‘There’s a killer on the loose.’ It was too familiar.

Rick MacLean comments@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 14, 2014

The light only left the back yard a few years ago.

“Beautiful Wife,” I called out one day.

“You bellowed?”

I don’t bellow, but anyway.

“How much are we paying for that dusk-to-dawn light in the back yard?”

“I’d have to look it up. Why?”

“I hate it. It shines in the windows at night. When I go out on the back deck to look at the stars all I see is that orange light.”

 I got the look, but BW also got rid of the thing.

There was one more reason I hated that light and wanted to get rid of it. It was a Legere light. I’d coined the phrase in a 1989 interview with Chris Morris of Canadian Press.

Allan Legere had escaped from handcuffs while in a Moncton hospital bathroom, fled past two unarmed guards, stole a car with the female driver still in it, and vanished. The body count soon began. An elderly shopkeeper in the middle of Miramichi. A couple of failed attacks. Then two middle-aged women in their downtown home.

The panic set in.

The power company began getting calls, from everyone. They – we – all wanted streetlights in our back yards. Extra crews were called in to meet the demand. Finally, more than 20 years later, I couldn’t stand the sight of the thing one more day.

The blissful night sky is mine again. Stars, shooting stars, faint satellites, the Milky Way, all there for me to see in the calming dark.

Then came Moncton.

I’m sorry the name of that sprawling – not overly pretty, to be frank – city is now linked with a cold-blooded murderer, someone who decided to hunt and butcher other human beings.

It’s not fair. Justin Bourque, just 24, has allegedly created a moment people will use as a marker when they try to remember other events in their lives.

 “No, it was 2014, remember? It was the year after…”

 It’s that way for my hometown of Miramichi. There was before Legere, and there was after. We never like to talk much about during.

Then came Moncton.

First there was the confusion. A man bristling with guns – a crossbow! — and knife wandering through the suburbs. Then reports began to flood in. It was so familiar, but there was no internet in 1989 when police in Moncton, then in Miramichi, then all around the province, tried to find Legere.

This time, Facebook lit up.

The Irving dailies, all feeding their behind-the-paywall website. The CBC newsroom in Moncton, this paper, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the National with Peter Mansbridge.

It was so familiar.

The shock when it was confirmed. Three RCMP officers dead. I couldn’t get away from my Facebook page. People were asking questions and I kept re-posting stories as quickly as I spotted them.

Guardian reporter Teresa Wright – one of my graduates – sent a note at one point saying thanks for the updates.

 “Old dog, old tricks,” I replied in the comments box.

Too true. When Legere was captured I rushed to the office that November morning at 7 a.m. to find I was the last one to arrive. We put out a 20-page special edition by 7 p.m. It sold out and had to be reprinted the next day.

This time we all rushed to websites.

Images of the empty streets. Police urging people to stay inside. The ERT – emergency response team, the RCMP doesn’t call it SWAT – in black, hunting. The helicopter spotting a heat signature in the woods.

The capture.

It was all so familiar. Our Legere light only disappeared a few years ago. Here’s hoping Moncton forgets sooner.


 Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.