WATCH ABOVE: A fatality inquiry into a deadly home explosion says police could improve how they handle domestic violence cases. Fletcher Kent has more.
EDMONTON — Alberta Justice released its fatality report into the June 20, 2010 Lago Lindo house explosion Thursday.
It found Dwayne Poirier died by suicide from smoke inhalation, his common-law wife Cathie Heard was strangled to death, and neighbours Bradley Winter and Craig Huber died from blast injuries. Poirier killed his wife before removing a cap from the natural gas line, sparking the massive explosion.
Judge James Wheatley notes the couple had severe emotional problems and had obtained several emergency protection orders against each other, which they always discontinued.
Wheatley notes in his report that police gave evidence at the inquiry that one-quarter of their investigations involve domestic violence.
“One must wonder if, in fact, 25 per cent of all police business involves domestic violence, whether the manpower allocated to (the Edmonton police) domestic offenders crime section is sufficient to deal with this ever-present problem within our society,” Wheatley writes.
A fatality inquiry does not lay blame, but makes recommendations to prevent future deaths.
The report includes recommendations to prevent similar deaths from happening in the future. All of those recommendations include suggestions to prevent domestic violence and address mental health issues. It also suggests further collaboration between agencies like police and medical professionals to help intervene in situations like this one. (Read the full report below).
“Many and most of the recommendations are things we already have implemented many years ago,” said St-Sgt. Sean Armstrong with the EPS. “I see the recommendations as more of an encouragement to keep doing what we’re doing.”
“We need more leadership from the community,” he added. “We need a stronger community voice. A unified community voice on domestic violence.”
“It’s my view that they don’t always communicate well together and we don’t always communicate well with them. We need one leadership organization.”
One of the recommendations is that the Edmonton Police Service consider whether domestic violence “intervention services at a pre-charge level” would be appropriate here. The EPS is asked, in the report, to look at the model used by the Calgary Police Service.
Jan Reimer, with the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, believes intervention should come as soon as possible.
“By the time things get to a police response, they’re pretty serious,” she says.
“What is being done around a collaborative response leading up so people aren’t getting involved or having to call police.”
READ MORE: Lago Lindo explosion ruled homicide
On June 20, 2010, an explosion destroyed a home near 180 Avenue and 91A Street in Edmonton. The blast also damaged 41 other houses, 11 garages and nine vehicles. The total damage was estimated to be $3.9 million.
Heard’s body was found wrapped in a rug in the basement of the home. Investigators determined she had been strangled. Poirier’s body was found in the wreckage.
Poirier was on medication for both anxiety and depression, but his mental health professionals were under the impression his conditions were being managed, the report says.
However, around the time of the deadly blast, Poirier’s mental health worker received an email from him that was similar to the suicide note and detailed Heard’s murder.
“Before I knew it, I had choked her to death,” read the email dated June 20, 2010.
Also included in Thursday’s fatality report recommendations was a suggestion from the victims’ mothers.
“It was the recommendation of two of the mothers of the deceased persons that programs should be instituted in schools within Alberta to help children recognize instances of domestic violence to learn how to report them and to protect themselves and others from the consequences of such violence and this Inquiry endorses that recommendation.”
With files from The Canadian Press