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Joseph Albert GUAY





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - In-flight bombing of a passenger airplane
Number of victims: 23
Date of murders: September 7, 1949
Date of arrest: 14 days after
Date of birth: 1917
Victims profile: 4 crew members and 19 passengers (including Rita Morel, his wife)
Method of murder: A bomb made of dynamite and an alarm clock
Location: In the Air - Canada
Status: Executed by hanging on January 10, 1951

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The Worst Mass Murder in North America

Bruce Ricketts

Joseph Albert Guay was born in Quebec in 1917.  The youngest of 5 children, young Joseph was spoiled and always expected to get his way.

As a young man, he sold watches and jewelry on commission.  He seemed to be a natural, but very persistent, salesperson.  When World War II broke out in 1939, he got a job at Canadian Arsenals Limited at St. Malo, Quebec.  The arsenal closed in 1945 and Joseph opened a jewelry and watch repair shop in Quebec City.

During his time at Canadian Arsenals, Joseph met and married Rita Morel.  The marriage began well, all smiles and chuckles, until the Guay’s had their first child.  Seems that Joseph did not like being second fiddle to a baby.

As time progressed, the jewelry business began to fail, debts piled up and both his eye and his ardour began to scan for new romance.  It was not long before Joseph settled on 17-year old Marie-Ange Robitaille, whom he dated under the assumed name of Roger Angers.  Joseph set Marie-Ange up in a small apartment and offered her an engagement ring.  Soon after, Rita discover the arrangement and confronted the pair.  Marie-Ange left the relationship shortly thereafter citing the marriage as her reason.

Joseph was furious.  Not only was he second fiddle to a baby in his marriage but nor he was second fiddle to his marriage with his mistress.

In his fury, Joseph concocted a plan to get rid of his wife.

In his business, Joseph travelled frequently by airplane to deliver or receive merchandise.  His plan was to convince his wife to take one of the trips and then blow up the plane!

Genereux Ruest, a Joseph employee, designed, built and package a timed bomb for Joseph.  Joseph also employed Marguerite Pitre, the sister of Ruest, to deliver the package to Canadian Pacific Airlines for transfer to Baie-Comeau, on the same flight as Rita.  Joseph took Rita to the airport in Quebec City and purchased a $10,000 insurance package on her (a common practice during the time).

The plan went off with out a hitch,  On September 9, 1949, 41 minutes into the flight, the plane exploded over Sault-aux-Cochons, a town located at the confluence of little St. Francis River and the St. Lawrence. and all 23 persons, including Rita, were killed.

Joseph was elated.  He had a dead wife and $10,000!  However, Marguerite Pitre attempted suicide 10 days after the bombing and while in hospital confessed to her part in the crime.

Guay, Ruest, and Pitre were arrested, tried and hanged for their crimes.


Joseph-Albert Guay (most commonly known as Albert Guay) (born 1917) was a resident of Quebec City who was responsible for the in-flight bombing of a passenger airplane on September 9, 1949, killing all on board including his wife Rita (née Morel).

The incident and subsequent trials of Guay and his accomplices were notorious in Quebec and received very wide newspaper coverage.

The flight

The plane was a Canadian Pacific Airlines DC-3 aircraft (registry CF-CUA S/N: 4518) flying from Montreal to Baie-Comeau with a stopover at L'Ancienne-Lorette, a suburb of Quebec City; it was at Quebec City that Rita Morel (Mrs. Guay) and the bomb came on board.

The bomb was made of dynamite and an alarm clock and stashed in the forward baggage compartment. It exploded near a small locality named Sault-au-Cochon (sometimes incorrectly given as "Sault-aux-Cochons") near Saint-Joachim in the Charlevoix region, causing the plane to crash and killing all 4 crew and 19 passengers. The flight was delayed five minutes at takeoff; this apparently thwarted Guay's desire to have the explosion take place over the Saint Lawrence River, which would have made forensic examination of the crash impossible with the technology of the day. Apart from Rita Morel, the victims included four children and three American executives from the Kennecott Copper Corporation including the company president.

The airline involved is sometimes stated to be "Quebec Airways", but this was simply a name used for some Canadian Pacific Airlines flights in Quebec. Apparently the flight did not have a flight number.

This is sometimes incorrectly stated to be the first in-flight airplane bombing incident in history; in fact, there had been at least two earlier incidents, including one (apparently with a similar motive) in the Philippines in May of that same year, a fact which was duly noted in contemporary Quebec press accounts. A later incident, the bombing of United Airlines Flight 629 on November 1, 1955 (by a man wishing to kill his mother for insurance) was apparently inspired by the Albert Guay affair.

Plot and aftermath

Albert Guay described himself as a jeweller and watchmaker, although at his trial it was suggested that he was more of a watch and jewellery salesman. His marriage to Rita Morel was stormy and he became enamoured of 19-year-old waitress Marie-Ange Robitaille. In those days Quebec was strictly Catholic and divorce was almost impossible. Guay first considered poison but later decided on the airplane bombing. The day of the flight he took out a $CAD10,000 insurance policy on his wife, a considerable sum at that time, which he attempted to collect three days later. There was also a prior $5000 policy dating from 1942.

