Credits: DELF BERG/QMI AGENCY
LONDON, Ontario – The fishing-lodge owner accused in the deadly shooting at the Parti Quebecois victory rally last week was obsessed with Quebec politics, says a London, Ont. couple who hired him as a fishing guide just weeks before.
The English-speaking Richard Henry Bain, 61, allegedly told Anthea Rowe and her husband Will Rounds that he attended political rallies and had written to then-premier Jean Charest, trying to convince him to sell Crown land to people who own cottages on it as a way to attract votes for the Liberals.
"He would go off on tangents, grumbling about how he and a number of people like him were trying to buy the land because they owned the buildings but not the properties," said Rowe of the old hunting cabin Bain said he'd bought three or four years ago. "He was very political.”
They said they fished with the man, who called himself Rick, two weeks before the shooting, at the lake at his lodge, and even caught two rainbow trout.
He was pleasant enough, even cleaning the couple's fish, said Rounds. "He sent us home with an onion and spices."
Still, they say what he talked about seemed a little out of place for a fishing guide with two tourists.
"We were complaining to people after we got back, like, 'Oh, this guide who was supposed to take us fishing just spent the entire time talking about Quebec politics.' It just seemed inappropriate for someone who was running a business,” said Rowe. “We got sick of it."
During the four-hour trip, Bain "spent the whole time extolling his views of the world," said Rounds, who described the 61-year-old as "eccentric."
The London plumber and his wife said Bain told them if he was in power, he'd separate Montreal from Quebec and turn it into its own province.
He also said he'd accepted Christ into his heart 18 months ago and wasn't afraid of dying, they claim.
And he bragged about his partying, saying he'd been up drinking all night on the eve of an iron man race, brought two women back to his cabin, then drove them back in the morning before watching the start of the competition.
Premier-designate Pauline Marois, the PQ leader, was concluding a nationally-televised victory speech at the packed Metropolis club in Montreal on Tuesday when a masked man dressed in black came to a rear entrance and opened fire, killing lighting technician Denis Blanchette and injuring another worker.
Police believe the shooter may have been targeting Marois.
After the shooting, the gunman set fire to the building, but firefighters quickly quelled the flames.
As the suspect was led away, he was heard yelling, "The English are waking up" just before he was put into a patrol car, raising the spectre of possible anti-separatist motives.
Rowe said she never once thought the man they spent four hours with on Aug. 23 could be violent.
"We thought to ourselves, 'That was odd,” she said. “But he seemed perfectly functional.”
The couple had been in Mont Tremblant, Que., to watch a relative compete in the same iron man contest.
Later that week, they said, they saw information about Bain's fishing lodge at the resort where they were staying.
They say they met Bain on a highway, parked on the roadside and climbed into the back of his dirty, mud-splashed black Yukon and travelled about 15 minutes to his remote lodge on a rough road Bain said he and a friend had made themselves.
"He seemed comfortable working with his hands and being outdoors. You could tell he had done renovations to his chalet himself," said Rowe.
Bain told the couple he'd been a manager at a copper mill in Montreal and didn't have fond opinions of unions, immigrants or people on welfare, they said.
It was only Friday, three days after the Quebec election, and after they saw a video of Bain on news sites, that they realized the man they'd been with had been arrested.
"It was nuts," said Rowe. "I felt terrible."
Bain is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, arson and 13 other offences.