Hospital official says woman gunned down by husband could have been protected
Steve Mertl
Canadian Press

Thursday, September 30, 2004


VANCOUVER (CP) -- A woman who was gunned down in her hospital bed by her estranged husband last year could have been protected, a senior administrator at the facility said at a coroner's inquest Thursday.
Staff at Mission Memorial Hospital, east of Vancouver, didn't know the full extent of the danger Sherry Heron was in and didn't do everything they could have, Lois Felkar testified.
Felkar admitted there was no contingency plan for protecting Heron after Heron told hospital staff she was worried about how her husband would react once he was served with a restraining order.
Even after the order was issued, there was nothing in place to protect Heron.
Felkar, a nurse by training, said even before the order was issued, the hospital could have switched Heron to another room and registered her under a false name.
But Heron wasn't specific about her concerns, Felkar said.
"If she had said I don't want to see him, we would have changed the location of her room," said Felkar.
"We would have put her in a bed registry as an alias."
Felkar said she didn't know whether anyone told Heron that was an option.
Heron was shot in the head in her hospital bed May 20, 2003. Her mother, Anna Adams, who was at her bedside, was also killed.
Bryan Heron had had a tension-filled visit with his wife that day. He abruptly left his job as an area prison guard when he was served with the order and burst into his wife's hospital room firing a .357 Magnum.
He killed himself two days after the shooting when police closed in on his hiding place in a remote area of the Fraser Valley.
Felkar said hospital staff were aware the restraining order was in the works, but Heron instructed them to keep everything normal so as not to alert her husband before the order was granted.
"The plan was to listen to Mrs. Heron when she requested we not implement everything that would alert her husband to the fact the restraining order was in process," said Felkar.
Staff were told May 20 that a restraining order might arrive, but they got no confirmation from Heron's lawyer that it had been issued or served.
Instead, a courier package arrived for Sherry Heron, who handed a copy of the order to a nurse and the order was put on Heron's hospital chart.
"I cannot say who was aware that the restraining order had arrived," Felkar said.
Cameron Ward, the lawyer for Heron's family, asked: "This was a relapse on the part of the hospital, wouldn't you agree?"
Responded Felkar: "No I would not.
Felkar said that although Heron had shared some of her marital troubles and fears with the hospital social worker, "that information was not shared with me."
She agreed with Ward that it was a communications breakdown.
Felkar said hospital staff were also not aware that a police officer had interviewed Heron the week before the shooting.
It's standard procedure for officers on police business to check in at the nursing desk, leave a business card and a brief description of why they're there, she said.
But Const. Mike Pfeifer didn't do any of that.
The inquiry has heard Pfeifer, a rookie with only six months on the job, closed the Heron file, recommending no further action be taken. He said he left the file in his watch commander's basket.
But his watch commander testified he never saw the file.
Kerry Bennington, deputy director of police services for the Solicitor General's Ministry, told the inquiry Thursday that a rookie officer is not allowed to sign off on a spousal abuse file without a review from a senior supervisor such as the watch commander.
The inquest is expected to wrap up Friday with testimony from the RCMP officer who investigated how the Mounties handled Heron's original complaint.
 Canadian Press 2004