PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A Cape Breton lobster boat captain was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday for his role in the violent death of a neighbour accused of repeatedly cutting his traps.
Dwayne Matthew Samson of D’Escousse, N.S., pleaded guilty in May to manslaughter, having admitted he was steering the Twin Maggies when it struck Philip Boudreau’s speedboat on June 1, 2013 — the last day the 43-year-old was seen alive.
Boudreau’s damaged, overturned boat was found shortly after he disappeared off Petit-de-Grat, an Acadian fishing village near the southern tip of Cape Breton. His body has yet to be found.
Samson, 45, was one of four people charged in a case that attracted national attention in November when a Crown prosecutor told a Port Hawkesbury courtroom the case amounted to “murder for lobster.”
Before he sentenced Samson, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Simon MacDonald said there was much discussion in court about Boudreau’s alleged practice of cutting traps — an allegation that was never proven in court.
“This by no stretch justifies the killing of Mr. Boudreau,” the judge said. “This was a brutal and vicious attack on Mr. Boudreau.”
MacDonald rejected Samson’s claim that he was only following the orders of deckhand Joseph James Landry, the former owner of the Twin Maggies and the most senior fisherman aboard.
“In this case, Dwayne Samson played a significant role in the death of Philip Boudreau,” the judge said.
MacDonald said Samson was steering the boat when it rammed Boudreau’s vessel and dragged the victim out to sea, and he said it was Samson who ordered another deckhand to load a rifle, which was used to wound Boudreau.
“I’m satisfied that Mr. Samson could have taken himself out of the equation,” MacDonald said, adding that he was aware Landry was the “driving force” behind the killing.
Landry, Samson’s father-in-law, was handed a 14-year prison sentence in January after a jury found him guilty of manslaughter. He has filed an appeal of the sentence.
Samson, who spent 69 days in pre-trial custody and 772 days under house arrest, apologized for his actions Tuesday.
“I’m sorry for the pain and suffering I caused to Philip Boudreau and his family,” he told the court. “Every day, I live with regret for what I’ve done.”
The statement of facts presented for Samson’s case says the Twin Maggies left the wharf in Arichat, N.S., at about 5 a.m. when the boat’s three-man crew spotted Boudreau’s 4.3-metre speedboat in Mackerel Cove, not far from the mouth of Petit-de-Grat harbour.
After Samson called for the rifle, Landry fired four bullets at Boudreau’s boat, one of which hit him in the leg, the document says.
Under Landry’s orders, Samson steered the Twin Maggies close to Boudreau’s boat, allowing Landry to grab the smaller boat’s bow line. But when Boudreau cut the line, the statement says, Landry told Samson to turn the Twin Maggies around again.
With Samson at the wheel, the Twin Maggies rammed Boudreau’s boat three times, knocking him into the water. The statement says Landry then hooked him with a gaff and Samson steered the Twin Maggies into the North Atlantic, where Boudreau’s body was later dumped.
In a videotaped statement to police, shown during Landry’s jury trial, Landry said he “wanted to destroy” Boudreau for cutting traps and threatening to set his house on fire.
“I was seeing black. I was so mad,” Landry told police.
Both Samson and Landry were originally charged with second-degree murder.
Deckhand Craig Landry of Petit-de-Grat, who is Joseph James Landry’s third cousin, was previously charged with second-degree murder but that charge was withdrawn. On Sept. 11, he was sentenced to 28 days in jail after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact
In June, a judge dismissed the one criminal charge against Samson’s wife Carla, the owner of the Twin Maggies. She had been charged with being an accessory after the fact.