He asked clockmaker Généreux Ruest to manufacture a bomb using dynamite, batteries and an alarm clock. The dynamite had been purchased at a hardware store by Ruest's sister Marguerite Pitre (also called Ruest-Pitre, wife of Arthur Pitre), supposedly to be used in clearing a field. Pitre also delivered the package containing the bomb to the plane, for mail delivery. She had also been the one who had arranged secret meetings between Guay and his mistress Robitaille. She made a failed suicide attempt in the days following the crash.

Ruest and Pitre both later maintained their innocence. Pitre claimed that Guay had told her that the package she was transporting contained a statue. Ruest also claimed that he thought the bomb was to be used to clear tree stumps from a field.

Guay was arrested two weeks after the crash and put on trial in February 1950; he was tried and convicted and sentenced to hang, and was executed on January 12, 1951 at the age of 33. His last words were Au moins, je meurs célèbre (At least I die famous).

After his conviction Guay issued a statement saying that Ruest and Pitre acted knowingly to help him. As a result, Ruest was arrested on June 6, 1950 and tried in November of that year and convicted, and was hanged on July 25, 1952, aged 54. Suffering from osseous tuberculosis, he had to be taken to the gallows in a wheelchair. Marguerite Pitre was also arrested on June 14, 1950 and tried separately beginning March 6, 1951 and convicted, and she was hanged on January 9, 1953; she was the thirteenth and last woman to be hanged in Canada.

Dollard Dansereau, author of Causes célèbres du Québec, studied the case and concluded that Ruest may not have known of Guay's intentions when the latter asked him to make the bomb; he also concluded that Pitre may have been innocent. Some speculated that Guay's motive in denouncing his accomplices was to buy time to delay his own execution, believing that he would be called to testify at their trials. In the event, he testified at Ruest's trial but was hanged soon after and thus did not testify at Pitre's trial.

The incident in fiction

The incident and subsequent trial and hanging of Guay and his accomplices was notorious in Quebec and served as the inspiration for Le crime d'Ovide Plouffe, a 1982 novel by Roger Lemelin and 1984 film of the same name by Denys Arcand. In 1949 Lemelin had been a friend and neighbor of Guay, as well as being the Quebec correspondent for Time magazine.


Causes célèbres du Québec, Dollard Dansereau, Editions Leméac, Montréal, 1974.


The Albert Guay Affair (Airplane Explosion in Sault-aux-Cochons)

The Guay affair involved another spectacular crime. On September 9, 1949, a plane exploded over Sault-aux-Cochons, a town located at the confluence of little St. Francis River and the St. Lawrence. The plane had been scheduled to leave Montreal for Ancienne-Lorette (a Quebec City suburb) before heading to Baie-Comeau and Sept-Îles. The entire airline crew and all the passengers perished in the explosion, including Rita Morel, the wife of Albert Guay.

The marriage of Albert Guay and Rita Morel was a happy union until the birth of their first and only child, whereupon both embarked on a series of extramarital affairs. After a few stormy attempts at reconciliation, the couple moved back in together. However, Guay was still madly in love with one of his mistresses, Marie-Ange Robitaille. When she dropped him, he promised to leave Rita Morel.

It was during this period (September 1949) that Guay, a watchmaker-jeweller, asked his wife Rita to travel to Baie-Comeau to pick up some jewels. He purchased the plane ticket himself and, in what was a common practice at the time, took out $10,000 worth of life insurance on his wife. Guay had to insist, because Rita balked at making the trip. She finally agreed to do her husband the favour.

Before take-off, Guay, with the help of Généreux Ruest, made a bomb that he hid in a package. He got Marguerite Ruest-Pitre, Généreux's sister, to take the package to the airport in Ancienne-Lorette. When the plane exploded, Guay thought he had killed two birds with one stone: get rid of his wife and pocket the insurance money.

His plan came apart, though, when witnesses were able to identify Ms. Pitre. An investigation revealed all the events which led to the explosion of the airplane. Albert Guay, Marguerite Ruest-Pitre and Généreux Ruest were convicted of the murder of 23 people and were hung.

The joint efforts of Dr. Jean-Marie Roussel and chemist Robert Péclet, both with Montreal's Laboratoire de médecine légale et de police technique [Laboratory of forensic medicine and science], made it possible to identify the causes of the explosion. With the help of an emission spectrograph, a device used to record visible spectra on a photographic plate, they were able to identify various substances in the composition of the explosives samples taken at the scene of the crime.

The case captivated the Quebec public, as evidenced by the photos and newspaper clippings contained in the album "Causes célèbres" of the Laboratoire de médecine légale et de police technique. In addition, Roger Lemelin, author and friend of Guay, turned the story into a novel: "Le crime d'Ovide Plouffe", which was later brought to the screen by filmmaker Denys Arcand.



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