Civil court cases advance in Lake Country woman’s death
Recently filed court documents shed new light on the events surrounding the death of a Lake Country woman whose husband was later charged with her second degree murder.
When Arlene Westervelt’s body was removed from Lake Okanagan after a day of canoeing with her husband Bert Westervelt, authorities treated her death as an accident.
While Arlene’s family suspects Bert of killing his wife, he has always maintained his innocence.
What happened to Arlene Westervelt?
Despite her family’s criminal appeals, it wasn’t until Arlene’s divorce lawyer came forward that the mounted police took a closer look at the case.
The identity of the divorce lawyer has always been a mystery to Arlene’s family until now.
A judge ordered the RCMP to release the name of Arlene’s divorce lawyer after her family’s lawyer argued their evidence was crucial to a lawsuit against Bert.
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However, as the attorney-client privilege continues even after death, Arlene’s family will still have to file another claim asking that the divorce attorney’s evidence be heard in court.
The lawsuit alleges that Bert killed his wife and argues that he should not have inherited Arlene’s property.
Bert denies killing Arlene and maintains that her mother, who initiated the lawsuit, was not even another beneficiary of the will.
His lawyer also argues that the court has a duty to protect solicitor-client privilege unless the client waives it.
Cory Armor, Bert’s lawyer, declined an interview. However, he said the gendarmes weren’t against the publication of Arlene’s divorce lawyer name – they just wanted a judge to approve it.
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Although Bert Westervelt was charged with second degree murder almost three years after Arlene’s death, the Crown suddenly stayed the charge and the case never went to trial.
The family believe the reason for the move may be in part because some officials were hoping to cover up the actions of a member of the mounted police linked to the case.
Who controls the police?
Detective at the time, Brian Gateley, was an acquaintance of Bert accused of interfering in the investigation into Arlene’s death and hacking his cell phone using RCMP resources.
Civilian documents filed by the government claim Gateley told Sgt. Craig Andrichuk, who is also named in the civil suit, that he had been friends with the couple for years but had never seen evidence of violence or abuse.
According to court documents, before Gateley helped Bert unlock the phone, he called Andrichuk to confirm whether or not the RCMP were interested in the data on Arlene’s cell phone.
âSergeant. Andrichuk replied that the RCMP had no reason to seize Arlene’s cell phone, examine it or deny access, because at this point the RCMP was assisting the coroner in a non-criminal investigation, â according to the civilian response.
Gateley had one of his subordinates unlock Arlene’s cell phone using a program called Cellebrite, according to the government’s claim.
âTo the superintendent. Under Gateley’s instructions, the subordinate then returned the cell phone to Bert with his access code, âaccording to court documents.
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The RCMP subsequently launched an internal code of conduct investigation against Gateley.
According to the government’s civilian response, in February 2019, the RCMP discovered that Gateley had engaged in a potential conflict of interest between his professional responsibilities and his private interests and that he had abused RCMP computer equipment.
The civil response claims that no action should be brought against Andrichuk.
Gateley is not named as one of the people who filed a response to the lawsuit, and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
The former constable now has a new job at the provincial organized crime agency.
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The office of the Police Complaints Commissioner of British Columbia confirms that it is currently investigating Gateley’s conduct related to his current employment with that agency, although it does not say why.
Gateley’s lawyer has previously said his client unequivocally denies any wrongdoing and believes court proceedings will justify his actions.
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