QUEBEC -- School teacher Nigel Hamer avoided arrest for the kidnap of British diplomat James Cross for almost 10 years because police felt it was not 'politically opportune' to act earlier, a government report said Tuesday.
Police cited several other reasons, the report said also, but 'in our view, not one nor the sum of those reasons, are sufficient to explain why they (police) were not preoccupied with Hamer's role in the Cross affair.'
Hamer, 32, was arrested last July for the Oct. 5, 1970 abduction of Cross. He has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, extortion and forcible detention and will be sentenced May 21.
In his report Tuesday, lawyer Jean-Francois Duchaine said Hamer was mentioned to police as a suspect as early as Oct. 6, 1970. Self-described informer Carole Deveault confirmed the information Dec. 4 or 5, 1970.
'The reasons why Hamer was not then arrested remain obscure,' the report said, noting police cited 'lack of proof' as the major reason for inaction.
'But, it is nevertheless astounding that, considering the law which permitted them to question and hold people who were suspected of belonging to the FLQ, police did nothing regarding him (Hamer) while that law was in effect.'
(The Cross abduction and subsequent kidnap-murder of then Quebec labor minister Pierre Laporte triggered the Oct. 15, 1970 imposition of the War Measures Act which empowered police to search and arrest without warrant.)
In the early 1970s, police cited two more reasons for not arresting Hamer, said the report, commissioned by the Parti Quebecois government immediately after its 1976 election into police action during the 'October Crisis.'
'Time had gone by; the crisis was in the past and it was not politically opportune to stir up the ashes,' the report said police contended.
It added police said also an inquiry into Hamer's role 'would have risked revealing a former member of the FLQ (Front de Liberation du Quebec) who had been recruited as a police informer in May 1972.'
The Duchaine report said police were also monitoring Hamer's movements to determine whether there was any attempt being made to restructure the terrorist organization.
'It was in effect, logical to think that the restructuring of the FLQ would come from that cell and by surveillance, police would be able to prevent a repetition of the October Crisis,' said the report.
The report noted 'the situation changed completely' when three other FLQ members returned from exile in Cuba and France in late 1978 and early 1979, because police their testimoney could provide proof of Hamer's role.
'That would explain why Nigel Hamer was only charged in July 1980.'
Jacques and Louise Cossette-Trudel pleaded guilty in May 1979 to charges of kidnapping, forcible detention and conspiracy in the Cross kidnapping and were paroled last spring after serving less than a year. Jacques Lanctot was now serving a three-year term.
Parts of the Duchaine report were released late last year, but sections dealing with Hamer were omitted pending his trial.