Coquitlam police seek witnesses to fatal stabbing

Fatal stabbing in Coquitlam

RCMP in Coquitlam are investigating a fatal stabbing in the city.

They say in a release that the female victim was located Thursday around 4:30 p.m. in an underground parkade in the 1100 block of Austin Avenue.

Police say she was rushed to hospital for treatment of stab wounds but was pronounced dead a short time later.

The victim's name was not immediately released.

The RCMP's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team is handling the case.

Detectives are looking to speak with anyone who was in the area on Thursday afternoon and has dash-cam footage that could aid in their investigation.


Richmond death scene an isolated incident, police say

Deaths 'isolated', say police

Police say two men and two women who were found dead at a home after a shooting in Richmond were from the same family.

Sgt. David Lee of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said the identities of the four people aren't being released until their family members have been notified.

"This is a tragic loss of life, but we are able to confirm the community is not at risk," Lee said Thursday. "Based on evidence collected at the scene and other information available to us, we’re able to confirm that all persons involved in, and responsible for the homicide, were located at the scene.

"There are no suspects at large and (we are) not looking for any additional persons."

He said investigators have confirmed that the shooting was an isolated incident and the deaths are not a result of partner violence.

Lee said one of the deceased had a valid firearms licence and access to guns. The family members had no known associations to criminal activities, he said.

The two men and two women were found in the home Tuesday, although police say they have confirmed the shootings happened on Monday evening.

"There was a call to British Columbia RCMP for a suspicious occurrence at the house (on Tuesday) and the police responded to check on the family right away," Lee said when asked about the delay.

He said a search warrant was executed Thursday that allowed officers to continue their investigation at the scene with the help of the BC Coroners Service and the Integrated Forensic Identification Section.

A timeline of events is being constructed and a motive has not yet been determined, police said.

Investigators are still interviewing witnesses and are asking that anyone who was in the area on Jan. 24 or has information to contact the homicide team.

Data from thousands of cameras confirms protected areas promote mammal diversity

Saving habitat saves lives

A new study from the University of British Columbia shows how protected areas have been effective at conserving wildlife across the planet.

UBC researchers in the faculty of forestry analyzed data from 8,671 camera trap stations from 23 countries and found more mammal diversity in habitat with a protected designation, compared to those with none.

“This is not shocking news in itself, but it is exciting evidence of the critical role that parks and nature reserves play in wildlife conservation,” says Dr. Cole Burton, the study’s senior author and a conservation biologist who researches mammal populations and human-wildlife coexistence.

“As international discussions continue on new global targets for expanding protected areas, it’s important to be able to measure the benefits of the protections that do currently exist.”

Protected areas are the final strongholds of many endangered mammals, which according to Burton, are difficult to protect because of the large areas they require, which tends to put them in conflict with people.

“If we want to keep larger mammals around, along with the critical roles they play in ecosystems, we need to continue focusing on the growth of the protected area network,” said Burton. “In fact, under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the world is currently discussing new targets for how much of the earth’s surface should be covered by parks. We need to have better information to inform these policy discussions. Hopefully this study helps fill the gaps in our knowledge.”

The study analyzed for the presence of a wide range of mammal species, from caribou in Canada to leopard cats in China.


Snow sculpture of Ogopogo becomes a showstopper in Quesnel

Snowgopogo draws crowds

There has been another Ogopogo sighting in British Columbia.

The legendary lake monster can be seen, in of all places Quesnel B.C., roughly six and half hours north of Kelowna.

You'll find the 'Snowgopogo' on Vaughan St. in Quesnel and its creator Vanessa Hildreth tells Castanet she's been creating the sculpture for the past 10 years.

"I'm getting better, each year is a little bit better."

Hildreth says she has always been a fan of Okanagan Lake's Ogopogo. When she was 15 years old, she spotted an Ogopogo created out of plants at Disneyland and vowed to one day make her own version out of snow.

"I start at the tail and work my way towards the head."

But the real reason she started, was she won't smoke inside her home so instead of just standing there puffing she decided to get creative.

"I have to be outside, I have to be doing something, it's creative and the neighbours really seem to like it."

Especially during the global pandemic, "it seems like a time when people seem to need a feel-good kind of something.

Hildreth says it takes her about a week to finish the snow sculpture and she has added battery-powered eyes for an extra thrill.

"A couple of guys in the apartment building across the street are from Kelowna and they're always like 'yay', every time I see them."

