It’s been more than five years since Arlene Westervelt died while canoeing with her husband in Lake Country, but the story surrounding her death continues to unfold.
Former RCMP officer Brian Gateley has now filed a response to the lawsuit launched against him by Arlene’s family.
In the days after Arlene’s body was pulled from Okanagan Lake, Gateley took her cellphone and had another officer crack it using RCMP resources.
Gateley said that Bert had told him he wanted the pictures from his last day with Arlene.
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The two men say their wives worked together and they knew each other as casual acquaintances, although Arlene’s family believes they were good friends.
According to court documents, the phone was hacked and returned to Bert before a murder investigation against him had been launched.
The civil response filed by the government says that four days after Arlene’s death, Gateley called Sgt. Craig Andrichuk, who was an investigator on the case and is also named in the lawsuit.
Gateley allegedly told Andrichuk that he’d been friends with the couple for years and had never seen any evidence of violence or abuse between them.
The government’s civil response also claims Andrichuk told Gateley that RCMP had no reason to seize Arlene’s cellphone because at that point it was still a non-criminal investigation.
“Supt. Gateley directed one of his subordinates to unlock Arlene’s cell phone using a program called Cellebrite,” the government’s response reads.
“As part of the unlocking process, Cellebrite also examined the cell phone and created a copy of the cell phone’s contents, which the subordinate retained in compliance with RCMP policy for Cellebrite usage.”
In February 2019, an internal RCMP conduct investigation found that Gateley engaged in a potential conflict of interest and misused RCMP IT equipment, according to the government’s civil response.
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But Gateley disputes that.
In court documents filed this week, he says there was only a “perception” of a conflict of interest.
He also claims the police force found that unlocking the phone was an isolated case which did not result in personal gain, so no sanctions were imposed against him.
“In fact, Supt. Gateley was the catalyst for the RCMP learning that Bert had been untruthful during his initial interview with the RCMP,” Gateley’s civil response reads.
In court documents, the former Mountie denies trying to influence the investigation into Arlene’s death or having a personal interest in the outcome of it.
He resigned from the police force in March 2019.
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A month later, Bert Westervelt was charged with Arlene’s second-degree murder, nearly three years after her death.
Bert has always maintained his innocence, and the allegation against him has never been proven. The charge was stayed two months before it was supposed to head to a preliminary inquiry.
In his civil response, Gateley claims the stay on the murder charge has nothing to do with his actions.
Shortly after resigning from RCMP, he picked up a new job in policing with B.C.’s anti-gang agency.
The same officer who signed his conduct investigation letter was also the assistant commissioner at the anti-gang agency at the time.
In the civil suit, Arlene’s family alleges the former Mountie tried to shut down the investigation into her death. They’re seeking damages.
Gateley denies the allegations, and claims the family has not suffered any losses because of his actions.
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