Report by 'W5' raises new allegations of officer misconduct in Kelowna homicide investigation

New allegations in report

New allegations have surfaced against a former senior Kelowna RCMP officer related to the detachment’s handling of a murder case that was later stayed by prosecutors with little explanation.

CTV’s national investigative program, W5, aired a film on the death of Arlene Westervelt on Saturday.

The 56-year-old Lake Country nurse drowned in Okanagan Lake in 2016. Her husband, Bert Westervelt, was charged with second-degree murder in 2019 but those charges were stayed by prosecutors last year after the Crown received "new information" that greatly reduced the likelihood of conviction.

Shelley Westervelt, Arlene’s sister in law, told W5 in the documentary that Bert enlisted the help of a senior RCMP officer and family friend, Brian Gately, to help him access Arlene’s locked phone after her death.

Bert had said he wanted access to the phone to retrieve photos of Arlene for her memorial. Shelley, at the time, still believed Arlene’s death was accidental, as police initially said.

Shelley told W5 she witnessed Bert hand Brian Gately the cellphone, and weeks later, he would get it back from another man.

Any ensuing RCMP code of conduct investigation into Gately, which W5 reports started nine months after the allegations first surfaced, likely ended when he left the force. Gately is now a sergeant with BC’s organized crime agency. The allegations involving him have not been proven in court.

The W5 investigation also revealed that Arlene Westervelt had visited a divorce lawyer prior to her death.

Arlene’s family is pushing prosecutors to pick the case back up and for the Minister of Justice to get involved. The Crown has 12 months to resume a prosecution after charges have been stayed and the clock is ticking.

Bert Westervelt told W5 in a statement that the charges were stayed because the drowning was a "very unfortunate tragedy" and he did not commit a crime. CTV also interviewed three of Bert’s family members who said the same thing — that his original arrest was wrongful.

RCMP, meanwhile, told W5 the charges against Bert were not stayed due to any officer misconduct.

The full film, Death on the Lake, can be viewed above or here.

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