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‘I’m so sorry’: Inquest hears final words of VPD officer who died by suicide

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
The coroner's inquest into the death by suicide of Vancouver police Const. Nicole Chan heard from a psychologist who sat down with her in 2018. Rumina Daya reports. – Jan 25, 2023

WARNING: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.

A coroner’s inquest into the suicide of a Vancouver police officer heard testimony from her boyfriend about her frantic final hours on Wednesday.

Day three of hearings into the death of Const. Nicole Chan also heard from a psychologist, who spoke with her about her troubled relationships with two senior Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officers, and testified about her state of mind during an investigation into her complaints about them.

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In emotional testimony, Chan’s boyfriend Jamie Gifford told the coroner’s court in Burnaby that he’d attended the couple’s Vancouver apartment on Jan. 27, 2019 to check on Chan.

The inquest has previously heard how she was taken to hospital amid a mental health crisis the day before, but discharged and escorted home by Vancouver police officers.

Gifford testified he called out to Chan but got no answer.

Click to play video: 'Public inquest hears words of VPD constable who took her own life'
Public inquest hears words of VPD constable who took her own life

He then found a note on the counter, that said to give her dog Ollie to her sister Jenn, he said.

“Please take care of him. I love him. I love you Jenn. I’m so sorry. There’s nothing anyone could have done,” the note read.

The inquest then heard that Gifford noticed something tied to the bedroom door. When he opened it, he said he found Chan’s body.

The night before, he testified, she had been frantic about the ongoing probe into the complaints she’d made about Sgt. Dave Van Patten and Sgt. Greg McCullough alleging inappropriate relationships.

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Chan was put on stress leave in 2017 after coming forward with the allegations. She felt it was unfair they got to keep their jobs, while she had been placed on leave, he said.

He testified that at one point she threw something on the ground, an item she had made with a dog leash to hang herself. Later, he testified, he caught her hiding a knife in the bathtub and a knife or scissors in the bed.

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 coroners’ jury heard how police were called and that Chan was apprehended under the Mental Health Act and taken to hospital, only to be released a few hours and taken home when he was not there.

The inquest also heard from Dr. Susanne Schibler, a psychologist referred by WorkSafeBC. She testified about a session she had with Chan three months before the night she took her life.

Schibler told the inquest that Chan was frustrated and angry that she was off work while the two superior officers she had complained about had not been fired.

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“She (Chan) stated if the investigation of Sgt. Van Patten had a negative outcome for her, she might kill herself to send a message to the VPD,” Schibler testified.

Dr. Schibler further testified Chan felt coerced into having sex with Van Patten, and had disclosed he was threatening to release photos of her genitals which he had obtained under false pretenses from another officer’s phone.

A civil suit filed by Chan’s family alleges an Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner-ordered investigation ultimately recommended criminal charges in Chan’s case, but the BC Prosecution Service did not pursue them.

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A separate OPCC-ordered disciplinary proceeding under the Police Act eventually found Van Patten guilty of three counts of discreditable conduct, noting Chan was under his supervision, that she was dealing with mental health issues, and that he had sought to keep their relationship secret — including from mental health practitioners who were treating her.

McCullough, it found, had entered into a relationship with Chan knowing she was in an emotionally and mentally vulnerable state.

The proceedings ordered Van Patten’s dismissal, while McCullough was given a 15-day suspension and later resigned.

Neither of the former officers is scheduled 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.

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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