Home Canada Mysterious death of Okanagan woman raises questions about BC Coroners Carrier

Mysterious death of Okanagan woman raises questions about BC Coroners Carrier

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Mysterious death of Okanagan woman raises questions about BC Coroners Carrier

Nearly five years after Arlene Westervelt perished on Okanagan Lake, the internet page off of her death stays shrouded in mystery and is raising troubling questions about that it’s doubtless you’ll maybe furthermore notify about systemic complications at the BC Coroners Carrier.

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The 56-365 days-aged nurse died within the course of a canoe commute along with her husband Bert Westervelt on June 26, 2016.

He suggested officials the canoe tipped and it was an unintended drowning, whereas Arlene’s family suspected Bert of execute.

Arlene’s sister Debbie Hennig suggested Worldwide News that her family pleaded with authorities to attain an put up-mortem but says the inquire of fell on deaf ears.

That will had been a serious mistake, in accordance with more than one experts interviewed by Worldwide News for its latest affairs program The Original Actuality.

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“I fetch it just a bit bit shapely that they would no longer err on the facet of warning,” says broken-down Calgary homicide detective Mike Cavilla.

Cavilla was asked to present an self sufficient notion on the case by a licensed professional employed by the Hennig family.

He says water deaths are notoriously no longer easy to analyze.

In deaths savor the Westervelt case, where there had been no self sufficient witnesses discontinuance sufficient to leer what took insist, an put up-mortem needs to be ordered proper away, he says.

“That’s the fashion it’s carried out in Alberta and that’s the fashion it’s carried out in so a lot of jurisdictions across every Canada and the United States.”

Retired forensic pathologist Dr. John Butt is of the same opinion that an put up-mortem must had been carried out aesthetic away.

“It needs to be automated if there are no witnesses. Very for scramble,” he says.


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In the Westervelt case, the put up-mortem was delayed for 10 days. It was only after the RCMP got original proof prompting them to initiate a execute investigation that an put up-mortem was at closing applied.

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Primarily primarily based on the Coroner’s anecdote, the put up-mortem chanced on hemorrhages on Arlene Westervelt’s neck muscle groups and in every eyes.

Butt says those hemorrhages may perchance be proof that she was strangled.

Nearly three years after Arlene’s death, her husband Bert Westervelt was charged with 2nd-diploma execute.

On the opposite hand, authorities later stayed the execute payment with little clarification, announcing only that there was “original proof.”

Arlene’s physique was embalmed before the put up-mortem was applied, and Butt believes that may perchance furthermore simply salvage performed a position within the Crown’s reluctance to prosecute the case.

Embalming, Butt says, can “conceal thoroughly different proof which may perchance furthermore simply had been expose or invent proof that may perchance be deceptive.”

“It’s my notion on this case that that was one of the explanations why the payment in opposition to the accused was stayed,” he says.

The Coroner’s anecdote claimed the embalming did no longer intrude with the examination of the neck hemorrhages. The anecdote furthermore chanced on no marks on Arlene’s neck, and no injury to the hyoid bone, located under the chin.

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The anecdote may perchance no longer confirm or rule out strangulation, drowning or an underlying heart condition as a internet page off of Arlene’s death. Indirectly, it chanced on the internet page off of death to be undetermined.

But Butt maintains the resolution to extend an put up-mortem was a mistake and believes it’s fragment of a bigger systemic field in B.C.

“Your total blueprint, from open to attain, is 2nd payment. I mediate the extend within the put up-mortem was made consequently of of money. And I mediate grand of that is delivered in British Columbia as an edict from the authorities.”

And the numbers attain nothing to quell his suspicions. Primarily primarily based on Statistics Canada, B.C. ordered autopsies in simply 2.9 per cent of deaths in 2019. That’s about half the nationwide moderate of 5.7 per cent for the similar 365 days. In Alberta, where Butt was as soon as Chief Coroner, autopsies had been performed in 7.4 per cent of deaths in 2019. That raises questions about whether thoroughly different suspicious deaths are being passed over.

There are furthermore questions about the credentials of the doctors performing autopsies in B.C.

Several forensic experts suggested The Original Actuality handiest practices dictate that complicated water deaths savor Arlene Westervelt’s needs to be autopsied by a forensic pathologist.

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On the opposite hand, the doctor who autopsied her physique is listed as a long-established pathologist by every the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Same old pathologists generally work in clinical institution settings, and in accordance with the Royal College, they fabricate autopsies in cases of “pure and routine” deaths.

They ought to furthermore, in accordance with the College, admire “characteristics of autopsies requiring referral to forensic pathologists.”

Butt says nationwide standards require forensic pathologists to scoot an exam by means of the Royal College, or thoroughly different licensed institutions to fetch accreditation.

On the opposite hand, adhering to those standards is left as a lot as the discretion of the provinces.

The pathologist who did the put up-mortem on Arlene Westervelt was licensed by the BC Coroners Carrier, a spokesperson for the coroner’s office acknowledged in an email.

“Credentials, trip and references are all reviewed by the BC Coroners Carrier, and after that process we ‘privilege’ physicians to manufacture autopsies for us. We partner with the neatly being authorities — they fabricate the credentialing process and we use that as a fraction of our input when granting privileges to manufacture autopsies for BCCS,” the email acknowledged.

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In thoroughly different phrases, some pathologists may perchance be performing the responsibilities of a forensic pathologist without meeting nationwide accreditation standards.

That does no longer take a seat neatly with Butt.

“The coroner’s provider in British Columbia can no longer invent a forensic pathologist specialist of any substance.”

Genuinely, he’s written a letter to the BC College of Physicians Surgeons complaining about how the BC Coroner’s provider accredits doctors performing autopsies and is asking for a stout investigation.

“I mediate that the total blueprint of British Columbia needs a analysis by an self sufficient physique.”


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Mysterious death of Okanagan woman raises questions about BC Coroners Carrier