The BC Coroners Service did not attend the scene of a sudden, unnatural death at the unit in a Vancouver rooming house where the decomposing remains of Noelle O’Soup and a second adult female were later found, Global News has learned.
O’Soup, 13, and the other person were only ultimately discovered by cleaning staff, months after the coroner and investigators should have inspected the suite.
That revelation, coming from sources with knowledge of the investigation into O’Soup’s disappearance and death, is raising further questions surrounding the investigative process in this case.
It comes days after allegations of major investigative oversight by multiple agencies in the tragic case of O’Soup were first made public by a Global News investigation.
Global News can also now report the identity of the second adult female discovered dead alongside O’Soup, a woman named Elma Enan.
Enan, in her thirties when she died, is the relative of a serving member of the Vancouver Police Department, according to several sources.
O’Soup’s and Enan’s remains were discovered inside a unit of the privately-owned rooming house ‘The Heatley Block’ at 405 Heatley Avenue on May 1, more than two months after the unit’s tenant, a man in his 40s, died suddenly on Feb. 23.
The remains of both females were already inside the man’s unit when he died, but somehow went overlooked by the BC Coroners Service, Vancouver police, and the building’s property manager, despite repeated concerns from residents surrounding a lingering, foul stench emanating from the suite in question: unit #16.
Multiple residents told Global News they believe the tenant of that unit was a Vietnamese national.
“He went by Kim,” resident Finna Reilly told Global News on Wednesday.
“He was not my jam — we didn’t hang. I’m sure I’m not the only one who mentioned it smells like death,” Reilly added, speaking of the stench coming from Kim’s unit.
“I talked to the person who was supposed to run the place and said, ‘Hey, man, it smells like death in the hallways. It smells like death in the hallways, You should find out what the deal is with the trash in there,’” Reilly recounted of her repeated interactions with the property manager of The Heatley Block.
“And I was just being off the cuff, ‘It smells bad, really bad.’ I didn’t realize it was actual death.”
Reilly was not the only resident of The Heatley Block to raise concerns surrounding the smell.
Multiple neighbours told Global News that, for months, while the tenant of the unit in question, Kim, was still alive, they raised repeated concerns about an inescapable foul stench coming from his suite, permeating the entire second floor of the building.
“Honestly, there was a smell eight months prior to his death,” building resident Grace Billikwa told Global News in July.
“I was like, ‘Oh, it smells like death.’ But blood has a strong scent. I was having a hard time eating. I was just, like, mortified,” Billikwa said.
Had a coroner attended the scene when they should have on Feb. 23, when Kim died of what sources say was a suspected overdose, O’Soup’s and Enan’s remains would have been discovered months earlier than they were.
It is unclear why a coroner did not attend the scene of Kim’s sudden, unnatural death, which is the service’s mandate. The state of the scene inside unit 16 would have first been communicated to the coroner by the attending Vancouver police officer, or officers, who also failed to sufficiently inspect the suite.
On May 18, less than three weeks after the remains of O’Soup and Enan were recovered, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner launched a neglect of duty probe into the actions or inaction of a single Vancouver police officer, in connection to an alleged investigative blunder.
The BC Coroners Service declined to comment on the case, citing a still-open investigation into all three deaths. But, when asked if the service’s mandate to attend every sudden, unnatural death had changed, it confirmed it had not.
“Generally speaking, coroners are expected to attend the scene of any reported death that appears to meet the criteria for investigation established in Part 2 of the Coroners Act,” the BC Coroners Service told Global News in an e-mail.
“There are rare instances in which we are unable to physically attend the scene of a reportable death, but in these situations the coroner will take possession of the decedent remotely, and direct transfer to a secure morgue.”
When asked specifically if the province’s overdose epidemic and toxic drug supply crisis had changed protocol in any way, the BC Coroners Service said it had not.
“Suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths are handled in the same manner as all other investigations — whenever possible, coroners attend the scenes of death and direct the post-mortem processes necessary to establish cause and manner of death.”
Reilly, who has lived in The Heatley Block for five years, said she felt there had been a lack of urgency in the investigation into O’Soup’s and Enan’s cases.
She grew emotional as she revealed she’s also in the process of searching for her own son: a drug user who hasn’t been heard from for two weeks.
“He’s just come out of rehab, and has gone to ground for the past few weeks. Nobody knows where he is,” Reilly explained of her 30-year-old son, Dylan Justice Young.
“He’s super handsome, he’s super smart. And we want him back, now.”
Reilly said she’s been heartened by the Vancouver Police Department’s initial responsiveness to the missing person report she filed for her son.
But she believes that certain missing person investigations in certain neighbourhoods gain more traction and publicity than others: neither of which were afforded to O’Soup and Enan, until long after their remains were discovered.
“If this building was in West Vancouver, they would have turned that room over within 24 hours,” Reilly said, referencing the unit in The Heatley Block where O’Soup and Enan were found.
“We live here, in East Vancouver. Where we don’t matter,” Reilly added, growing emotional.
“They didn’t matter.”