John "Jake the Snake" McLaughlin
West End Gang
    John McLaughlin, known  as "Jackie" and "Jake the Snake," was born around 1938  and  grew  up  in  Verdun, a  southwest  neighbourhood  of Montreal.

     A reputed tough and feared gangster, McLaughlin worked primarily as an enforcer, collecting  debts for  the West End Gang  and  possibly other groups. His  rap sheet dated  back to 1955  and  included  convictions for theft, firearm possession, and extortion.

     McLaughlin also allegedly worked  as  a hitman, and was suspected in over  a dozen underworld murders, including the death of Michael "Crazy Mike" French. French, a member of  the Outlaws biker gang, was shot in the head in  a Kanawake cemetery on November 12, 1982.

     In January 1981, after a five year prison stint, McLaughlin returned to Montreal's west end, where he reportedly found  a job with  an old buddy of his, Peter "Dunie" Ryan.

     Ryan had become  a  major player since  McLaughlin been jailed. He was  now  said to be worth tens of millions of dollars  and sitting on top of  a  very lucrative drug network. McLaughlin became the kingpin's bodyguard and began hanging around the
Cavalier Motel, Ryan's base of operations at the time.

     McLaughlin was also associated with the feared Hells Angels North Chapter, based in Laval, and brought the  rowdy bikers  around the
Cavalier bar. While Ryan  and  the  other west end gangsters didn't seem to think to care for the of  the wild bikers, the gang would hire Yves "Apache" Trudeau, a Hells Angel with 43 murders to his credit, to kill several people over the next few years. 

     McLaughlin was  reportedly  among the 2000 people who gathered  in Sorel to watch the funeral of  Hells Angel Yves "Le Boss" Buteau, president of  the club's Montreal Chapter, held on September 12, 1983. McLaughlin supposedly boasted that he watched the funeral from  a gang  member's van, hidden from the police photographers who lurked nearby, according to a
Montreal Gazette article.

     In early November, 1983, McLaughlin, wanted by police for possession of a concealed weapon, a  parole  violation  that would  likely land him back  behind bars, went on the lam, leaving Montreal. His girlfriend, Maria Kraus-Hillebrand, 20 years his junior  and  a bartender at the
Cavalier, was also being sought by police, on a cocaine possession charge, accompanied him.

     The couple  travelled to Saint John, New Brunswick, where  they stayed  at  a  cabin owned  by Noel Winters, a local underworld figure.

     On April 24, 1984, authorities announced that they had  discovered  the  bodies  of  McLaughlin, Hillebrand, and their pet bull terrier dog near Winter's summer home. Investigators believed that they had been murdered shortly after their arrival in New Brunswick.

     Police consiered Noel Winters the primary suspect in the  murders. They theorized that  Winters may have  killed  McLaughlin  because  he feared  the west end  hitman had come to kill him for not paying  a drug shipment from  Montreal. Hillebrand was  most likely just  at the  wrong place  at the wrong time.

     Noel Winters was  already in prison  at the time of  the discovery, serving two life sentences for the murder of  a 64 year old man and his 32 year old son. The two men were killed, cut into pieces, and  stuffed  into  plastic bags in  February 1984. On the  same day that  authorities  announced  the unearthing of  McLaughlin and Hillebrand's bodies, Winters hanged  himself in his cell. According to one theory, Winters may have feared reprisals from some of McLaughlin's associates.

     After the  murders, Hillebrand's  mother  spoke  with  the 
Montreal Gazette. "[McLaughlin] was very nice to Maria  and me," she said. "We went out to eat in expensive restaurants...He  always had lots of money and this worried me, but he was nice."