Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Family not told brother buried

Police took homeless man to hospital, where he died

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Wilson Hall, brother of Faron (above), died in April but the family wasn't told.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Wilson Hall, brother of Faron (above), died in April but the family wasn't told. Photo Store

Like his brother, the homeless hero Faron Hall, Wilson Hall was homeless in Winnipeg by choice.

But when he disappeared four months ago, his family never thought to look for him in a pauper's grave.

This week, that's where the family found the remains of Wilson Hall, 64, buried in Brookside Cemetery under a nameless marker.

Now, Manitoba's chief medical examiner is looking into the strange case of the missing man who died and was buried without anyone notifying next of kin.

Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra said he can confirm that on April 7 Winnipeg police took Hall to the St. Boniface Hospital, where he died of an apparent heart attack.

The medical examiner opened the investigation after the family approached him this week, angry their relative had been buried without anyone notifying them.

'He was used to living like a homeless person but that doesn't mean he didn't have family who loved him'

-- Wilson Hall's niece, Hollie Hall

Balachandra said he's focused inquiries on the hospital, the police and the province's Employment and Income Assistance Department, which paid for the burial.

"The person was treated as a person with no next of kin. Nobody claimed the body and four months later, the family reported him missing," Balachandra said.

Balachandra said he wasn't aware Wilson was a brother to Faron Hall, known as the homeless hero. Faron Hall jumped into the Red River twice in 2009 to rescue women from drowning and was honoured with numerous awards. But like Wilson, Faron Hall battles alcoholism and is often homeless.

Last year, Faron Hall pleaded guilty to a number of probation breaches, including two for failing to abstain from drinking.

Wilson Hall's family didn't file a missing-person's report until this week. The report triggered a match with the pauper's grave.

A residential school survivor with a weak heart and heavy addiction to alcohol, Wilson Hall was a familiar fixture on downtown streets, relatives said.

He relied on regular prescription medicine, lived on welfare and had a criminal record, all of which provide family histories and contact information.

Thursday, the family hosted a traditional aboriginal feast at Thunderbird House on Main Street, distributing the food to the homeless and street people as a memorial to mark Wilson's passing.

In a series of calls, family members pieced together the story after months of conducting their own searches on foot. They're angry because they believe the authorities had the responsibility to contact them, not the other way around.

"He was used to living like a homeless person but that doesn't mean he didn't have family who loved him," Wilson's niece, Hollie Hall, said.

Brother Patrick Hall believes he was the last member of the family to see Wilson alive, back in early April.

Patrick said he'd given Wilson a place to live but his brother refused to stay.

"He was supposed to be residing at the Booth Centre," Patrick Hall said.

He said during the last four months he's covered downtown streets, talking to street people, visiting the pharmacist at the drugstore his brother used and scouring Wilson's old haunts.

Neither he nor any of the other relatives felt comfortable filing a missing-person's report with police, he said.

Then the family found out this week the police had taken Wilson to St. Boniface Hospital in April. His body was kept for a month in the morgue.

Everyone is frustrated, Patrick said. "They never tried to contact anyone."

Balachandra said he expects that in a couple of weeks he'll have a better idea of why Wilson Hall remained missing, even in his grave.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2013 B1

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