The 2013 death of Phillip Boudreau, not only divided the community of Isle Madame, it became a national media sensation, and now two projects examining the case are coming out at the same time.
The documentary The Killing of Phillip Boudreau will premiere in October, after the NHL play-offs, in association with CBC Docs POV and will be available for streaming on CBC Gem the same day.
On the morning of June 1, 2013, Boudreau’s small red and white fiberglass speedboat, Midnight Slider was found battered and adrift in Petit de Grat Harbour off an uninhabited stretch of shoreline known as Mackerel Cove.
This wasn’t the first time Boudreau had disappeared — he would often take off for days or weeks to evade local authorities or fellow islanders he had angered. So at first, no one was overly concerned about this latest disappearance.
Most assumed that Boudreau was on the run again – as he didn’t have a license to fish lobster.
By evening, a search had turned up Boudreau’s rubber boots and ball cap, but there was still no sign of him. It was starting to look like something more sinister was behind his disappearance — that it was more than a case of a petty thief on the run.
While rumours swept the area, the RCMP was following up on a tip that the crew of a local fishing vessel called the Twin Maggies were believed to be carrying a rifle or shotgun. Red and black marks and scuffs could be seen on the boat’s starboard side. The next day, the RCMP questioned the three-man crew: Dwayne Samson, James Landry and Craig Landry. By June 8, they had all been charged with second-degree murder.
The Telltale Productions Inc. documentary takes a look at the case which far too many media sources missed the big picture by dubbing it “Murder for Lobster.”
Describing this as her hardest project to date, director Megan Wennberg unpacks a complicated and tangled web of blame in The Killing of Phillip Boudreau. The film looks at Boudreau himself, the challenges of policing the area and the role the community played as a whole; everyone knew there was a problem, but no one did anything before it was too late.
Wennberg said they originally approached the documentary as a device to examine how violence and vigilante justice affect small communities.
Wennberg suggested that the most challenging part of the documentary was fighting the culture of silence they faced and trying to break past that by finding people who were willing to talk and had relative stories and experiences to share.
Among a small group of outsiders, accompanied by a cameraman and a sound engineer, Wennberg remembers telling people on Isle Madame the reason for her visit and how awful it was watching their faces change.
She knew they were re-visiting something a close-knit community was uncomfortable talking about after already suffering enough, and because of that, it was important to get it right, and perhaps help the healing process.
Boudreau’s death sent shockwaves through the area and anyone who heard the details was severely shaken, including the lawyers and RCMP officers interviewed for the documentary, something Wennberg describes as a career-defining case.
The accused men were well-liked and respected members of the community and hadn’t been in trouble with the law before. Some islanders saw it as a case of good people who had been pushed too far; they believed Boudreau got what was coming to him.
Others saw Boudreau as a sympathetic character; someone from a rough upbringing who was good for a laugh and whose crimes were a plea for attention. They believed that, whatever Boudreau may have done, nobody deserves to be killed like that.
In January 2015, James Landry was sentenced to 14-years in prison for manslaughter in the death of Phillip Boudreau. Later that year, Dwayne Samson pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 10-years in prison. Craig Landry pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact and received two-years of probation.
James Landry and Dwayne Samson each served fewer than five-years before being released back into a community that is still reckoning with their crime.
While “Murder for Lobster” made a clickable headline, it ignored the bigger picture, and worse, caused hurt that is still felt throughout the community.
Wennberg hopes the documentary will provide more context to the story than that overly simplistic headline copped from the opening statement of the Crown Prosecutor.
The 44-minute documentary sheds new light on this misunderstood case. It asks: What happens when members of a tight-knit community kill one of their own? Where do the lines between good and bad and right and wrong blur? And who is at fault when everyone bears some responsibility?
Meanwhile, the late Silver Donald Cameron’s 20th and final book, Blood in the Water: A True Story of Revenge in the Maritimes, will be available on August 13.
Cameron argues that the Boudreau killing was a direct reaction to credible and dire threats that the authorities were powerless to neutralize. According to the book’s publisher Penguin Random House, this is a story not about lobster but about the grand themes of power and law, security, and self-respect. It raises the disturbing question of whether there are times when taking the law into your own hands is not only understandable but the responsible thing to do?
Blood in the Water is described as a true crime story with a twist. Right from the start, everyone knows who killed Phillip Boudreau, and everyone knows why – but the judges and the juries never heard the full story.
According to the book, the perpetrators turn out to be victims as well, and the victim is also a perpetrator.
One of the killers, Dwayne Samson, presents the court with a petition signed by 700 neighbours urging the judge to free him on bail. His father-in-law, James Landry, who is also charged with the murder, falsifies his own story to attract more blame to himself, according to Cameron’s account.
The victim, Phillip Boudreau, whose body is never found, is presented as a Robin Hood figure who steals from the wealthy, gives to the needy, loves dogs, and eludes the police with a joking laugh. But he also has a 28-page criminal record that includes some serious crimes. Nevertheless, the village church is packed for his funeral.
This tale of a shocking crime leads the reader into a world of mirrors and paradoxes. The story became famous as the “Murder for Lobster” case – but this is not a story about lobster.
Hoping to do a television documentary on the case himself, Port Hastings native and long-time journalist Linden MacIntyre recounted that he touched base with Cameron during a 2015 bail hearing as part of the trial and later learned Cameron was writing a book. Since then, MacIntyre was asked to read the manuscript and provide a blurb for the cover.
MacIntyre said the author was “very excited” about having pulled it off, calling it an “excellent book.”
“It’s kind of strange to me that it’s a summation of everything that he could’ve been talking about and thinking about over the last 50 years. It’s not just about the murder of Philip Boudreau; it’s about the communities there, it’s about the people; a lot about the history of the place; the inter-dependence of people and the complexity of relationships; and the unusual history of the Acadian communities of Isle Madame, in particular. It’s a deep, deep book and it also has a lot about what happened.”
While it might seem over-the-top that two projects are coming out within days of each other, tackling very difficult subject matter and a complex criminal case, this demonstrates how deeply the general public, not just Isle Madame, was impacted by these events.
In reviewing comments on The Reporter’s Facebook page under the last article regarding this case, which was the death of James Landry, many of those offering their deeply held beliefs about the case were not from Isle Madame, but communities around the Strait area, and other parts of the province.
Yes the nonsensical headline of “Murder for Lobster” aroused curiosity, and such an act of violence in such a peaceful place did attract attention, but what fed the public appetite for this case was its complexity.
It’s understandable that after seven years, many people on Isle Madame are weary of again reliving this episode, but the only way to move on and heal is to acknowledge that it did happen, that it deeply affected many people, that there are strong opinions on both sides of the debate, and that it should have never taken place.