Intruder in Canadian Premier’s Home Ruled Mentally Deluded
A convenience store clerk who said “voices” told him to break into the official residence of Prime Minister Jean Chretien to slash Chretien’s throat and become a hero to Quebec’s separatists was mentally deluded and not criminally responsible for the break-in, a judge ruled Friday in an Ottawa court.
According to Canadian legal experts, Judge Paul Belanger’s decision in the nonjury trial is similar to a verdict of guilty but insane in an American court and means that Andre Dallaire will undergo psychiatric evaluation and be subject to further treatment. Dallaire, 35, will remain in the group home near Ottawa where he has been living since he was freed on bail and where he receives medication to control his mental condition.
Chretien and his wife, Aline, were not hurt in the early morning hours of Nov. 5 when Dallaire, armed with a folding knife, smashed a window with a rock and entered the mansion. Aline Chretien confronted Dallaire in a hallway, then locked herself and the prime minister into their bedroom and used a phone to summon Royal Canadian Mounted Police from a guardhouse on the grounds.
The bizarre incident raised serious questions about security surrounding the prime minister and deeply embarrassed the image-conscious Mounties.
At the trial, psychiatrist Dominique Bourget, who has treated Dallaire since his arrest, testified that the Montreal-area resident “certainly was delusional. His contact with reality was extremely poor.”
Belanger agreed. “He had delusions of grandeur, maybe even of a messianic mission,” the judge said.
“It’s an excellent verdict,” Dallaire told reporters afterward. “I feel very lucky.”
Dallaire approached the prime minister’s residence, which sits on a bluff overlooking the Ottawa River, from the steep hillside above the water. After throwing stones over the fence surrounding the grounds, Dallaire scaled the barrier. Videotapes of his entry, recorded on RCMP surveillance cameras, were played at the trial, as was a tape of Dallaire waving at a camera.
The Mounties in the guardhouse apparently were not watching their video monitors when Dallaire entered, and they ignored audio alarms that had frequently been set off by animals.
Dallaire spent about 30 minutes inside the mansion before confronting Aline Chretien just outside the bedroom door. She slammed it in his face, called police and woke up her husband, who armed himself with a stone sculpture of a loon while awaiting the Mounties.
It took about seven minutes for an officer to arrive, in part because, after dashing across the grounds to the front door, he realized he had forgotten his keys and had to return to the guardhouse. The Mountie found Dallaire seated quietly on an upholstered bench with his knife, holster, gloves and stocking cap neatly lined up on the floor in front of him. He did not resist arrest.
Neither the Chretiens nor Dallaire testified at the weeklong trial. But police officers told the court that Dallaire said he pictured himself as James Bond during the escapade, while Aline Chretien told officers the intruder reminded her of Forrest Gump, the dimwitted naif from the movie of the same name.
An officer also testified that Dallaire told police that, if he had been met by Chretien instead of his wife, “I would have jumped him and slit his throat.”
Dallaire told reporters outside court Thursday, however, that he is not sure he would have attacked the prime minister, and he publicly apologized for the break-in. He also said the medication he has been receiving has made him “a new man.”
Four RCMP officers were suspended without pay, and three supervisors were suspended with pay following the break-in. Security precautions at the prime minister’s residence have been upgraded.
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get the day's top news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.