The woman reported missing last week by the North Vancouver RCMP has been found dead in her own apartment and the province’s police watchdog is now investigating.
According to the Independent Investigations Office of B.C., the police carried out a welfare check on Sept. 3 at the home of Elizabeth Joanna Napierala, in the Woodcroft apartment complex on Fullerton Avenue.
Police issued a news release the next day, asking the public to keep an eye out for the 45-year-old woman. At the time, they stated she suffered from medical conditions that leave her vulnerable to being outside and losing her balance.
North Shore Rescue was called in to help, deploying field teams and a helicopter equipped with an infrared camera to search the nearby wooded areas.
Despite the search going on outside, Napierala was found dead during the afternoon of Sept. 5 in her apartment, where the missing person case was initiated.
In an interview, IIO chief civilian director Ron MacDonald said his team has confirmed that a North Van member did enter Napierala’s apartment two days earlier, but could not say what was found there.
“The details of what was done in that check are obviously important facts that we are attempting to determine as part of our investigation into whether the actions of police in this case were done appropriately and reasonably in the circumstances,” he said.
MacDonald could not say where in her home Napierala was found, how she died or when.
“Those are facts that we will disclose once we’ve gathered everything and are able to reach our conclusions,” he said.
The common law in Canada places a duty on police, in general, to protect life, MacDonald said. The investigation will determine “what role, if any, the officers’ actions or inaction may have played into the death.”
MacDonald emphasized there has been no allegation of wrongdoing by police but because it involved a death, the IIO has statutory duty to conduct its own probe and report back to the public. That is likely to take several weeks, he added.
North Vancouver RCMP has declined to comment while the investigation is in the IIO’s hands.
“In order to maintain the integrity of their process it's important that we support them being the lone voice until their investigation is complete. We want to help ensure their investigation proceeds without our interfering in any way,” said Sgt. Peter DeVries, North Vancouver RCMP spokesman.