We ended our story last month with Jean Grenier chasing the robbers in his car. He did not find them.
But then, the Montreal Police “Gang Squad” got a break. This special squad had been set up to counter the epidemic of gang robberies in Quebec. From 1963 through 1966, 475 branches of chartered banks were held up in Quebec, compared to 312 for the rest of Canada. Eighty percent of the holdups in Quebec were pulled by organized gangs. In the rest of Canada, nearly 80 percent of the jobs were done by lone bandits. (Source: MacLean’s Sept 1/68).
The Gang Squad knew the identity of the members of the gang that had robbed the bank, but they had no proof to connect any of them to the Knowlton heist. The squad put these men under surveillance, and got lucky when they witnessed one of them, Roger Laporte, stealing a car. On examination, they discovered that Laporte had bullets inside his body. If the police could match the bullets to Grenier’s pistol, they would have a case. So, naturally, they sought a search warrant to extract the bullets.
Here is where history was made. Making the argument that searching a jacket or a building is not the same as searching inside a body, Laporte’s lawyer took the police to court.
Laporte vs Laganière (1972 QJ No 35, 18 CRNS 357), is a landmark case in Quebec and Canadian law. Hugessen, the judge, went to the core of what a search warrant is, and held that it is readily apparent that a body is not a “building” or a “receptacle”, thus the question is really whether the body constitutes a “place”.
Using a purposeful interpretation, it is clear that a search warrant was intended to refer to a geographical location exclusively. Holding that it would be a gross extension of police power, and a violation of the security of the person, to allow for surgical removal of the bullet, the judge ordered the warrant quashed. (Source: Case Briefs)
Since then, citing this case, all search warrants in Canada, involving searching inside a body, have been denied.
Later, Laporte was arrested, prosecuted, and served time for other offences. But the great Knowlton Bank robbery was never solved – officially.