Coroner charged for inappropriate touching of victims
Two murdered British Columbia women who were likely victims of the Vancouver area's bloody gang war allegedly suffered violations after their deaths by the professional tasked with examining their bodies.
RCMP announced charges against a former coroner Thursday, saying a lengthy investigation found the women's bodies may have been subject to "disturbing" acts while being handled at the suburban Vancouver crime scenes shortly after they died.
Police say the evidence points to a "pattern of questionable and possibly criminal behaviour" by Kenneth Mattinson in his examination of the two separate homicides on Feb. 3 and Mar. 14, 2009.
Mounties refuse to explain details of the allegations against the 61-year-old Chilliwack man, other than to say the crimes are related to "the manipulation of the bodies."
"It would be, I think, classified as disturbing to anyone," said Sgt. Peter Thiessen of the charges laid on Wednesday.
The identities of the victims won't be released out of respect for their families, he said.
"They (the families) were disappointed, upset, shocked, when provided some of the details around what these allegations are and what these charges mean," he said.
B.C. Chief Coroner Diane Rothon said she too was unsettled when the allegations came to light.
"I take it very seriously," she said. "But these allegations don't, in my view, reflect on the integrity of the coroners service. We have very highly prescriptive policies and procedures."
She said the allegations relate to "deviation" from those procedures, so she doesn't expect any changes to be made to the service's protocol.
"None of the charges stem from a procedure of ours that was followed, so there are no policies or procedures that suggest the type of actions or behaviours that are the subject of these allegations."
Police launched their investigation into the former coroner in March 2009, when an officer at a homicide in Langley allegedly observed inappropriate conduct during the examination of the victim's body.
Thiessen said that prompted RCMP to look into other work by the man, adding an incident at a Coquitlam homicide six weeks earlier to their investigation.
"At this point we only have evidence to support these two cases," he said.
Police would give few details about the alleged victims, but RCMP news releases from the time show that on Feb. 3, 2009 police investigated the shooting death of a woman in her early 20s who was found slumped over the wheel in a car in Coquitlam. She had been part-way through serving a drug trafficking sentence at the time.
Then on Mar. 14, 2009, police found the body of a 36-year-old woman dead in a Langley street after neighbours heard the sound of gun shots. Police said at the time they said she was known to be involved in the street-level drug trade.
Charges have been laid in the Langley homicide, but the Coquitlam investigation is still ongoing, Thiessen said.
"At this point we haven't got any reason to believe it's (the new charges) going to impact any potential court case, but then again, that would be for the courts to determine once these circumstances are brought forward."
Police have charged Mattinson with two counts of offering an indignity to human remains and two counts of breach of trust. He is due to appear in provincial court in Surrey on Oct. 21.
Mattinson, who started working for the coroners service in September 2004 and continued with a pre-planned retirement shortly after the police probe began last spring.