Family seeks answers over man's in-custody death

The family of Billy Ballantyne is anxious to know more about how the man died while in police custody in Prince Albert, just hours after being arrested at the local hospital.

Man taken into custody at Victoria Hospital as he waited for medical treatment

Family of Billy Ballantyne anxious to know more about his death while in custody in Prince Albert, Ryan Pilon reports. 2:11

The family of Billy Ballantyne, 44, is anxious to know more about how the man died while in police custody in Prince Albert, just hours after being arrested at the local hospital.

"I want to know what happened," Cynthia Ballantyne, the man's wife, told CBC News Tuesday. "It's going to bother me for a while."

According to police, Ballantyne was taken into custody around 6:35 a.m. Thursday morning when security at the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert complained about some sort of disturbance.

Barely two hours later, police noticed the man was having trouble breathing in his jail cell. An ambulance was called and Ballantyne was taken back to hospital where he died a short time later.

Police said they picked up a man after receiving a complaint from security at Victoria Hospital. While he was in custody he suffered some sort of medical distress and was taken back to hospital where he died. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

"I can't understand why they took him to the cells," his wife said. "They should have just kept him and tried to work with him."

According to family, Ballantyne — who is from Canoe Lake — was visiting family on the Little Red River First Nation and was not well in the days before he died.

They said he had AIDS and tuberculosis and in the days leading up to last Thursday was in pain, incoherent and only wanted to sleep.

Mabel Ballantyne, the man's sister, told CBC News that she finally called for an ambulance around 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, as it was clear to her that her brother needed medical attention.

"He was staggering and they thought he was drunk," she recalled. "And I said, 'No, he's delirious, like he's not all there.'"

Billy Ballantyne's wife Cynthia and children Lawrence, Jade, and Ashton. (Ryan Pilon/CBC)

Ballantyne was taken to hospital in Prince Albert and the next time family heard about him was in a phone call from police informing them that he had died.

The family claims they were not told that he had been arrested while at the hospital.

They also claim his body had bruises and marks that were not there when he went to the hospital.

Family members added that, as of Tuesday, no police officers nor anyone from the health region had been in contact with them since Ballantyne's death.

"When nobody wants to tell you what happened between that time, it's just a big void," Mabel Ballantyne said. "It's just blank there. We don't know what's going on."

Police have said the man was not facing criminal charges, despite being arrested.

The Ballantynes had been married for seven years and had three children: 7-year-old twins — a boy and a girl — and a 5-year-old boy.

"He cared about everybody," his wife said. "He liked to help out people. He was a caring and loving father."


With files from CBC's Ryan Pilon