The hard part comes when it starts to melt in the spring but until then Hildreth is happy to be spreading some cheer.

"Every time I look out the window there's a steady stream of people on the street taking pictures."

B.C. government extends wolf cull despite nearly 60% opposition

BC extends wolf cull

The B.C. government has extended its controversial wolf cull program for another five years, despite opposition from many scientists and the public.

The extension of the aerial wolf reduction program, which impacts 12 of the province's 54 herds and is meant to help threatened caribou populations recover across the province, was confirmed to Glacier Media by a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Thursday afternoon.

"The science indicates that reducing wolf densities in caribou areas is one of few short-term options that will effectively reduce declining caribou populations to prevent their extirpation," wrote the ministry spokesperson.

"Having already lost multiple herds in the Southern Group, these measures allow us to prevent further losses."

The extension of the wolf cull, which had been up for renewal in 2020, was delayed for two years at the province's request.

Reaction from environmental groups was swift.

"That is not five years being the limit. It's likely that this is going to be decades," said Laurie McConnell, a wolf campaigner with the environmental advocacy group Pacific Wild.

McConnell said she first heard the government would extend the cull hours before in a meeting with several stakeholders, including First Nations, industry representatives and recreational groups.

According to the Ministry of Forests, nearly 1,500 wolves have been killed since the start of 2015, when the program aimed to save B.C.'s woodland caribou began.

A 2019 report from the province found the culls "will have to take place until habitat restoration and protection overcome the legacy of habitat loss."

The province has put forward parallel plans in an attempt to bring back caribou habitat. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Forestry announced it helped fund 14 grants worth over $1.6 million to block predators from reaching caribou and transplant lichen — caribou's preferred food. The money will also be used to plant trees affected by human activity and wildfires.

Pacific Wild conservation advisor Ian McAllister says instead of "scapegoating wolves," the province should move to protect intact old-growth forests for endangered caribou and ensure fossil fuel extraction doesn't further degrade their habitat.

"By safeguarding and restoring caribou habitat, B.C. would be doing its part in mitigating climate change while also protecting the full suite of predator-prey relationships that are being destroyed through short-term greed," he said in a written statement.

But in Thursday's meeting between government and stakeholders, McConnell said staff from the B.C. Caribou Recovery Program indicated deferring industrial or recreational activity in critically threatened caribou habitat was "highly unlikely."

"If we're still taking habitat, no amount of killing wolves will save the caribou," she said.

The cull program comes with a financial cost. According to Pacific Wild, the province spent $2 million in 2019 and 2020 on the program, an average cost of $4,300 per wolf—ultimately leading to the deaths of 463 animals.

The conservation group is locked in a legal battle with the province over the wolf cull. The case was brought forward after B.C. amended the Wildlife Act in January 2021 to allow wolves to be trapped with a net gun from a helicopter. After they are radio-tagged, the collared wolf returns to its pack, revealing the location of the other wolves, which are then shot by helicopter-borne snipers, according to a court petition from Pacific Wild.

Pacific Wild says the case is about the government's power to allow an aircraft for hunting and the legality of permits issued by the province for the cull. The case is still before the courts.

Opposition has come from the public too.

Between September and November 2021, the province surveyed over 15,000 British Columbians asking them what they thought of the predator reduction strategy. The results, released this month, found 59 per cent of respondents opposed culling wolves as a way to protect vulnerable caribou populations.

Most respondents preferred taking action on protecting and restoring caribou habitat or better regulating industry and recreation. One in six respondents said natural resource extraction was the main cause of caribou decline.

Such views have been supported by research from the University of British Columbia, which last fall found the B.C. government is subsidizing oil and gas drilling across a swathe of critical caribou territory it promised to protect.

Other research has suggested culling could be supplemented or replaced with non-lethal solutions, like creating "wolf moguls" or hinging and downing trees across trap lines and gas and oil exploration cutlines — used by the predators to access endangered caribou. Close those corridors off, and you can reduce wolf-caribou encounters by up to 85 per cent, found researchers in a 92-square-kilometre territory outside Fort Nelson, B.C.

"If you can manage the encounters, you can manage the (number of) caribou killed," the lead author of the study, Jonah Keim, told Glacier Media in June.

At the time, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forestry criticized the study as potentially "misleading" and that the non-lethal solutions proposed do "not address the risk that is caused by increased number of wolves on the landscape and the resulting immediate threat to caribou."

