A brother lacking since 1981: ‘Why did not the police do extra?’

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

“I would really like 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.”

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 significantly.

You are reading: A brother lacking since 1981: ‘Why did not the police do extra?’

“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 tip. “I’m positive you’ve seen comparable 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 the town, however they haven’t heard from him since. Formally, he’s been thought-about lacking since Monday, June 1, 1981.

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 occasions determined pleas for somebody to take the case to coronary heart.

“To me, it’s clear one thing occurred,” one in every of Laflamme’s sisters, Darlene Laflamme, stated in a current 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 may assist discover her brother. “In any case, I believe when somebody disappears, the final particular person to see him needs to be questioned,” states her preliminary letter to the Montreal police. Picture by Jean Levac /Ottawa Citizen

4 a long time later, there are particulars about Laflamme’s disappearance which were misplaced to fading reminiscences and the shock introduced on when he didn’t return residence.

However for D’Angelo, the drive she created from Ottawa to Montreal quickly after nonetheless stands out in her thoughts.

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

“That was the worst half,” she stated on a current afternoon. “Even for years after, on any lengthy drive, I’d nonetheless be wanting 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 dwelling 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 residence in Ottawa, he was heading to Montreal for one final weekend, primarily to select 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 powerful relationship along with his household, particularly his mom, and wouldn’t have disappeared or ceased to have contact with them,” the lacking particular person 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 buddy to select him up in Ottawa on Monday. The 2 would then drive to Vancouver collectively.

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 residence. In addition they insist he wouldn’t have disappeared with out a hint, figuring out the ache it could trigger his mom.

One in every of six siblings, Laflamme was a “happy-go-lucky” sort 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 positive what he was concerned in however suspected it wasn’t all the time good.

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

“Barney had a powerful 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 pictures of her brother within the hope that it’d lead somebody from his previous to step ahead with info to assist resolve the case. Above: seated, centre, in white shirt and vest. Under: far left, leaning in opposition to wall. Photographs courtesy Coreen D’Angelo.

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

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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 is also controlling and jealous. In addition they detailed having overheard heated cellphone arguments between the 2 within the days earlier than Laflamme’s disappearance, bickering over Laflamme owing him cash.

“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 advised 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 just a few of Laflamme’s belongings, together with an tackle guide, a set of keys to his mom’s home and a current image of Laflamme taken in a photograph sales space.

“I stated, ‘Why have you ever received 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 folks underneath a special title and described her as a buddy, not his sister.

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 carried out earlier than, and it altered his look to the purpose that his sisters later puzzled whether or not he didn’t need to be acknowledged.

“I do suppose Barney didn’t need to get his household concerned in no matter he was concerned in,” Darlene Laflamme stated. “However was he additionally hiding from anyone? 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 today, the household believes confusion over which police drive had jurisdiction over the case value them essential time early on.

The household first approached the Ottawa police, however bear in mind being advised they needed to report Laflamme lacking in Montreal, since he was final seen there. The Montreal police, however, 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 may assist, together with elected officers and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

In a September 1982 letter written by Robert Kaplan, then Solicitor Common of Canada, the household realized Laflamme’s info nonetheless had not been entered into the nation’s nationwide database for lacking individuals, regardless of it being greater than a 12 months since he had disappeared.

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 obligatory,” Kaplan wrote.

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

Appearing on a request from the Ottawa police, Montreal cops visited the final tackle the place Laflamme lived, solely to substantiate he wasn’t residence. The household was advised the police didn’t query his landlord, one thing that by no means sat effectively with them.

“In any case, I believe when somebody disappears, the final particular person to see him needs to be questioned,” D’Angelo wrote in her preliminary letter to the Montreal police.

A 12 months 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 the town to gather was ever cashed in.

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

“And so, because of the lack of parts 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.”


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 every of six siblings, Laflamme was a “happy-go-lucky” sort 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 rather a lot designed for 2, with the second place reserved for him.

Laflamme’s sisters describe the load of dwelling along with his disappearance as a complicated sequence of ups and downs. He’s by no means forgotten, and so they need solutions. However moments of intense questioning are balanced by others the place they surprise if it’s finest to go away it alone.

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

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

Wheeler made positive 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 function 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 this time. Laflamme is one in every of greater than 150 lacking individuals listed on their web site.

In an e-mail response, the drive confirmed it did work on the case on the time — comparable to visiting Laflamme’s condominium — however was solely performing in help of the Ottawa police.

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

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

As we speak, given the time that has handed, Wheeler stated the household acknowledges they’re most certainly in search of Laflamme’s stays.

She nonetheless believes anyone is aware of one thing, but additionally concedes the household’s timeline for getting solutions is fading with each passing 12 months.

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

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