Ashlie Gough was happy and healthy the last time she visited her father's house on Vancouver Island.
She was 23. After high school she had drifted a little – she studied tattoo design and travelled the world with a new boyfriend who was a scuba diver.
“She zig-zagged back and forth a bit and led an interesting life, but she was really starting to grow up,” her father, Tom Gough, said on Monday.
On the weekend she went to visit friends who were camping out as part of the Occupy Vancouver protest and on Saturday she was found inside a tent, unresponsive. The cause of her death isn't official yet, but it may have been a drug overdose.
During an interview at his Vancouver Island home on Monday, Tom Gough appeared sombre, if not in shock.
His partner Glenda Mercer’s voice broke as she detailed how cheerful Ms. Gough had been the last time she saw her.
“She was just on top of the world,” a teary-eyed Ms. Mercer recalled.
Mr. Gough said his daughter was not involved in the Occupy protest against corporate greed.
“We don’t want her made into some kind of poster child for the occupation because Ashlie’s death had nothing to do with that,” he said. “This has nothing to do with the tent city or Occupy Vancouver. She just happened to be there. It’s just another bad thing that happened in downtown Vancouver.”
Mr. Gough, a musician, said his daughter travelled from Victoria to Vancouver late last week with her boyfriend, who was taking a scuba diving course in the area. Ms. Gough had lived in Vancouver in recent years and decided to visit friends who were camped outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.
His daughter and her boyfriend travelled to Turkey, Belize and Guatemala on scuba diving trips earlier this year and planned to spend Christmas in Thailand.
Drew Bevan, Ms. Gough’s former boyfriend, described her as a talented sketch artist. He said she studied body piercing and tattoo design after high school and dreamed of having her own studio.
He said Ms. Gough had some drug involvement “back in the day” but was not an addict.
“She just liked to party like most kids. She was never out of control,” he said.
He last saw Ms. Gough at a zombie-walk event in Victoria in early October.
“She just came up to me … and just gave me a big hug, then she went on her way,” he said. “She seemed super happy every time I saw her, and she was more happy than ever this year.”
Hannah Stringer met Ms. Gough three years ago, when the latter was working with Street Youth Job Action. The program provides mentoring and development opportunities for homeless youth. Ms. Gough’s job was picking up dirty needles from city streets.
Ms. Stringer characterized her as a beautiful, vibrant person.
She, too, said Ms. Gough was at the Occupy protest only briefly. Ms. Stringer said she believes Ms. Gough stayed at the encampment for one night.
Ms. Gough’s case marked the second time paramedics had been called to the Occupy protest in as many days. On Friday, first responders treated a young man who suffered a non-fatal heroin overdose.
The cases prompted speculation a bad batch of heroin was to blame – Vancouver police issued a warning about such a problem in January.
But the force said there was no indication that was the case. Vancouver Coastal Health echoed those sentiments.
Vince Stancato, of the B.C. Coroners Service, said an autopsy was performed Monday on Ms. Gough. He said it did not find signs of foul play, injury or trauma. He said any drug use will make up part of the coroner’s investigation.
A memorial complete with candles, flowers and incense sprang up at the Occupy Vancouver site following Ms. Gough’s death. While those at the encampment on Sunday described her as a happy person with a big heart, friends declined comment Monday. One man said the general assembly reached a consensus not to discuss the issue any further.
With reports from Ian Bailey and Aleksandra Sagan