Man pleads guilty to manslaughter in death stemming from dispute over lobster

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — The captain of a lobster boat has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of a man whose body has never been found off the coast of Cape Breton after he was shot at and dragged out to sea in what court documents describe as a simmering dispute over lobster traps.

Dwayne Matthew Samson of D’Escousse, N.S., was originally charged with second-degree murder in the death of Phillip Boudreau on June 1, 2013.

He was one of four people charged in the case.

Samson entered a guilty plea to the lesser charge in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Port Hawkesbury on Tuesday. A sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 11 and 12.

In January, James Landry was given a 14-year prison sentence for manslaughter in the case.

Samson’s wife Carla, who owns the lobster boat, and Craig Landry are both facing a charge of accessory after the fact.

During James Landry’s trial, the Crown said Boudreau’s death was the result of a sustained attack by a three-man lobster fishing crew on a boat called the Twin Maggies. The jury heard that Boudreau’s boat was rammed three times in Petit de Grat harbour and Boudreau was shot before being dragged out to sea and tied to an anchor.

An agreed statement of facts read in court Tuesday in Samson’s case largely mirrors what was heard at Landry’s trial.

The document says the Twin Maggies left the wharf in Arichat at about 5 a.m. for a day of lobster fishing when the boat’s crew later came upon Boudreau’s boat on the water.

The crew of the vessel had fished the first string of two separate lengths of 125 lobster traps when Craig Landry told the others he saw an object in the distance as the Twin Maggies went around the Cape Auget Point heading into Petit de Grat Harbour.

As they got closer to Mackerel Cove the crew recognized Boudreau’s 4.3-metre speedboat as it came to a stop. The document says James Landry and Dwayne Samson had an ongoing suspicion that Boudreau had been interfering with their lobster traps.

Samson told Craig Landry to load a rifle that was on board and after Craig Landry loaded it, James Landry took it and fired a shot in the direction of Boudreau’s boat, the statement says.

He fired a second shot and Boudreau tried to get away but his propeller got tangled in rope, causing his boat to sit idle.

A total of four shots were fired by James Landry, the document says, and one hit Boudreau in the leg.

James Landry then told Samson to turn the Twin Maggies around so he could gaff Boudreau’s boat and tow it out to sea. As they towed it, Boudreau somehow cut the bowline, the statement of facts says, before James Landry “hollered’ to Samson to turn the boat around and run Boudreau over to sink the boat.

With Samson at the wheel, the Twin Maggies rammed Boudreau’s boat three times and knocked the fisherman into the water. The document says Boudreau managed to grab onto a red gas can and was floating when James Landry hooked him with a gaff and Samson drove the Twin Maggies out to sea.

Boudreau slipped off the gaff but was hooked onto it again before he escaped from his sweater and began treading water, it says. James Landry gaffed Boudreau a third time and Samson again drove the Twin Maggies out to sea.

“At some point, Dwayne Samson stopped the Twin Maggies outward journey,” the document says. “Phillip Boudreau is now floating in the water beside the Twin Maggies; he is not struggling.”

It says James Landry then released the gaff and Boudreau rolled over, face down in the water.

The crew of the Twin Maggies then resumed fishing their lobster traps, the statement of facts says.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press