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Hospital couldn’t legally hold VPD officer who died by suicide, inquest hears

Click to play video: 'Inquest hears from psychiatrist who released VPD officer Nicole Chan from hospital'
Inquest hears from psychiatrist who released VPD officer Nicole Chan from hospital
The inquest into the death of VPD Constable Nicole Chan has heard testimony from the Vancouver General Hospital psychiatrist who decided to release Chan the day before she took her own life. Rumina Daya reports – Jan 27, 2023

WARNING: This story contains disturbing details that may not be suitable for all readers. Discretion is advised. 

The hospital psychiatrist who released a Vancouver police officer hours before she took her own life told a coroner’s inquest Friday that there was nothing he could do to hold her against her will.

The testimony came on the fourth anniversary of Nicole Chan’s death, and Friday’s proceedings began with a sombre minute of silence in her memory.

The inquest has previously heard that 30-year-old constable died by suicide in the early morning hours of Jan. 27, 2019, amid a deepening mental health crisis after she lodged complaints about inappropriate relationships with two senior officers.

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Click to play video: 'Day 4 of coroner’s inquest into death of VPD officer Nicole Chan'
Day 4 of coroner’s inquest into death of VPD officer Nicole Chan

Her boyfriend has previously testified how the night before, she was threatening to kill herself with a dog leash, and had hidden a large knife and scissors in their home — resulting in a 911 call that saw her transported to Vancouver General Hospital.

Evidence presented Friday suggested Chan was only at the hospital for about an hour and 20 minutes — an even shorter period than previously believed — before she was discharged.

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Psychiatrist Dr. Kiran Sayyaparaju told the inquest jury he did not have all the information about Chan’s situation, and that she told him she did not try to kill herself.

Click to play video: 'Day 3 of coroner’s inquest into death of Vancouver police Const. Nicole Chan'
Day 3 of coroner’s inquest into death of Vancouver police Const. Nicole Chan

He testified he could not legally hold Chan against her will. He offered Chan the opportunity to stay in hospital voluntarily for a few days, but she declined, saying she already had a treatment plan, he told the coroner’s court in Burnaby.

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“We had a glimpse into the moments when she was at the hospital, that she truly felt like nobody was listening to her, that nobody was there to hear her complaint, and I think the easiest thing to characterize what the Chan family wishes is that more people listened earlier,” Gloria Ng, counsel for the Chan family, told reporters outside the court.

“We’ve also been able to see there is a lack of sharing of information it seems among health authorities, among emergency officials, so the difficulty we’ve seen these medical professionals talk about is the fact that there have been gaps of information and gaps in terms of what is passed on in the chain, if you will, of the various persons that Nicole interacted with.”

On Thursday, the inquest heard from one of the VPD officers who brought Chan to the hospital, who testified he advocated for her to be admitted and told hospital staff that because Chan was an experienced police officer, she knew what to say to get them to release her.

Click to play video: 'Explosive testimony at day one of inquest into death of young VPD constable'
Explosive testimony at day one of inquest into death of young VPD constable

The inquest also heard Friday from Insp. Novi Jette, who was in the VPD human resources department at the time, and who dropped Chan off at home after her release and testified Chan had promised not to hurt herself.

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Hours later Chan hanged herself from a bedroom door in her apartment.

The inquest viewed a series of text messages Jette exchanged with Sgt. Dave Van Patten — one of the officers Chan had filed a complaint about — the following days.

Jan. 28, 2019:

Novi Jette: “Hey buddy, how are you doing?”

Dave Van Patten: “I did care for her Novi, even after all the s–t she caused.”

Novi Jette: “I know you did care about her.”

Jan. 30, 2019:

Novi Jette: “She was troubled for a long time. There was nothing anyone could do.”

Jette testified the intent was to provide Van Patten with support, which was her job.

Earlier this week, the inquest heard evidence that Chan felt coerced into having sex with Van Patten because he was threatening to release photos of her genitals.

The inquest heard from several witnesses that Chan was frustrated Van Patten had faced no professional consequences, while she had been placed on stress leave.

No criminal charges were ever filed against Van Patten, but he was ultimately dismissed from the force following a code of conduct investigation. Van Patten was not called to testify at the inquest.

— with files from Rumina Daya

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

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For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at suicideprevention.ca.

Learn more about preventing suicide with these warning signs and tips on how to help.

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