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Garon murder leaves judges shaken, afraid

The horrific triple murder of Alban Garon, a retired chief justice of the Tax Court of Canada, his wife, and a neighbour has left some judges and court staff shaken and frightened for their own safety.
On June 30, Garon, 77, his wife Raymonde Garon, and Marie-Claire Beniskos were found murdered inside the couple's condominium on the 10th floor of a luxury high-rise building in Ottawa.

Police have not yet confirmed the identities of the victims or released details about how they were killed. The bodies have been sent for autopsies.

But, according to Ottawa-area media reports, the victims were tied to chairs, gagged, and beaten to death in a building known for its tight security.

It's the gruesome way the elderly victims died that has shocked and unnerved people, says the Tax Court of Canada's Associate Chief Justice Gerald Rip.

"The way the newspapers talk, it was basically torture," he says. "That's what's causing all this aggravation and misery."

Rip met with eight or nine tax court judges, those who are not away on vacation, on July 3, and held a separate meeting with court staff the same day.

"Until we finally know what happened, there is going to be worry amongst judges and their spouses," he says.

"We sometimes sit in smaller towns in hotels. These are not four- or five-star hotels. Sometimes we'll sit in the basement of hotels without any windows and only one exit. And some judges expressed concern about that.
 
"If they had the comfort of knowing this had nothing to do with the court or any actions Garon did as a judge, I guess they could rest easy."

On the other hand, some judges are not concerned about their safety at all, he says.

"Maybe they are being foolhardy, I don't know."

Courthouse employees were also upset and needed to be calmed down because of all the rumours circulating, he adds. 

The RCMP has stepped up security, he notes, and counselling will be available for judges and staff.

Rip says it's rare for aggrieved taxpayers to become aggressive with judges. During his 24 years on the bench, he only recalls one such incident, and he was able to avoid the person by walking out of the courtroom.

"But in a hotel, you can't walk out of the room because there are no chambers next to your room," he says. "That's why [judges] are concerned."

In one media report, Mark Mendelson, a former homicide investigator turned consultant, says the murders do not appear to be a random act.

Another newspaper reported that the murdered couple told friends about a suspicious visit from a man claiming to be a delivery driver, just days before the murder.

"If that person was involved, they were making sure they had the right people," says Rip. "But why two elderly people like them? God knows. I have no idea."

Garon was not a confrontational person, he says.

"He was a suave, diplomatic kind of guy and I don't think he'd annoy anyone in court. It's just not his way. Face to face, he was not confrontational. And he would not look for confrontation in court."

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