Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Suicide case in peril after witness injured

Man charged with failing to prevent wife's death

  • Print

The case against a Winnipeg man accused of failing to stop his wife from committing suicide is in danger of falling apart, the Free Press has learned.

The Crown's key witness went missing, only to be found days later in a B.C. hospital with critical injuries following a mysterious accident.

Christopher Paul Henderson, 46, was arrested in August 2011 on charges of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life. A preliminary hearing was set to begin next week.

But Crown attorney Nancy Fazenda requested an indefinite adjournment Friday on the grounds there is no case to present at this time.

Fazenda said she sent a subpoena last month to a woman who will present the bulk of the evidence against Henderson. When she couldn't be located, Winnipeg police began hunting for her. They tracked her down to a Penticton, B.C., hospital after she fell from an apartment balcony, court was told.

"Obviously, she's in no position to attend court. She's vital to the Crown's case," said Fazenda. "This witness can give very insightful evidence into the mindset of Mr. Henderson."

She detailed the woman's injuries, which include multiple broken bones, severe internal injuries and a shattered pelvis.

No other details about the fall were provided.

The witness already underwent emergency surgeries and will require further operations, followed by a lengthy rehabilitation, court was told.

Fazenda estimated it will be until at least next summer before the woman might be available to attend court and testify.

That prompted Henderson's lawyer, Ryan Amy, to ask that the case be ordered to proceed against his client without the witness. If the Crown is unable to prove the case, then Henderson should go free, he argued.

"Without this witness, the Crown does not have a case," Amy said.

He believes Henderson would ultimately be acquitted, saying the Crown is attempting to provide a "novel legal argument" that will likely fail.

Amy said he plans to challenge the witness about her testimony, including her state of sobriety at the time of the incident that led to his client's arrest.

"He's been waiting for this matter to proceed. Mr. Henderson denies any criminal wrongdoing," Amy said Friday.

Henderson's 55-year-old common-law wife, Darlene Westaway, died in October 2010 after police allege the two were drinking at her residence and she threatened to kill herself.

Police allege Henderson left the home and returned later, finding the woman was dead.

Police claim some time elapsed before the man called emergency officials about Westaway's death, which is expected to be the main issue in the case.

Provincial court Judge Wanda Garreck agreed with the Crown's request Friday to adjourn the preliminary hearing, but ordered lawyers to return to court on Feb. 5 with an update on the witness's condition.

Amy reserved the right to file a motion to dismiss the case on the basis of unreasonable delay, and Fazenda conceded the Crown may have to re-evaluate its position.

Henderson remains in custody.

He was originally granted bail, only to be re-arrested for allegedly violating his release conditions.

Westaway's family and friends have told the Free Press she battled mental illness and believe her death should have been prevented.

They said Westaway, a former gas company employee, was diagnosed years earlier with bipolar disorder and her quality of life gradually deteriorated.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2013 A5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets vs. Ducks Series promo

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the sale of the Canadian Wheat Board to foreign companies?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google