MONTREAL -- Warning -- This story contains details of violence that some may find disturbing

Responding to a coroner’s report that criticized their work, the Quebec provincial police say they have updated their missing-child alert system following the deaths of Norah and Romy Carpentier last summer.

The girls, ages 11 and six, were murdered by a father Martin Carpentier in early July 2020 before he died by suicide.

The trio vanished in the evening of July 8, but an Amber Alert wasn’t issued until 3 p.m. the following day.

The search for them gripped the province for three days before the grim discoveries.

The coroner concluded that the girls were probably killed on the afternoon of July 9. Their bodies were found on July 11 not far from each other.

Among recommendations in the coroner’s report, released Friday, Coroner Sophie Régnière concluded Quebec police should use broader criteria for triggering Amber Alerts and create a dedicated police unit to investigate children's disappearances.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Régnière said police were too slow to issue a public notice.

“At 6 a.m., we are not looking for people lost in the woods; we are looking for little girls in danger, and that is not the same thing," Régnière said Wednesday.

“What I'm saying is, 'Do whatever you want, call it an Amber Alert, just call it a missing persons report, do whatever you want, just do it. At 6 a.m., that's when it had to be done.”

Police responded to the coroner on Wednesday, saying they’ve already implemented the change.

“The assessment of the presence of the three criteria for triggering the Amber Alert is now carried out with greater flexibility,” they wrote in a news release.

What’s considered a possible abduction “is now interpreted by considering more closely the context surrounding the departure of the parent or guardian, in particular his behavior and psychological state,” they said.

“The vulnerability and dependence of the child on the parent or guardian are also elements that will be given more consideration.”

The force is willing to collaborate on the creation of a dedicated unit, they said.


Quebecers maintained hope the girls would be found alive after searchers discovered signs that they or their father had been present in some woods near St-Apollinaire, near Quebec City, where they were last seen.

The three went missing when Carpentier, 44, took the girls for ice cream. His car was found abandoned on the road nearby, damaged from an accident.

In the end, searchers found the girls’ bodies three days later and Quebecers were told they’d died before the Amber Alert was even issued.

That’s not true, the Quebec coroner concluded in a report released last week. The girls died about 18 hours after they disappeared, likely just after the Amber Alert went out.

If it had gone out right away, Coroner Sophie Régnière concluded, it might have saved them, even though the trio was in an area of dense woodland and it would have been difficult to search for them.

However, an extensive search did begin the night of the disappearance, despite the absence of an Amber Alert, and “it was not in vain,” she wrote.

“It seemed that the father and his girls had discovered a trailer on their path…and that he had spent some time there with his daughters, possibly much of the night,” she wrote.

“They left carrying several objects that could be helpful to them later (a small shovel, a barbecue lighter, camping utensils).”

More searchers and a helicopter were deployed the next day. The reason the Amber Alert wasn’t sent out immediately, Régnière said, was that police were told by family members that “Mr. Carpentier’s level of dangerousness was zero.”

The accident was treated as a hit-and-run and the disappearance as a mystery, possibly related to injuries sustained in the crash.

Police didn’t have complete information, though.

The following morning, at around 6 a.m., “it was learned that [Carpentier] had sent a loved one, at around 7:30 p.m. the previous day, two text messages which were interpreted by the police as possibly a farewell note,” Régnière wrote.

“From then on, the case took on a whole new direction and it was transferred to the Major Crimes Unit. There was no longer any doubt in the minds of the police that the children were in danger.”

During the coroner’s report, experts tried to reconstruct a complete psychological profile of Martin Carpentier that week from available evidence.

It turned out that he was deeply struggling with an upcoming divorce from the girls’ mother, from whom he had been separated since 2015.

A divorce was necessary partly because Carpentier wanted to marry his new partner, as did his ex.

But he also feared losing access to the girls, and particularly to Norah, the 11-year-old, since he wasn’t her biological father but had adopted her at birth, the experts found.

It was Carpentier’s own decision to move forward with divorce documents with his own lawyer that sent him into a state of crisis the morning he disappeared.

He was in deep depression, Régnière wrote, and those close to him had noticed him “rambling.”

Signs point to him planning to kill the girls and himself by getting into a car crash, but it didn’t go as he planned.

Certain elements of the car crash, including the stretch of road where it happened, suggest it was intentional and that Carpentier veered into a passing lane, experts found. But the three survived and were well enough to walk into the woods.

At that point, Carpentier was experiencing psychosis, the experts believed. After spending the night in the woods with the two girls, he killed them the following afternoon.

“Certain elements of the investigation tend to show that Norah was going about preparing a small fire while her father went off with her sister to find firewood,” the coroner wrote.

He killed the younger girl, Romy, in the woods, with a sharp blow to the head with a blunt object, then returned to Norah, who suffered the same fate.

The two girls’ bodies were found near each other. Carpentier then walked a few kilometres away before dying by suicide.

His body wasn’t found until July 20, the same day as the girls’ funerals.