Chief finally honoured, 80 years after death

September 04, 2014
Sep 02 2014 On May 16, 1931, police officer John B. Lunt was killed in the line of duty in Baie-d’Urfé, Quebec while attempting to stop a car for speeding. As he waved for the offending female motorist to pull over, Lunt’s motorcycle collided head-on with a car coming from the opposite direction. The officer’s skull was fractured, which caused his death a few hours later. Four days later, an emergency meeting was held by distraught members of Baie-d’Urfé town council, who gathered to discuss the death of their police chief, pay for the funeral costs and name a new chief. The town also voted to provide Lunt’s grieving widow and young daughter with a monthly compensation of $24.16. That was the last anyone would hear of Lunt and his family, were it not for Ontario Provincial Police sergeant Dave Brown, who, eight decades later, teamed up with a pair of hard-nosed retired Montreal police investigators and Baie-d’Urfé Mayor Maria Tutino to honour Lunt’s legacy.

Sep 02 2014

On May 16, 1931, police officer John B. Lunt was killed in the line of duty in Baie-d’Urfé, Quebec while attempting to stop a car for speeding. As he waved for the offending female motorist to pull over, Lunt’s motorcycle collided head-on with a car coming from the opposite direction. The officer’s skull was fractured, which caused his death a few hours later.

Four days later, an emergency meeting was held by distraught members of Baie-d’Urfé town council, who gathered to discuss the death of their police chief, pay for the funeral costs and name a new chief. The town also voted to provide Lunt’s grieving widow and young daughter with a monthly compensation of $24.16.

That was the last anyone would hear of Lunt and his family, were it not for Ontario Provincial Police sergeant Dave Brown, who, eight decades later, teamed up with a pair of hard-nosed retired Montreal police investigators and Baie-d’Urfé Mayor Maria Tutino to honour Lunt’s legacy.

On May 12, under a bright spring sunshine, Lunt’s name was officially read out during a special memorial ceremony attended by about 200 police officers, politicians and families of deceased cops. The service was held at the Nicolet Police Academy in Nicolet, Que. Lunt’s name was also added to the memorial stone on the grounds of the academy as Tutino, retired Montreal police inspector Paul Dufort, Station 1 commander Richard Thouin and Lt. Pierre Houbart looked on.

“To be there, to recognize Mr. Lunt, was both an honour and privilege for me,” Tutino said.

Last month, Susan Stokley, a spokeswoman for Tutino’s office, said the town would spend the next few months preparing the nomination papers to get Lunt officially recognized by the committee that oversees the national police and peace officers’ memorial ceremony in Ottawa.

Lunt’s story has been revived by some old-fashioned detective work conducted by three retired officers from two different provinces who decided to follow up on a pair of leads.

It started in 2009, when Jean-Marc De Nobile, a 32-year veteran of the Montreal police department who today volunteers as the head of the Montreal Police Museum, received an inquiry from Brown, asking him about a cop killed in the West Island in the 1930s.

“We had no name, no date, no details. We had nothing,” said De Nobile, who said a search into the police museum archives yielded no results.

But Brown, who retired from Ontario’s provincial police service two years ago and now lives in Mississauga, Ont., is also a relentless investigator. He hit the jackpot last October when a Smiths Falls Police officer sent him a 111-word clipping from an old Toronto newspaper. The headline read: “Motorcycle Officer Killed As He Waves Auto to Curb” and this time, the officer’s name was identified as John Lunt, along with Baie-d’Urfé, and the date of the incident.

Brown forwarded his information to the Canadian Police Association, which sent it to the Sûreté du Québec before it landed on the desk of Ian Lafrenière, commander of corporate communications for the Montreal police department. By November 2013, the file reached De Nobile at the museum.

The next day, he contacted an old friend, Dufort. A Kirkland city councillor since 2005, Dufort joined the force in 1967 and retired in 1998.

Together, De Nobile and Dufort went to work on the cold case.

“Most of my career I worked in investigations,” Dufort said, “and Jean-Marc and I have known each other since the 1970s, so I figured we’d work together and get to the bottom of this story.”

Dufort wasted no time. The day after he received the newspaper clipping, he called Tutino, and a meeting was held to discuss the case with senior officers from Station 1 in Kirkland, where Dufort served as director in the mid-1990s.

Tutino then made a timely discovery when she found a book at Baie-d’Urfé town hall that identified Lunt as the town’s police chief. More research led to a document that detailed the special municipal council meeting of May 20, 1931, which offered more information about Lunt’s death.

“Everything fell into place,” Dufort said. “We went into this not knowing anything about (Lunt), and everyone pulled their resources together and this is the result, just like a good investigation.”

The only missing pieces of the puzzle are the whereabouts of Lunt’s family and the location of his burial plot, Dufort said.

Reached at his home in Mississauga last month, Brown, the man who launched the Lunt revival, said “helping to correct what the passage of time had lost, truly makes the hours of searching worth the effort.

“Officer Lunt has finally been properly remembered for his supreme sacrifice while serving the people of Baie-d’Urfé,” he added. “I am humbled in having assisted in correcting this error of time. Rest in peace officer Lunt, you are not forgotten.”

(Montreal Gazette)

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