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Gavel brought down on killer’s art auction


OTTAWA—The prison artwork of a Canadian killer up for auction on an American website is going, going, gone.

Federal officials have stopped Roch Theriault’s art from leaving Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick—drying up the supply to, which specializes in so-called murderabilia.

Correctional Service of Canada has imposed “restrictions on the dissemination and distribution of artwork and hobbycraft items, as well as written materials such as memoirs, bibliographies, and/or public communications,” an internal document said.

“The restrictions are to reduce public notoriety primarily to prevent negative consequences for victims and their families, as well as to decrease risk to personal security in the institution and to facilitate eventual reintegration,” it noted.

Records related to the controversy were obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

The freeze has had the desired effect: just one Theriault painting remains on, an abstract titled “Chutes d’automne,” painted in 2003.

It already had left the prison before the freeze was imposed.

“Not allowed to send or make anymore art,” says the posting by an anonymous Canadian dealer, identified only as Redrum’s Autographs.

At least seven pieces had been available for online auction a year ago—most of them believed to have been taken out of Dorchester by a Moncton, N.B.-area woman described as Theriault’s current wife.

Theriault is serving a life sentence for a brutal murder committed while he led a bizarre cult at Burnt River, Ont. between 1977 and 1989. He killed his wife through disembowelling, and chopped off the hand of a concubine.

Senior officials in the prison service had been alerted as far back as August, 2007 that Theriault’s art was appearing on, which promotes criminals as celebrities.

But no action was taken until The Canadian Press reported on the controversy last year—and a senior cabinet minister took notice.

“I would appreciate if you could look into this matter and ensure that such practices are not continued,” then Public Safety minister Stockwell Day wrote to then head of corrections, Keith Coulter, the day the story appeared.

“Under no circumstances should any offender be permitted to be affiliated with any individual or group that glorifies their crime.”

The prison service received a legal opinion in the fall of 2007 warning there were legal obstacles to interfering with the auctions.

The heavily-censored documents do not spell out the specific legal basis for the current ban, but indicate the new policy applies only to the Theriault case, not to all offenders.

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