A Canadian hit man whose victims included bikers, Mafiosi and innocent bystanders pleaded guilty to 27 charges of first-degree murder in a case that makes him one of Canada's most prolific killers.
Gerald Gallant, a police informant who was already serving a life sentence for a 2001 slaying, also pleaded guilty to 12 charges of attempted murder and a handful of other charges.
The killings took place between 1978 and 2003 and targeted outlaw bikers, street-gang members and mobsters. Biker gangs have long been a problem in the French-speaking province of Quebec, and most of the murders happened between 1994 and 2002 as the Hells Angels and Rock Machine gangs battled over drug turf.
Gallant's victims include such bystanders as Helene Brunet, a waitress who was wounded in 2000 while being used as a human shield when Gallant entered the restaurant and killed Robert Savard, a close associate of Hells Angels kingpin.
And in 1999, Gallant fatally shot Luc Bergeron, a private detective who happened to be living in an apartment formerly occupied by the intended target, a Hells Angels associate.
Gallant, 58, apologised yesterday as he read out a prepared statement in front of survivors and relatives of victims.
"I regret the hurt I have caused the victims and their families," Gallant said in a Quebec City courtroom. "I understand that forgiving will be difficult, maybe even impossible. I accept that.
"I agreed to cooperate with police in order to repair the damage I caused and to seek forgiveness."
Prosecutor Martine Berube said she believes the case "will possibly go down in history."
"We have rarely seen in the annals of history this many murders and attempted murders committed by one person and which resulted in guilty pleas," Berube said outside the courtroom.
At least one Quebec man has killed more people than Gallant: Yves "Apache" Trudeau, a founding member of the Hells Angels in Quebec, was sentenced to life in prison in 1986 after pleading guilty to 43 counts of manslaughter, part of a deal struck in exchange for information about fellow gang members.
Last week, acting on information provided by Gallant, provincial police arrested 10 people across Quebec in connection with dozens of murders linked to outlaw biker gangs over a 25-year period.
Charges against those arrested include murder, attempted murder and conspiracy. Police are still looking for one woman with alleged ties to the case. Operation Baladeur targeted suspects primarily in the Montreal and Quebec City areas.
"It serves to remind people what a murderous biker war was happening," said Julian Sher, author of two books about Canadian biker gangs. "Twenty-seven gang-related killings out of 160 total biker-related murders during that period. That's stunning. The worst period of Al Capone's Chicago was never that bad."
What made Gallant dangerous, said Sher, was that as a contract killer he was never a full-patch member of any biker gang, and therefore could serve as a hit man for anyone. But was also not protected by a gang.
"That made him cold-blooded and efficient, but it also made him a liability," Sher said.
Gallant won't get additional jail time, and will be eligible to apply for parole in 25 years. Under the plea deal, he is barred from writing a book or making a film about his crimes. Prosecutors said he will get $50 monthly to spend at the prison canteen.
Police found a sample of Gallant's DNA on a glass in a restaurant in Quebec and linked him to a slaying from 2001 in Ste-Adele, north of Montreal.
He fled to Europe after finding out police were on his trail but he was eventually arrested in Switzerland in 2006 as part of a sweep targeting cloned credit cards.