"Responses to the survey were reviewed and taken into consideration; however, we must consider multiple inputs including the current science," said a Ministry of Forestry spokesperson in an email to Glacier Media.

According to its recent survey, the province found the most support for its wolf cull outside the southern and western regions of the province, where B.C.'s biggest urban centres are located.

While 98 per cent of respondents felt caribou recovery was important, those living in the largely rural central, northern and fas southeastern parts of the province were more likely to support the wolf cull.

The survey also suggested a person's job affected their views on the predator reduction program.

Respondents in resource extraction and hunters, trappers, and hunting guide outfitters were more likely to support the wolf cull.

Those who hunt and trap for a living were also more likely to say black bears and grizzlies should be added to the predator reduction plan.

Stefan Labbé is a solutions journalist. That means he covers how people are responding to problems linked to climate change — from housing to energy and everything in between. Have a story idea? Get in touch. Email [email protected]

B.C. Crown says documents identified Wednesday could be 'exculpatory' in James case

Corruption trial derailed

A surprise disclosure temporarily delayed proceedings at the B.C. Supreme Court trial of the former clerk of the legislature, who is accused of misspending public dollars.

Crown prosecutor David Butcher told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that he learned of two new sets of documents relevant to the case during an interview Wednesday night with Hilary Woodward, executive financial officer at the legislature.

Butcher acknowledged the documents would come as a surprise to the defence team for Craig James.

He said one set of documents is "potentially, significantly exculpatory," meaning it could be helpful to James's defence.

James has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust by a public officer.

The court adjourned while an RCMP officer interviewed legislature clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd about the documents before the trial resumed with her testimony because neither the Crown nor defence had time to review the interview.

Details of what is in the documents were not disclosed in court.

Defence lawyer Gavin Cameron initially argued against allowing prosecutors to question Ryan-Lloyd directly about the documents, claiming he was "shadow boxing" without knowing how the Crown intended to use the information.

Before agreeing to the RCMP interview, Cameron said entering the documents at this stage was "grossly unfair" after Woodward has been interviewed nine times by RCMP investigators since November 2018.

"We've agreed there's about five or six questions that need to be asked," Butcher said.

Vancouver man faces charges of secret nude recording, publication of images

Man faces voyeurism charge

A Vancouver man is heading to court next month on charges related to allegedly secretly recording four women naked and then publishing those images.

Victor Edward Austin Jr. is charged with four counts of secretly observing and/or recording nudity in a private place, three counts of making available or possessing voyeuristic recordings and eight counts of publication of an intimate image without consent.

All events are alleged to have occurred in Vancouver.

Court documents say Austin allegedly observed or recorded H.H. in a place where they could expect to be nude or engaged in sexual activity between Sept. 1, 2018, and March 1, 2019.

Documents alleged that, from Jan. 1-12, 2021, the man observed or recorded J.H. in a place where they could expect to be nude or engaged in sexual activity.

It is also alleged that between May 1-31, 2020, Austin observed or recorded J.R. in a place where they could expect to be nude or engaged in sexual activity.

And in incidents involving a fourth individual, Austin is alleged to have observed or recorded K.B. from May 17, 2020, to Nov. 30, 2020, in similar circumstances.

Austin is said to have unlawfully printed, distributed, circulated, sold, advertised or made available the images in eight periods in 2019, 2020 and 2021, all while knowing the persons depicted had not consented, according to allegations laid out in court documents.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Austin is scheduled to return to court on Feb. 17.

COVID-positive hospitalizations increased by 3% in B.C.

2,033 new cases, 13 deaths

COVID hospitalizations increased by 3 per cent Thursday.

The province is reporting 2,033 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours, bringing the province's active cases to 29,556. Of these cases, 977 people are now hospitalized, an increase of 28 since Wednesday. Of these, 141 people are now being treated in intensive care, a drop of three.

Active cases in the province continued to drop, by 502 since Wednesday.

Of Thursday's new cases, 539 came from the Interior. There are now 7,669 active cases in the region.

Another 13 new COVID deaths have been reported throughout B.C. in the past 24 hours, including one in the Interior, seven in Fraser Health, four in Vancouver Coastal Health and one in Island Health. To date, 2,575 British Columbians have died after contracting COVID-19.

