OTTAWA — It was one of Canada’s most confounding unsolved crimes: a brutal triple murder with the unlikeliest of victims. Now, nearly 10 years later, its alleged perpetrator is finally standing trial.
On June 30, 2007, the bodies of Alban Garon, a 77-year-old retired tax judge, his 77-year-old wife, Raymonde, and a neighbor, 78-year-old Marie-Claire Beniskos, were found hogtied with plastic bags over their heads on the 10th floor of the luxury Rivera condominium in suburban Ottawa.
The ferocity of the attacks — the bodies lay in a pool of blood and the retired judge showed signs of a severe beating to his head — and the fact the killings apparently took place in broad daylight caused consternation in the normally sedate Canadian capital.
Dozens of detectives converged on the scene, collecting forensic clues that included traces of DNA from blood stains and a bloody shoe print, but there were no eyewitnesses and few leads. The gated condo complex provided video surveillance of its entrances — but the cameras' output wasn't recorded. There was no sign of forced entry and valuables in the apartment were left undisturbed. Only the judge’s credit card was missing.
Family members recalled that Raymonde Garon had mentioned a bizarre incident a day before the killings, when a deliveryman had turned up at the door. When he found out the judge wasn’t home, the courier said he would return the next day — even after the judge's wife agreed to accept the parcel.
Relatives were suspected, among them a Salvadoran woman who had lived with the childless couple for many years and had been treated like an adopted daughter. That path led nowhere. Investigators combed through the judge’s career as chief justice of the Tax Court of Canada for clues, but the court generally deals with mundane tax matters. Police tried to make a link to one case in which a Judge Garon had participated in a judicial inquiry that eventually led to the murder conviction of a Quebec leader of the Hells Angels. That, too, proved fruitless.
No real progress was made. But then, in late 2014, a decorated 101-year-old World War II veteran named Ernest Cote was the victim of a home invasion at his Ottawa condo. A man claiming to be a city employee rang Cote’s apartment; when he was let in, the man bound Cote with duct tape and covered his head with a plastic bag before fleeing with cash.
This time, the victim lived to tell the tale (although Mr. Cote died a year later of natural causes). Video footage was circulated, allowing rapid identification of the intruder, and police arrested Ian Bush, now 61, a human resources consultant from suburban Ottawa with no criminal record.
Police investigating the 2007 triple slaying were intrigued by the similarities to the Cote case and were soon able to match DNA from both crime scenes. A search of Bush’s Ottawa home turned up a stash that included a sawed-off semiautomatic rifle, a pump-action shotgun, duct tape, rubber gloves, fake IDs and plastic bags.
The most intriguing evidence the police uncovered, according to the Ottawa Citizen, was a rambling personal journal in which Bush railed against Canadian tax authorities, calling them the “lowest form of humanity.” Comments on social media by Bush also showed a hatred for war veterans.
The newspaper also published a copy of a bizarre notice faxed in 2001 to Judge Garon from a fictitious “High Court of Humanitarian Justice.” The fax called on Garon to appear at a “hearing” about his ruling in a tax case involving Bush. The hearing was to be held at a home where Bush lived in suburban Orleans.
There are no indications that the judge attended the “hearing” or ever met Bush.
Bush, who is married and has three adult children, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in a trial that finally got underway this month and is expected to last 12 weeks. He was found fit to stand trial after a psychiatric assessment, and he pleaded not guilty.
So far, the trial has focused on the discovery of the bloody murder scene by Raymonde Garon’s brother and the intense police investigation that followed. The jury was told that all three victims died of suffocation. Judge Garon also suffered blunt force trauma to the head, which fractured his skull, and a noose was placed around his neck. Bush, who is attending the trial in a dark suit with shackles around his ankles, was observed diligently taking notes and occasionally half-smiling during the proceedings.
As the trial resumed Thursday and was about to hear from a hair and fiber expert, Bush admitted in writing that a hair found at the crime scene was indeed his. How this admission will play into the strategy of his defense lawyer, Geraldine Castle-Trudel, remains unclear. Bush has made no such admission regarding blood found at the scene that was not the victims'. And, even 10 years after this strange crime, the motivations of the accused and the savagery of the acts remain a mystery.