keys to his mom’s home and a latest image of Laflamme taken in a photograph sales space.

“I stated, ‘Why have you ever bought my mom’s keys?’” D’Angelo recalled. “He stated, ‘Barney left them with me.’”

Different particulars additionally strike the household as unusual.

Shortly earlier than his disappearance, Laflamme introduced his sister Darlene alongside to a celebration. Besides as soon as there, he launched her to individuals beneath a distinct title and described her as a pal, not his sister.

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Darlene Laflamme discovered it unusual sufficient within the second to ask him about it as soon as they left.

“I don’t need them to know who you’re,” she remembers her brother answering.

Then, earlier than returning to Montreal for that final weekend, Laflamme stunned his household by deciding to perm his hair. It was one thing he had by no means accomplished earlier than, and it altered his look to the purpose that his sisters later questioned whether or not he didn’t wish to be acknowledged.

“I do assume Barney didn’t wish to get his household concerned in no matter he was concerned in,” Darlene Laflamme stated. “However was he additionally hiding from someone? I simply don’t know.”

Coreen D’Angelo last saw her brother, René Bernard Laflamme, in the summer of 1981, when she dropped him off at a highway exit in Ottawa with little else than a brown, sticker-clad suitcase. A frequent hitchhiker, he was to find a ride to Montreal for the weekend.
Coreen D’Angelo final noticed her brother, René Bernard Laflamme, in the summertime of 1981, when she dropped him off at a freeway exit in Ottawa with little else than a brown, sticker-clad suitcase. A frequent hitchhiker, he was to discover a trip to Montreal for the weekend. Picture by Jean Levac /Ottawa Citizen

To this present day, the household believes confusion over which police drive had jurisdiction over the case value them essential time early on.

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The household first approached the Ottawa police, however keep in mind being instructed they needed to report Laflamme lacking in Montreal, since he was final seen there. The Montreal police, then again, maintained Ottawa ought to lead the investigation.

In the meantime, time glided by.

“It was simply … like they have been passing the ball,” D’Angelo stated, recalling the early days of the investigation. “It felt like a missed alternative.”

Unhappy with the police response, D’Angelo started writing to anybody she thought might assist, together with elected officers and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In a September 1982 letter written by Robert Kaplan, then Solicitor Normal of Canada, the household discovered Laflamme’s info nonetheless had not been entered into the nation’s nationwide database for lacking individuals, regardless of it being greater than a yr since he had disappeared.

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It was a step the household thought-about to be important and, the letter from Kaplan said, a duty that laid with the police drive that had jurisdiction over the case.

“The RCMP is ready to help the Ottawa and Montreal police forces ought to this plan of action be decided needed,” Kaplan wrote.

When the household first contacted the Montreal police in regards to the case, they are saying they have been instructed Laflamme was of age to distance himself from his household if he needed, they usually couldn’t examine it the best way, say, a lacking little one could be investigated.

Performing on a request from the Ottawa police, Montreal law enforcement officials visited the final handle the place Laflamme lived, solely to verify he wasn’t house. The household was instructed the police didn’t query his landlord, one thing that by no means sat effectively with them.

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“In spite of everything, I feel when somebody disappears, the final individual to see him needs to be questioned,” D’Angelo wrote in her preliminary letter to the Montreal police.

A yr and a half after Laflamme disappeared, the Montreal police adopted up on one final element with the household. Laflamme’s mom had needed to know if the welfare cheque he travelled to town to gather was ever cashed in.

In a typed response, police stated they have been capable of monitor down the cheque by means of town’s welfare providers. It had been returned to the workplace beneath a barely totally different title, René Lafrance as a substitute of Laflamme, with a observe that stated solely “déménagé (moved).”

“And so, because of the lack of components permitting us to proceed the investigation on behalf of the Ottawa police,” then-Montreal police director André de Luca wrote to the household, “this case, to us, is now thought-about closed.”

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One of six siblings, Laflamme was a “happy-go-lucky” type who was also fiercely protective of his sisters, they say. Photo courtesy Coreen D’Angelo.
One in all six siblings, Laflamme was a “happy-go-lucky” kind who was additionally fiercely protecting of his sisters, they are saying. Picture courtesy Coreen D’Angelo.

Laflamme’s mom, Joan, died in 1995, with out ever studying what occurred to her first-born son. She was buried behind a church in quite a bit designed for 2, with the second place reserved for him.

Laflamme’s sisters describe the burden of residing along with his disappearance as a complicated collection of ups and downs. He’s by no means forgotten, they usually need solutions. However moments of intense questioning are balanced by others the place they marvel if it’s greatest to depart it alone.

“I can discuss it now with out a lot of the ache and damage it might trigger for years,” D’Angelo stated, “however it by no means leaves your thoughts.”

Noticing the toll it was taking over the household, Sophie Wheeler, who married Laflamme’s nephew, took an curiosity within the case within the mid-2000s.

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Wheeler made certain details about Laflamme’s disappearance was listed on totally different lacking individuals pages on-line. She additionally contacted coroners’ workplaces throughout the nation, inquiring about unidentified stays that match his description and the timeline. There have been promising leads, however by no means a match.

Contacted for this story, the Ottawa Police Service declined to touch upon its position within the investigation, stating solely that the “matter is taken into account a (Montreal police) file.”

Technically, the Montreal police nonetheless think about the case open at the moment. Laflamme is one among greater than 150 lacking individuals listed on their web site.

In an electronic mail response, the drive confirmed it did work on the case on the time — reminiscent of visiting Laflamme’s residence — however was solely appearing in assist of the Ottawa police.

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The file was later transferred to the Montreal police in 2013, a spokesperson stated, at which level “numerous steps have been then taken to attempt to find the lacking individual.” In 2014, officers met with members of the family to acquire DNA samples.

“A case may be revived even whether it is a number of years previous,” the police drive added. “A brand new testimony or a technological breakthrough, for instance, might assist remedy it.”

Because the household retains ready for solutions, letters to police forces have piled up and calls made on the anniversary of his disappearance have led nowhere.

At the moment, given the time that has handed, Wheeler stated the household acknowledges they’re probably on the lookout for Laflamme’s stays.

She nonetheless believes someone is aware of one thing, but in addition concedes the household’s timeline for getting solutions is fading with each passing yr.

“I’m certain any officer that attempted to dive into this case now could be dealing with a very uphill battle,” Wheeler stated. “However I feel the time to behave would have been again in 1981, when he was first reported lacking.”

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