Pathologist testifies at Patricia Hennessey, Nash Campbell inquest — (CBC News)

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CBC News

Posted: Mar 09, 2015 7:03 AM ATLast Updated: Mar 09, 2015 4:27 PM AT

The inquest into the deaths of Patricia Hennessey and her four-year-old son Nash Campbell, that began Monday in a Summerside courtroom, heard from the medical examiner who performed autopsies on their bodies.

The bodies of Hennessey and her son were found in a burned-out Jeep on June 21, 2013 in St. Felix, just outside Tignish, P.E.I.

After a police investigation the deaths were ruled a murder-suicide. That investigation showed that both had prescription drugs in their systems when they died of smoke inhalation.

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Dr. Matthew Bowes, chief medical examiner for Nova Scotia, said, during the inquest Monday, it is his conclusion that Hennessey started the fire and she committed suicide.

Both Campbell and Hennessey were sedated and both died of smoke inhalation, said Bowes.

Bowes said he believes it was a murder-suicide.

The bodies were badly burned, which made identification difficult, he said.

Hennessey’s body was identified through dental records and a tattoo on her arm that read, “Nash,” said Bowes. The boy was identified through a DNA match with his mother.

He told the inquest that soot in Hennessey’s airways confirmed she was alive while the fire was going and also that she died from smoke inhalation.

Bowes said he believes the medications Campbell had in his system were given in “an attempt to sedate him.”

Loud bangs

Earlier Monday, the inquest heard from several witnesses who saw the Jeep on fire.

A few people living close by came out of their houses around 1 a.m. to find out what was going on.

They heard loud bangs, which were later identified by other witnesses as the Jeep tires popping, and saw what they described as a big ball of fire.

At first, the individuals, the firefighters and police who were called in, thought it might be a bonfire connected to a High School graduation night.

One firefighter said it was a hard blaze to extinguish, with lots of hot spots. They had to call in extra firefighters.

After firefighters brought the fire under control, an RCMP officer told the inquest he looked inside the vehicle and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

At first he thought it was a teddy bear. But then he realized it was the body of a small child, with a body of an adult as well.

RCMP Cpl. Scott Stephenson, who supervised photographing and removal of the remains, said he believes the fire started at the front of the Jeep and worked its way back.

Stephenson also said the bodies of Campbell & Hennessey were found lying side by side in back of the vehicle.

RCMP officer Const. Thane MacEachern said police investigated the possibility of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler catching fire through spontaneous combustion, as Hennessey had put 24,000 kilometres on the vehicle in just three months. However, MacEachern found no history of spontaneous combustion in that type of vehicle.

No publication ban

On Monday morning, Prince County coroner Dr. Roy Montgomery, who is heading the inquest, ruled there would not be a publication ban at the inquest.

On hearing evidence at the inquest in Summerside, P.E.I., Montgomery said he was “not satisfied it would be appropriate to order a ban in this case.”

Mary Lynn Kane, who represents several provincial government employees, and Jim Gormley, who represents Dr. Susan Stewart, a psychiatric witness, noted the Coroner’s Act allows for a publication ban when a death is by suicide.

Both lawyers also argued some of the information witnesses are being asked to provide is protected under privacy legislation. They said a publication ban would not be forever, but would put a “freeze” on information that could be made public later.

Alan Parish, representing the CBC and the Charlottetown Guardian, countered that there is great public interest in this case.

“I think the public will be quite disappointed if you ban all publication,” said Parish.

He said a publication ban is discretionary, not mandatory. He noted only one of the two deaths was suicide.

After recessing for half an hour to consider the arguments Montgomery ruled against granting the publication ban. He said courts are based on the open process, and he agreed that there is great public interest in the case.

Lost custody of son

Sources told CBC News that Hennessey had lost custody of her son the day before. She was supposed to turn over the boy to his father that morning.

The inquest is slated to last until Thursday, then adjourn until March 30 to hear from a witness who is unavailable this week.

A panel of six jurors will hear evidence from a number of witnesses.


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Patricia Hennessey, Nash Campbell coroner’s inquest, day 2 — (CBC News)

8:26 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

There’s delay to start of day 2 of Hennessey/Campbell inquest as one of jurors hasn’t shown up. Sheriff is trying to locate. #pei

Inquest in recess til 10, if they can’t find missing juror they’ll proceed with 5 of the 6. Summerside #pei

Sixth juror has arrived. Inquest now set to begin #pei. First witness up is Dr. Susan Stewart

Dr. Stewart is psychiatrist; will provide over-view of Trish Hennessey’s history.