The new/active cases include:

  • 685 new cases in Fraser Health — Total active cases: 12,351
  • 378 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health — Total active cases: 6,614
  • 539 new cases in Interior Health — Total active cases: 7,669
  • 165 new cases in Northern Health — Total active cases: 1,147
  • 266 new cases in Island Health — Total active cases: 1,768

There have been two new healthcare facility outbreaks in B.C., but the outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital has been declared over. There are now 62 ongoing outbreaks at healthcare facilities across the province.

In the past 24 hours, 44,545 doses of the vaccine were administered in B.C. As of Thursday, 89.7% of eligible people five and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 83.7% have received their second dose. To date, 43% of all eligible people 12 and older have received their third booster dose.

The province says due to a “delayed refresh in data,” updates on cases and hospitalizations by vaccination status are unavailable Thursday.

RCMP station in Surrey, B.C., evacuated after grenade turned in

Grenade scare at cop shop

The Mounties called in explosive experts after a person walked into one of their offices in Surrey, B.C., with a grenade on Thursday.

The RCMP say someone went to their Guildford office to hand over the device, saying it was found at a nearby park.

The office and surrounding area had to be evacuated because it was unclear if the grenade was still functioning.

Streets around the detachment were also closed as a precaution.

Const. Sarbjit Sangha says in a news release that anyone who finds a suspicious device or possible explosive should call police.

Sangha says no one should handle a potential explosive, instead they should keep their distance and then call 911.

Engine fire on board B.C. school boat off Vancouver Island; students, crew safe

School boat catches fire

Students and crew aboard a marine school bus have been safely rescued after an engine fire on the vessel used to ferry children to school in B.C.'s southern Gulf Islands.

A spokesman with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria says crew members on board the vessel were able to put out the fire Thursday morning.

The vessel had been taking students and staff from surrounding Gulf Islands to the high school on Salt Spring Island.

The rescue centre spokesman says there were 33 people on board, and all passengers except one crew member were safely transferred to another vessel.

The vessel has since been towed to Sidney nearby for repairs.

The rescue co-ordination centre says several vessels in the area responded to the incident, including a fast-response rescue boat launched by the BC Ferries Coastal Renaissance vessel, but that was called off before it reached the scene.

Four adult members of the same family shot to death inside Richmond home

4 dead were same family

Homicide investigators confirmed on Thursday that the four people found shot to death inside a Richmond home were all members of the same family.

Police also stated that the bodies found in the duplex on Tuesday night on Garden City Road, just north of Walmart, were that of two men and two women.

IHIT investigators, however, have not confirmed their relationships to each other, but they did say that everyone involved in the incident was found at the scene.

As such, police said they are not looking for any suspects and there's no risk to the general public.

It is understood from police that someone living in the house held a firearm license.

Police said earlier this week that they believe the shooting actually took place at around 7 p.m. on Monday.

IHIT was called in late Tuesday night to investigate what police earlier described as a “serious incident” in the 4500 block of Garden City Road, between Odlin and Alexandra roads, just north of Walmart.

“It is a traumatic incident the community is waking up to,” said Sgt. David Lee of IHIT. on Wednesday.

"Our investigators are scouring the area looking for information as this event unfolds. We hope to provide the community with answers soon.”

The road in the area was closed off and police tape could be seen wrapped around the perimeter of the old-style duplex.

Jake Virtanen charged with sex assault following VPD investigation

Jake Virtanen charged

The Vancouver Police Department announced Thursday that Jake Virtanen has been charged with sexual assault following an investigation.

The BC Prosecution Service approved one count of sexual assault against 25-year-old Virtanen, in relation to an incident that occurred in Vancouver on Sept. 26, 2017, when Virtanen was playing in the National Hockey League for the Canucks.

The VPD launched an investigation in May 2021, after the now-23-year-old victim came forward to police.

Virtanen was placed on leave by the Canucks in April after the sexual misconduct allegation came out online.

A woman filed a civil lawsuit against Virtanen in May, as well as a report to the Vancouver Police Department.

The suit alleges “the actions of Virtanen were reckless, arrogant, high-handed, abusive and show a callous disregard for the wishes of the plaintiff.”

Virtanen responded to the civil suit in June alleging the two engaged in consensual sexual intercourse.

The former Vancouver Canuck signed with KHL’s Spartak Moscow in September 2021.

Police say Virtanen is not currently in custody.

With files from Vancouver is Awesome

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