The death of Holly Bartlett, the blind woman who police say died after falling near the A. Murray MacKay Bridge path four years ago, will undergo an independent police operational review.
The Halifax police and the Halifax District RCMP made the announcement on Monday.
“We wanted to be able to see was there anything in particular that we might have missed out or is there anything that could have been overlooked. And so the whole idea is to be able to confirm the work of our investigators and look for recommendations to be able to improve our investigative technique in the future,” said Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais.
“We found it to be such a unique situation, coupled with the concerns of the family that we felt it would be worthwhile of us having an operational review into the investigation."
Police said Bartlett, 31, was found unconscious under the bridge in the early hours of March 27, 2010. She later died in hospital.
Police believe she became disoriented after getting out of a taxi and falling off a concrete abutment.
Halifax police are handing the investigation over to the Service de police de la Ville de Québec. Blais said Quebec was chosen partly because they're the closest force with a major crimes unit, but also because the city, like Halifax, has two large bridge structures.
"We hope that this operational review will provide Ms. Bartlett’s family with some sense of closure,” said Insp. Trish MacCormack. "We anticipate the review will make us better police services. This is the right thing to do.”
Police not reopening investigation
Blais clarified that this was not a reopening of the investigation into Bartlett's death.
“The family had some concerns with regards to some of the canvassing that was done, to the physical search of the location that was done, and they had some other concerns with regards to the findings and especially with regards to the investigative hypothesis based on the information that was available,” he said.
“One thing’s for certain, anytime we have investigation, there’s a lot of information that police do not have. We have to distinguish between what is information and what is evidence. As you can well appreciate, we as police officers have to bring information towards a court of law. The thresholds are completely different than a private investigator or an individual who just provides information."
Blais said police are satisfied there was nothing suspicious about Bartlett's death.
“It is our hope, at least, that we’re going to provide a bit more certainty to the family but I don't expect this to answer absolutely all of the questions that they have,” he said.
“This is such a unique and unusual occurrence that we wanted to be able take the time to be able to do this operational review.”
Marion Brushett Bartlett, Bartlett's mother, said she is still digesting the news.
"To say we're surprised would be an understatement," she said, describing her reaction as "shocked and overwhelmed."
Bartlett said she hopes the review brings closure to what happened to her daughter.
The review is expected to take two months.