9:04 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Psychiatrist took over Hennessey’s care after suicide attempt in May 2011; arranged adm to Homewood Health cente in Ont

Dr Stewart saw Hennessey after discharged from Homewood on several psych medications for depression, anxiety.

Stewart says in months that followed, Hennessey denied further suicidal thoughts or drinking #pei

9:20 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Stewart says Hennessey told her she felt bullied at work; on switchboard at QEH;

Stewart says due to patient confidentiality she couldn’t share details on Hennessey health with other agencies.

Stewart says Hennessey was concerned about her son, with-holding Nash from visits with his father; worried he was trying to get full custody

Stewart tells inquest, Hennessey got warning at work, & coworkers had complained worry over physical retaliation from her.

9:27 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Stewart says in Feb 2013 Hennessey was “consumed by the custody issue” sleeping 3-4 hours a night and stressed #pei

Stewart last saw Hennessey on May 11 a month before she died. She denied suicidal thoughts.

Stewart says she gave Hennessey several weeks of prescriptions to reduce dispensing fees; says Hennessey having money probs #pei

Stewart says she’s not toxicologist but doesn’t believe levels of 3 drugs in Hennessey’s system when she died would cause fatal OD

9:38 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Stewart confirms 3 drugs found in autopsy on Hennessey were all ones she prescribed.

Hennessey had follow up appt with Dr. Stewart for June 29th, but Hennessey died on June 21 #pei

Dr Stewart tells inquest since Hennessey/Campbell deaths, she’s changed way she deals w/ child and family services.

Stewart says she now insists on mtg with child and family services seeing patients on her unit at QEH #PEI

Stewart says she’s wondered if Nash should’ve been apprehended until his home situation was sorted out better.

9:47 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Stewart says she felt “Nash didn’t have a voice” in what was going on; she suggests home visits in all child and family cases. #pei

9:48 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Stewart also suggests children have a lawyer or advocate so they do have a voice in custody cases. #pei

9:48 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Answering question from jury; Stewart says she doesn’t always get info from police on prior record on her patients.

9:52 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Stewart says Hennessey taking anti-psychotic drugs and anti-depressant, said if layperson took them wd just feel calmer; sleep better.

9:56 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Stewart being q’ed now by lawyer for province, Mary Lynn Kane. Stewart confirms if she was concerned 4 Nash’s safety, wd report it.

10:04 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Stewart says face to face meeting w/ child and family services worker wouldve been helpful; says she didn’t ask for one or get asked.

10:04 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Inquest on 10 minute break

10:16 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

inquest resumes; next witness is Gloria Dennis-works with Family violence prevention with Anderson House. #pei

10:33 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Dennis says she gave Hennessey info on legal aid, family violence prevention and parenting from two homes.

10:34 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

When asked by crown if she had any suggestions for improvements in situations like this, Dennis said “sharing of information is key”.

10:34 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Now up supervisor of victim services on witness stand at inquest.

10:40 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Susan Maynard is providing a file review for inquest on behalf of victim services in Campbell/Hennessey

10:43 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Victim services first contact w/ Hennessey was in January 2010 #pei

10:50 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Family court, family legal aid, justice system and victim services all involved in family dispute, says Maynard.

10:51 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Maynard says all groups working together and communicating to best of their ability.

10:55 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Victim services was helping Hennessey w/ separate family & provincial court matters;

10:57 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Maynard says Hennessey and Campbell entered voluntary agreement over visitation with Nash. Dec 2011

Maynard says Hennessey wanted to drop criminal assault charge against Campbell; felt “victimized” by q’ing in court; charge stayed Feb 2011

in Jan 2012 another complaint of assault of Hennessey by Campbell sought EPO;

11:07 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Victim services aware of suicide attempt by Hennessey; and conviction for impaired in 2011.

Maynard of victim services said “people were throwing up their hands, not really sure what was in the best interests of Nash”. #pei

11:08 AM – 10 Mar 2015

Sally Pitt @sallypittcbc

Maynard says Hennessey told them charge of assault against Campbell wd be dropped.

Maynard says Hennessey’s case didn’t meet criteria for emergency protection order.

Maynard says Hennessey had “a lot of ups and downs”, going back and forth about getting back together with Campbell.