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Civil court cases move forward in Lake Country woman’s death

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WATCH: Recently filed civil court documents are shedding new light on the events that unfolded around the time of the death of a Lake Country woman whose husband was later charged with her second-degree murder. Although the charge against him has since been stayed, the controversy surrounding the case still continues to wind its way through civil court. Jules Knox reports. – Oct 18, 2021

Recently-filed civil court documents are shedding new light on the events that unfolded around the time of the death of a Lake Country woman whose husband was later charged with her second-degree murder.

When Arlene Westervelt’s body was pulled from Okanagan Lake after a day of canoeing with her husband Bert Westervelt, authorities treated her death as an accident.

While Arlene’s family suspects Bert killed his wife, he has always maintained his innocence.

Read more: What happened to Arlene Westervelt?

Despite her family’s calls of foul play, it wasn’t until Arlene’s divorce lawyer stepped forward that Mounties took a closer look at the case.

The identity of the divorce lawyer has always been a mystery to Arlene’s family until now.

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A judge ordered RCMP to release Arlene’s divorce lawyer’s name after her family’s counsel argued that their evidence is crucial to a lawsuit launched against Bert.

Read more: Okanagan man released from murder charge in wife’s death

However, because attorney-client privilege continues even after death, Arlene’s family will still need to file another application requesting for the divorce lawyer’s evidence to be heard by the court.

The lawsuit alleges that Bert killed his wife and is arguing that he should not have inherited Arlene’s assets.

Bert denies killing Arlene and is arguing that her mother, who launched the lawsuit, was not even an alternate beneficiary in the will.

His lawyer is also arguing that the court has a duty to protect solicitor-client privilege unless the client waives it.

Cory Armour, Bert’s lawyer, declined an interview. However, he said that Mounties weren’t opposing the release of Arlene’s divorce lawyer’s name — they just wanted a judge to sign off on it.

Read more: Arlene Westervelt’s family, friends hold Kelowna, B.C. rally calling for coroner’s inquest

Although Bert Westervelt was charged with second-degree murder nearly three years after Arlene’s death, the Crown suddenly stayed the charge, and the case never went to trial.

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The family believes the reason for that decision could partly be because some officials were hoping to cover up the actions of a senior Mountie connected to the case.

Read more: Who’s policing the police?

Then-Inspector Brian Gateley was an acquaintance of Bert’s accused of interfering in Arlene’s death investigation and having her cellphone hacked using RCMP resources.

The civil documents filed by the government claim that Gateley told Sgt. Craig Andrichuk, who is also named in the civil suit, that he had been friends with the couple for years but never seen any evidence of violence or abuse.

According to the court documents, before Gateley helped Bert unlock the phone, he called Andrichuk to confirm whether or not the RCMP had any interest in Arlene’s cellphone data.

“Sgt. Andrichuk responded that the RCMP had no reason to seize Arlene’s cellphone, review it, or deny access to it, since at this point the RCMP were assisting the coroner in a non-criminal investigation,” according to the civil response.

Gateley directed one of his subordinates to unlock Arlene’s cellphone using a program called Cellebrite, according to the government claim.

“At Supt. Gateley’s directions, the subordinate then returned the cell phone to Bert along with its passcode,” according to court documents.

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Read more: ‘Her story matters’: Family of Lake Country woman shares new details, renews calls for justice

RCMP later initiated an internal code of conduct investigation against Gateley.

According to the government’s civil response, in February 2019, RCMP found that Gateley engaged in a potential conflict of interest between his professional responsibilities and his private interests and that he misused RCMP IT equipment.

The civil response claims that no action should lie against Andrichuk.

Gateley is not named as one of the people who filed a response to the lawsuit, and his lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

The former Mountie is now in a new job at the province’s organized crime agency.

Read more: ‘They remain in the dark’: Family of woman who died on Okanagan Lake calls for coroner’s inquest

B.C’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner confirms it’s now investigating Gateley’s conduct related to his present employment with that agency, although it won’t say why.

Gateley’s lawyer has previously said his client unequivocally denies any wrongdoing and believes the legal process will vindicate his actions.

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