Survivors describe Quebec City sword attacker's demeanour as calm, confident

Calm, determined, wearing black clothes and holding a sword. That’s how some of the surviving victims of the Quebec City sword attack described their assailant Carl Girouard, 26, on the night of Halloween 2020, when they testified in front of the jury on Tuesday morning.

Witnesses recall thinking it was a Halloween prank

Carl Girouard, 26, was back at the Quebec City courthouse on Tuesday, trembling and rocking back and forth as survivors and witnesses of the attacks testified. (Illustration by Hbé)

Warning: The following story includes description of physical violence

Calm, determined, wearing black clothes and holding a sword — that's how some of the surviving victims of the Quebec City sword attack described their assailant on the night of Halloween 2020, in testimony Tuesday morning.

The jury watched in silence, listening attentively to witnesses who recalled the horrors they saw — or survived — that night. The crowded Quebec City courtroom was hushed on the third day of Carl Girouard's trial, which was temporarily suspended last Wednesday due to COVID-19.

The jury has to determine whether or not Girouard, 26 is criminally responsible for the attacks he carried out on seven people. Girouard admits to carrying out the attacks, but his lawyer, Pierre Gagnon, argues he had mental disorders at the time. The Crown argues that he was perfectly sane and aware of his actions.

The first victim, musician Rémy Bélanger, said he was listening to a podcast and taking a picture of the Château Frontenac hotel in Quebec City when he saw a man in black with a sword walking toward him and lifting the weapon, ready to attack. He figured it was a Halloween prank.

Musician Rémy Bélanger was the first person attacked in Quebec City on Halloween night 2020. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

"I thought it was a joke, I thought he had come to bug me," he said.

Bélanger said he was first hit in the head. He recalled falling, receiving slashes on his back and his hand, and then picking up one of his fingers that had been severed.

He managed to run away from his attacker, bleeding heavily, and eventually made it to the Château Frontenac. There, staff thought at first it was a Halloween prank but soon helped him and called for an ambulance.

Bélanger suffered several wounds to his skull, neck, chest, arms and hip. 

The cellist was transferred to a hospital in Montreal that specializes in limb replantation in the hours following the attacks, where doctors worked hard to save his hand so he could play music again.

Carl Girouard parked his car in front of Quebec City's iconic Château Frontenac before carrying out attacks on seven people. His path is shown on the map above. (Evelyne Gagnon/CBC)

A witness of the first two attacks, whose name is protected by a publication ban, told the jury he first thought he was watching a prank. 

But the 17-year-old, who was sitting near a fountain, said he ran away with his friend when he realized Bélanger had actually been injured.

Watching from Dufferin Terrace, the teenagers said they saw Girouard run toward a second man, François Duchesne, and strike him. 

The witness said he heard Duchesne exclaim "Oh come on" before falling to the ground. He said Girouard then ran him through with a sword. The 56-year-old man died of his injuries that night.

Girouard 'looked serene'

The third and fourth victims, Pierre Lagrevol and Lisa Mahmoud, said they were walking together along de Buade Street in Old Quebec when they noticed Girouard approaching them.

The two friends, who testified one after the other, said they thought he was costumed for Halloween. Mahmoud said she even smiled at him.

Lisa Mahmoud says she has trouble sleeping and has had recurring nightmares since the attack. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Moments later, they said Girouard struck Lagrevol from the back, slashing his head. The pair said they stopped thinking it was a prank when Girouard hit Lagrevol a second time, on his shoulder.

Mahmoud said she pushed the attacker away and asked him what he was doing, at which point he turned toward her and hit her in a way that she described as forceful and violent.

Lagrevol, who was trying to stop Girouard, said the young man seemed to know what he was doing, that the hits weren't random.

The entire time, he was walking calmly and confidently, and "he looked serene," Lagrevol said. "He wasn't in shock mode from what he had just done."

Pierre Lagrevol, a professional cook who lives in Old Quebec, says he screamed at Carl Girouard to stop attacking him and his friend Lisa Mahmoud. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Mahmoud, a hairdresser by profession, told the jury that she hasn't been able to work or sleep properly since the attacks.

Horror continues on des Remparts Street

The Crown read written accounts from the husband and two neighbours of another victim, Suzanne Clermont.

The 61-year-old woman had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette after finishing dinner with Jacques Fortin, who had stayed inside to wash the dishes. 

In his statement Fortin said he went outside to find his wife of 18 years because her dog had started howling desperately. 

He saw his wife lying bleeding on the sidewalk by their doorstep, with her face lacerated. 

Their neighbour, an emergency room doctor, tried performing CPR, but Clermont had lost too much blood. Fortin said he knew then that he would never see his wife again. Clermont died of her injuries at the scene.

Gilberto Lucio Porras Alvarado (right) said he was with three of his friends when Carl Girouard struck him in the head. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

Gilberto Lucio Porras Alvarado and three of his friends were next. 

Porras Alvarado told the jury the group had gone out to eat and take some pictures. They were walking along des Remparts Street when he saw a man approaching them, holding a sword.

The student noticed the reflection of the street lamp on the blade, figured the sword was real and felt threatened. 

He took out a pellet gun he was carrying as part of his Halloween costume but did not have time to use it. He said Girouard struck him in the head, saying "Happy Halloween" as he did.

The group escaped at a run and Girouard followed one of his friends down Côte de la Canoterie. 

The friend, whose name is under a publication ban because he was a minor at the time, told the jury he took refuge at a gas station.

Girouard chose to remain silent after arrest

Girouard was taken into custody by Quebec City police in the early hours of the morning on Nov. 1, 2020, after a brief stop at the hospital. (Service de police de la Ville de Québec)

The Crown ended the day by showing a video of Carl Girouard at the police station.

Dressed in a green hospital gown, Girouard is seen staring blankly in front of him as an officer questions him.

Girouard did not answer her questions about his identity, address, phone number or occupation.

"You told me I could remain silent," he can be heard saying.

Police officer Dany Gauthier, who brought him to the station, said the accused remained perfectly calm throughout his arrest, and that he co-operated with police.