Catherine De Boucherville screamed off and on for over 30 minutes while she was being stabbed, yet none of her neighbours bothered to call police. Her husband has been charged with her murder.
The killing took place Thursday morning in the Montreal home De Boucherville, 44, shared with her husband and two teenage daughters. Police responding to a domestic disturbance call found De Boucherville in the bathtub; she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Later that day her husband, Ahmad Nehme, 48, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. As the Montreal Gazette reports, when Nehme appeared in court Friday afternoon, the charge was upped to first-degree murder.
Second-degree murder is the usual charge for domestic killings. By increasing the charge to first-degree, the police must have something that indicates De Boucherville's murder was planned and deliberate as opposed to just intentional.
As CJAD reports, one of the couple's teenage daughters made the 911 call. But no one else in the neighbourhood did. It is believed the woman was killed in front of her two daughters and the daughter's call was made about an hour after neighbours first reported hearing De Boucherville's screams.
De Boucherville and her family lived in the Borough of LaSalle in a condominium unit. The condos consist of rows of semi-detached triplexes. At that time of the morning there were lots of people around who were close enough to hear De Boucherville's screams.
QMI Agency interviewed some of De Boucherville's neighbours, all of whom denied hearing the woman's screams. But most seemed unsure of what to do had they heard them. As to whether he would have called 911, Alex Poce said, "I guess it depends on the scream." And although Jack Nudi said he definitely would have called police, he added, "You have to think of your own safety too."
One woman, who did not want her name used, said she did not hear the screams but a man told her that his wife heard screams beginning around 8 a.m. But neither he nor his wife did anything. The woman said she asked him whether or not they had a telephone at home.
Psychologist Gilles Vachon told QMI the lack of intervention is called the "spectator effect." He said, "The more that individuals think there are a lot of people around the less they feel a sense of responsibility."
This failure to act is also called the "bystander effect" or the "Genovese syndrome" The latter is named after Kitty Genovese who was murdered outside her New York City apartment building in 1964. The media reported that 38 people heard her screams yet no one bothered to go to her assistance or even call the police.
Further research in 2007 found that the media had exaggerated; 38 people did not hear the woman's screams and one call had been made to police. But Genovese's name is still used to describe a what happens when someone is in need of assistance, yet a group of people do nothing.
De Boucherville is Montreal's 15th homicide victim of 2012.