Quebec mother considering legal action after coroner finds police should have acted faster to save girls

·4 min read
Amélie Lemieux, Norah and Romy Carpentier's mother, told Radio-Canada that she's considering suing the provincial police for failing to act sooner. (Marie-Pier Bouchard/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Amélie Lemieux, Norah and Romy Carpentier's mother, told Radio-Canada that she's considering suing the provincial police for failing to act sooner. (Marie-Pier Bouchard/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The mother of two girls who were killed by their father last year says she is considering legal action against Quebec's provincial police force, the Sûreté du Québec, after a coroner's report concluded that police might have found them alive if they had been faster in issuing an Amber Alert.

"I blame them because they're supposed to protect us, because we trust them," Amélie Lemieux told Radio-Canada.

Her daughters Norah and Romy Carpentier, aged 11 and 6, went out for ice cream with their father, Martin Carpentier, on July 8, 2020, and never returned. Their bodies were found by police three days later.

The coroner's report, which was made public Wednesday, describes a series of issues that slowed down the search for the two girls.

Lemieux told Radio-Canada that reading the report was like a second slap in the face.

"The first slap in the face, they tell me 'Your children have disappeared, we found them and we'll bring them back to you, but inside urns'," she said. "The second slap is, 'we messed up so badly that (...) we could've brought them back to you alive."

She told Radio-Canada that she was angry with the SQ because it's clear to her that her children's deaths could have been prevented.


Coroner says police should have alerted media earlier

The girls and their father disappeared on the evening of July 8, 2020, after their car crashed into several sign posts on a local highway in Saint-Apollinaire, Que., about 45 kilometers southwest of Quebec City.

According to the coroner's report, the father left the vehicle on foot with his daughters and killed them the next day with a blunt object. He later took his own life.

The girls' disappearance triggered one of the longest Amber Alerts in Quebec history. But it took police 18 hours to issue the alert after learning the girls were missing, coroner Sophie Régnière said at a news conference Wednesday.

Pascal Poinlane/Radio-Canada
Pascal Poinlane/Radio-Canada

The Amber Alert was issued at 1:20 p.m. on July 9, 2020 and the media was alerted more than an hour and a half later. She said the police should have sounded the alarm a lot sooner.

"At 6 o'clock in the morning, when the police knew that Mr. Carpentier had sent text messages that may have looked like farewell messages, they should have at least called the media for a disappearance notice of any kind," Régnière said.

According to her, the girls and their father were still alive at that time. "Every minute, every second counts when there's a disappearance," she said

Father's mental state not disclosed quickly enough, coroner says

Martin Carpentier was likely experiencing a psychotic episode when he killed his daughters, according to Régnière.

In the weeks preceding the event, Carpentier had been taking medication for insomnia and his doctor suspected that he was clinically depressed, her report says.

He had grown very worried about losing his daughters after his separation from Lemieux, especially because he wasn't Norah's biological father.

But the doctor refused to share this information with police when they were searching for him and the girls.


That refusal slowed down the police as they investigated what happened, Régnière said.

"[If] the doctor would have told them, 'In the last week, he came to me, he was complaining, he wasn't sleeping, he had issues with a pending divorce, he wasn't feeling well and I suspected that time that he was depressed,' just this line would have given a lot to the police," she said.

Lemieux said she was angry with the doctor for refusing to co-operate with the police.

"What would it have cost him to say 'I am worried about my patient?'" Lemieux told Radio-Canada.

Sûreté du Québec accepts coroner's recommendations

Lauren McCallum/CBC
Lauren McCallum/CBC

In reaction to the coroner's finding, Sûreté du Québec Chief Inspector and communications director Patrice Cardinal acknowledged that the force could have sent out an alert about the disappearances earlier.

"With a step back, with what we know of the case, with some of the coroner's findings, well there are some actions that could've been done more quickly," he said.

But he said it wasn't so simple at the time, because there was so much information to verify and validate in the hours following the disappearance.

"All the police officers who worked on the case would've preferred a more positive outcome," he said.

The police force has already started making some of the changes laid out in the recommendations, Cardinal said.

One of them is loosening the criteria for issuing Amber Alerts. A parent's behaviour, the family situation, the mental state of the abductor and the vulnerability of a child at the hands of their abductors are now all taken into consideration, he said.

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