On October 27, 1975, 18-year-old Robert Poulin shot seven people, killing one, at St. Pius X High School in Ottawa, Canada. Prior to the shooting at the school, Poulin had raped and killed a girl, Kim Rabot, in his home. He handcuffed his victim to the bed, sexually assaulted her, and then stabbed her to death. Poulin then set his house on fire and proceeded to the school. He killed himself before he could face justice.
Poulin had a fairly normal upbringing. His father was a former pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force, who later became a teacher. His mother was a nurse. Poulin had two much older sisters and one younger sister. As a child, he was described as mellow–not the kind of person who was easily upset or frequently in trouble. The family attended church regularly. As a youth, Poulin had several jobs, including delivering newspapers and working in a pizza shop. He was considered a conscientious worker, and he got good grades at school.
Socially, however, Poulin struggled. He was born with a pigeon chest, or a convex chest. His poor vision prevented him from pursuing his dream as a pilot and he wore thick, “Coke-bottle” glasses. He also looked young for his age, hit puberty later than most adolescents, and was slightly overweight. Poulin was shy and particularly awkward with girls. Although he had a lot of friends as a child, he had fewer as a teen. He was not described as a loner, however. One of Poulin’s hobbies was playing war games; he and friends played over the telephone, and Poulin played the games alone as well.
Poulin desperately wanted to be in the military. Perhaps one of the pivotal life events that led to his attack occurred when he thought he was accepted for officer training but was later rejected for being immature. Poulin had lied on his application, alleging involvement with sports teams that never happened. He later joined the Cameron Highlanders militia and received military training. In the militia, Poulin first seemed timid but later made friends. He was generally serious, however, and would not talk about his family, like other soldiers did.
Poulin was said to be obsessed with sex and pornography, maintaining an index of several pornographic magazines. After the shooting incident, police found a binder with nearly 1,000 separate entries, all written by Poulin, next to pictures and advertisements. He had a total of 250 pornographic books and magazines. Police also found four pairs of handcuffs in his room, as well as a box of women’s clothing, an inflatable sex doll, a vibrator, and a list of the names of 18 girls. Although there is no conclusive proof he was responsible, several of those girls had received obscene telephone calls that stopped after Poulin’s suicide. There had also been complaints about assaults and attempted rapes in an apartment building near where Poulin lived, and the descriptions of the assailant fit him. Some women reported that the assailant had woven a balaclava, a scarf-like head covering, and Poulin had written that he would wear a balaclava when he raped a woman.
Leading up the shooting, Poulin had suffered from depression. A diary entry from the previous April describes his suicidal thoughts, although he wrote that he would not act on them until he had engaged in sex with a girl. Poulin also wrote about robbing people and burning down his own home so that his family could suffer. His writing suggests he saw death as something positive, calling it “true bliss.” Psychologist Peter Langman has suggested that Poulin was psychotic, based on his lack of empathy and remorse.
- Langman, P. (2009). Expanding the sample. Retrieved from http://www.schoolshooters.info/expanding-the-sample.pdf
- Violence at U.S. and Canadian schools. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/2007/04/16/violence_at_us_and_canadian_schools.html