Coroner makes recommendations following murder-suicide

Cathy Menard, the territory's chief coroner.
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The territory’s chief coroner has issued a number of recommendations following an apparent murder-suicide in Lutselk’e two years ago.

On Feb. 10 of 2015, a married couple was found dead in their bedroom. Both of them had died of gunshot wounds.

An investigation by Cathy Menard’s office found that the couple had been together for many years and that they’d had a violent relationship together.

On the morning of their deaths, the two had been drinking with friends. They later attended the woman’s parent’s place where witnesses say they started arguing.

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The couple then returned home where they continued drinking.

At approximately 5:00 p.m., a family friend left the couple’s home to go to the store. The friend returned two hours later to find both of them dead in the bedroom with a .303 British Lee-Enfield lying nearby.

Following an investigation, Menard determined that the woman fatally shot her husband in the chest before killing herself with a gunshot to the head and heck region.

Coroner issues a series of recommendations

“The issue of domestic violence continues to be a concern for the NWT,” Menard said in a report issued this week. “Domestic violence deaths almost never occur without warning.

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“In most cases, there have been repeated incidents of violence and indicators of risk as well as opportunities for agencies and individuals to intervene before the incident that ultimately results in death.”

Menard says a number of risk factors for intimate partner violence were identified, including unemployment, excessive alcohol use, prior assault with a weapon and possession of a firearm.

She’s issued the following recommendations to three different agencies:

RCMP

  • Consider using a gender-neutral risk assessment tool to improve their response to domestic violence calls
  • Continue to provide ongoing training to police in the dynamics of domestic violence and signs of a potential incident

Department of Health

  • Continue to support a long-term public awareness program on domestic violence and make it available in every NWT community
  • Continue to support efforts to coordinate a community response to family violence. Victims, children in their care and perpetrators all require a continuum of services

The Canadian Rangers

  • Undertake a full review of the program since the rifle that was used to kill both individuals was issued by the Rangers. The male victim was still in possession of the rifle even though he had a criminal record which included a firearms prohibition order. But since the Rangers program doesn’t conduct routine criminal records checks, it was unaware of his accumulating criminal record
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