British Columbia

Charges stayed against B.C. man accused of killing his wife of nearly 30 years

The B.C. Prosecution Service has stayed charges against a Lake Country, B.C., man accused of the second degree murder of his wife of 30 years.

Bert Westervelt maintained his innocence after his wife drowned while they were canoeing on Okanagan Lake

Arlene Westervelt, 56, died on June 26, 2016. (Brady Strachan/CBC News)

The B.C. Prosecution Service has stayed charges against a Lake Country, B.C., man accused of killing his wife of 30 years.

In 2016, 56-year-old Arlene Westervelt died when she was canoeing on Okanagan Lake with her husband Lambertus (Bert) Westervelt.

The RCMP initially considered her death an accidental drowning, but in 2019 they arrested Westervelt, 64, and charged him with one count of second degree murder.

A preliminary hearing was set to begin this week when the Crown announced it was staying the charge in the case.

Spokesperson Alicia Adams wrote in an email to CBC News, the decision was made after Crown lawyers received new information in the case.

"Crown counsel received new information which, considered in light of all the available evidence, led to the conclusion that our charge assessment standard was no longer met," she said.

Westervelt maintained his innocence for the 15 months he faced the criminal charge.

'100% belief that he had done nothing wrong'

Neighbour Paula Diakiw, who has supported Westervelt since he was arrested, said she was "elated" when she learned the charges had been dropped.

"I had absolutely a 100 per cent belief that he had done nothing and would never do anything to his beautiful soulmate and best friend," she said.

Diakiw said being charged with his wife's murder had taken an incredible toll on Westervelt over the past year.

"I just saw this just age Bert in a really dramatic fashion," she said. "It played with his mind terribly, it ruined his business and it hurt his family terribly."

Diakiw said she also knew Arlene for 14 years and she and others in Lake Country are still mourning her loss.

"She was just a bright, bright, happy public health nurse," she said. "She was bubbly and very physically fit and had a great selection of friends."