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

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – are touring the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Vancouver Island Symphony brass quintet presents outdoor Christmas concert series

Performances coming to venues in Parksville and Lantzville starting Dec. 6

Adam Walker visits the VI Free Daily/PQB News studios. (Peter McCully photo)
AUDIO: Parksville-Qualicum’s new MLA eager to get to work

Adam Walker stops by PQBeat podcast studio to discuss politics and more

Firefighters try to put out a structure fire on the Island Highway in Nanoose Bay early Saturday morning. (Nanoose Bay Volunteer Fire Department photo)
Horses in nearby stable saved as building burns down in Nanoose Bay

Firefighters called out in the early-morning hours Saturday

Nanaimo RCMP sought help in locating Jada Charlie-Carlson, 17. (Nanaimo RCMP photo)
UPDATE: Nanaimo RCMP say 17-year-old girl who was missing has been found safe

Police sought help in locating teen who hadn’t seen her family members for a month

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Phillip Tallio was just 17 when he was convicted of murder in 1983 (file photo)
Miscarriage of justice before B.C. teen’s 1983 guilty plea in girl’s murder: lawyer

Tallio was 17 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his 22-month-old cousin

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Brenda Schroeder thought she was reading it wrong when she won $100,000 from a Season’s Greetings Scratch & Win. (Courtesy BCLC)
New home on the agenda after scratch ticket win in Saanich

Victoria woman set to share her $100,000 Season’s Greetings lottery win

7-year-old Mackenzie Hodge from Penticton sent a hand-written letter to premiere John Horgan asking if she’d be able to see her elf, Ralph under the new coronavirus restrictions. (John Horgan / Twitter)
Elf on the shelf an acceptable house guest, B.C. premier tells Penticton girl

A 7-year-old from Penticton penned a letter asking if she’d be allowed to see her elf this year

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

Most Read