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6 years later: Public inquest into death of woman scheduled for Kelowna

Heather Louise Cote died in 2017, while in custody of Merritt police

Six years after a woman died while in custody, a jury in Kelowna courts will hear the results of a lengthy public inquest conducted by the BC Coroners Service in order to determine the cause of death and help prevent similar incidents.

An inquest into the death of Heather Louise Cote, 60, will take place on Sept. 18, at the Kelowna Law Courts.

Cote’s death was was reported to the BC Coroners Service by the Merritt RCMP on Aug. 26, 2017. Details surrounding her death will be uncovered during the inquest.

While the incident occurred in or near Merritt, the inquest will be held in Kelowna courts due to availability.

Inquests are mandatory for any deaths that occur while a person was detained by or in the custody of a peace officer.

The process is used to determine the facts related to a death, including the identity of the deceased and how, when, where and by what means the individual came to their death, as well as a classification for the death. The jury will also be asked to make recommendations, where appropriate, to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.

Coroners inquests are also used to ensure that deaths are not overlooked, concealed or ignored.

During the proceedings, Susan Barth, presiding coroner, and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses to determine the facts surrounding this death. The jury will then deliberate and will have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances. However, the jury must not make any finding of legal responsibility or express any conclusion of law.

For more information on public inquests visit the Government of BC’s website at

READ MORE: Kelowna Court hears that man died by overdose while in custody


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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