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VPD officer who died by suicide worried ‘rumour mill’ would destroy her career, inquest hears

Click to play video: 'Inquest into death of VPD constable hears from friend and mentor'
Inquest into death of VPD constable hears from friend and mentor
WATCH: (Disturbing Content) The inquest into the suicide of Vancouver Police Const. Nicole Chan has heard from her friend and mentor on the force, who says she was worried about a familiar office minefield – the rumour mill. Rumina Daya reports – Jan 30, 2023

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

VPD Sgt. Corey Bech, a friend and mentor of a Vancouver police officer who died by suicide, told a coroners inquest Monday that Nicole feared the effect that the department rumour mill would have on her reputation and career.

Const. Nicole Chan took her own life on Jan. 27, 2019. The inquest has heard previous testimony that she felt coerced into sex by a senior officer, and was suffering deepening mental health issues after filing a complaint against him and another superior.

Bech told a coroner’s jury in Burnaby that he spoke with Chan the day before she took her own life, and that he still feels guilt related to her death.

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“I still to this day blame myself for not hearing it in her voice, or missing it in some way. That’s what I mean by guilt,” he said outside the inquest.

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

Bech, who said he was never in a sexual relationship with Chan, testified she was devastated no criminal charges were laid against human resources officer Sgt. Dave Van Patten.

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The inquest has heard previous testimony that Van Patten had allegedly recorded images of her genitals that were on another officer’s phone, then threatened to send them to her spouse if she didn’t maintain a sexual relationship with him.

Chan lodged a complaint naming Van Patten in 2017 and was later placed on stress leave.

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Bech testified Chan told him it would be untenable for her to return to work if Van Patten kept his job.

An Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner-ordered Police Act investigation later concluded Van Patten had committed four counts of discreditable conduct.

He never faced criminal charges and has denied all of the allegations.

Van Patten was ultimately dismissed after Chan’s suicide.

Bech told the jury Chan was worried the rumors in the VPD could negatively affect her return to work.

“How can I return? No boss would want to work with me,” Chan wrote in a notebook.

“I don’t want you taking me to court and holding it over my head for the next two years. I can’t do this anymore,” she wrote in another passage.

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

“Absolutely there was a rumour mill at work,” Bech said outside the Burnaby coroners’ court.

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“You have a lot of people who work closely with each other, and people enjoy the gossip that goes on.”

The New Westminster Police Department handled both a Police Act and a criminal investigation into Chan’s complaints.

Metro Vancouver Transit Police Chief David Jones, who led the New Westminster department at the time, testified a report was forwarded to Crown counsel, but that prosecutors chose not to proceed with charges.

Van Patten was being investigated for sexual assault, he added.

Chan’s other superior, Sgt. Greg McCullough was also investigated under the Police Act for having an inappropriate relationship with Chan, given his position. He was suspended for 15 days and later retired.

The inquest into Chan’s death is expected to conclude Tuesday.

The coroner’s jury cannot assign blame but can make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

— with files from Global News’ Rumina Daya

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 9-1-1 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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