The family of the late Arlene Westervelt stands together in front of the Kelowna Law Courts on Sept. 14 to demand justice and answers as to why the BC Crown Prosecution Service has decided to stay the proceedings against Lambertus (Bert) Westervelt for the alleged murder of his wife Arlene. (Daniel Taylor - Black Press Media)

The family of the late Arlene Westervelt stands together in front of the Kelowna Law Courts on Sept. 14 to demand justice and answers as to why the BC Crown Prosecution Service has decided to stay the proceedings against Lambertus (Bert) Westervelt for the alleged murder of his wife Arlene. (Daniel Taylor - Black Press Media)

‘What changed?’ asks family of dead Okanagan woman after murder charge stayed

‘My sister… lost her life under very suspicious circumstances,’ said Arlene Westervelt’s sister

More than four years after Arlene Westervelt’s death, her family is still demanding justice and answers.

Her husband, Lambertus Westervelt, was charged with second-degree murder in April 2019 after an extensive investigation into Arlene’s June 2016 drowning death on Okanagan Lake. The Crown stayed that charge in July 2020 after more than a year of the matter winding through the courts.

The grieving family gathered on the steps of the Kelowna Law Courts on Monday, Sept. 14 — the day Westervelt was set to face a preliminary inquiry into the matter.

“My sister Arlene lost her life under very suspicious circumstances,” said Arlene’s sister, Debbie Hennig, during the gathering at the Kelowna Law Courts.

“He said she disappeared into the lake and was gone. We don’t believe it. We have never believed that. Arlene was too skilled to make such a rookie mistake. She was an experienced canoeist, a member of the rowing team (formerly for the University of Alberta), she knew how to swim and always wore a life jacket.”

READ MORE: Charge stayed against Lake Country man accused of killing his wife

Of particular concern to the family is what they heard at a bail hearing following Westervelt’s arrest.

During that hearing, the Crown presented the court with what Arlene’s family claims to be “evidence in support of the murder charge.”

That information is currently protected by a publication ban. As a result, the family is unable to comment on the evidence which they heard at that hearing but which they cannot easily forget.

Witnesses had already received subpoenas for the preliminary inquiry when Crown advised Hennig in July that they would stay the charge on the basis of “new information” which wasn’t detailed to the family.

“We were told they cannot give us that information,” Hennig said.

“We have been denied the right to hear evidence and understand how and why Arlene died. We have been denied the right to the trial process that would re-assure us justice has been served. Not only must justice be served, but it must be seen to be served. We haven’t received any justice, we’re in the dark. We need answers.”

Arlene’s family is now asking Crown to explain what happened at the eleventh hour to dismantle the proceedings.

READ MORE: Okanagan RCMP officer hailed as hero for saving home from fire

The BC Prosecution Service charge standard requires Crown to independently, objectively and fairly measure all available evidence against a two-part test which determines whether there is a substantial likelihood of conviction, and if so, whether the public interest requires a prosecution.

“This test continues to apply throughout any prosecution. Where this test is no longer met, it is appropriate for Crown counsel to direct a stay of proceedings,” said Alisia Adams, a spokesperson for the BC Prosecution Service.

Arlene’s family has since hired Alberta lawyer Anthony Oliver to represent their interests under both B.C.’s Victims of Crime Act and the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. Oliver notes that a stay of charge may occur because it has become clear that something in the prosecution has gone wrong and new evidence is required to advance the case to trial.

Because the charges are stayed and not withdrawn, Oliver said, they are still technically active. Should Crown decide to advance its case against Westervelt, the charge that was previously stayed may be reactivated and he may once again be required to go to trial and face a verdict.

He also notes that in the case of a victim’s death, the relevant legislation protects the rights of a deceased person’s family to be informed about the investigation and prosecution at every stage of the proceedings. The legislation also allows the victim’s family to convey their views about decisions and be considered by authorities.

“Unfortunately, there has been very little communication by Crown with Arlene’s family, whose views don’t appear to have been considered,” Oliver said.

“As a result, the family has been further traumatized by a confusing and seemingly shadowy process.”


Daniel Taylor
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at daniel.taylor@kelownacapnews.com
Follow me on Twitter

OkanaganRCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kendra Thomas from Warmland Women’s Support Services invites Cowichan residents to find out more about youth sex trafficking with an online event Nov. 16, 2020. (File photo)
Learn more about youth sex trafficking with ‘Love Bombing 101’

Nov. 22-28 is Victims and Survivors of Crime Week

Pnina Benyamini loved to be around people and people loved her. (Photo submitted)
Many facets to energetic Chemainus woman’s legacy

Benyamini taught yoga, belly dancing and more to an adoring public

Windy conditions in Nanaimo’s Lost Lake area. (News Bulletin file photo)
Wind warning issued for the east coast of Vancouver Island

Environment Canada says people ‘should be on the lookout’ for adverse weather conditions

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone has been re-elected as chairman of the board at the CVRD. (File photo)
Aaron Stone re-elected as chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District

Blaise Salmon, director for Mill Bay/Malahat, elected as new vice-chairman

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Parksville’s French Creek Harbour experienced a diesel spill on Nov. 23 after a barge and fishing vessel collided. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Coast Guard cleans up diesel spill in Parksville’s French Creek Harbour

Barge carrying fuel truck collides with fishing vessel

Stock photo
Senior from Gibsons caught viewing child porn sentenced to 10 months

74-year-old pleaded guilty after police seized 1,500-2,500 images

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Most Read