Life Sentence: How My Father Defended Two Murderers and Lost Himself

by Amy Bell

SYNOPSIS – A riveting blend of true crime and memoir, following the unravelling of a New Brunswick family after a brutal murder.

On December 15, 1974, when Amy Bell was one year old, the city of Moncton, New Brunswick, was consumed with the search for two missing police officers –Corporal Aurèle Bourgeois and Constable Michael O’Leary. They had been abducted by petty criminals Richard Ambrose and James Hutchison after a kidnapping that had scored them $15,000. The search would lead to a clearing in the woods where the officers were found ― murdered, and buried in shallow graves.

Amy’s father, Ed Bell, stepped up to defend the killers. His unpopular stance–”every person accused of a crime deserves a defence” ― eventually led to the ruin of his career and his marriage, and Amy and her brother lived with the aftereffects: poverty and isolation. Ed Bell never spoke of his involvement in this case. It wasn’t until forty-two years later, when he lay dying, that Amy, now a crime historian, stumbled upon a Polaroid photograph of one of the killers among her father’s things. That discovery led her on a search for answers.

Life Sentence: How My Father Defended Two Murderers and Lost Himself is a riveting work that fuses personal and criminal justice history to tell the story of a horrific crime and examine its terrible costs. Includes personal and archival news images.

MY THOUGHTS – A sad but enlightening story about the author’s lawyer father and a case he took on that tore him apart. It affected the whole family by the time it was done, and their lives were forever changed. It took place in Canada in the 70s. Well researched and written, much background is given on things of that era and location.

PUBLISHER – Nimbus Publishing – 248 pages

PUBLICATION DATE – April 4th, 2023


ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Amy Bell is a Full Professor of History at Huron University College in London, Ontario. Born in Fredericton, NB, she studied at Dalhousie and Queens Universities, graduating with a PhD in 2002. Her research focuses on the history of crime and forensics, Britain during the Second World War, and histories of the emotions. This is her third book. She lives in London with her two children.


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