Yukon Nuggets

1903 Yukon Nuggets

Murder in the Yukon - part three


Canadians from all regions of the country descended on the Klondike during the gold rush. Most, but not all, were law-abiding citizens looking for a better life during the depression of the late 1890s.

Three French Canadians - Leon Bouthillette, Guy Joseph Beaudoin and Alphonse Constantine, had met in Vancouver in June 1902, and decided to travel north together. Constantine had been in the Yukon since 1898 and was returning home after a family visit. The other two were new to the North. All had money.

In Whitehorse, the trio met two other French Canadians named Peter Fournier and Edward Labelle. Both lived in Dawson City and offered to take the three travellers from Whitehorse to Dawson in a small boat for five dollars. The boat was registered with the police and the Mounties were required to record the names of river travellers. On July 14, 1902, Leon Bouthillette's body was found in the Yukon River about forty kilometers south of Dawson. He had been shot three times in the back. On August 1, another body was found. A year later, the third body found. All three of the victims had been shot and their bodies had been weighed down with a stone.

Though Fournier was described as rather dull-witted, Labelle was a clever criminal who had once operated a drug smuggling ring out of Victoria.

The subsequent police investigation determined that Labelle shot Beaudoin and Constantine with a rifle and that Fournier had shot Bouthillette with a revolver.

After Bouthillette's body had been found, Labelle escaped to the United States but Fournier stayed in Dawson City. W.H. Welsh, a police detective, pursued Labelle and finally arrested him in Nevada.

At trial, Fournier testified that all the police evidence against the two was true, but said it was Labelle who did the shooting. The jury didn't buy his story. It deliberated for just three minutes before passing sentence. Both Edward Labelle and Peter Fournier were convicted and executed by hanging in Dawson City in 1903.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.