Two years after Peter Lee murdered his family in an Oak Bay mansion, only one member of the local police force has completed specialized training on domestic violence, the inquest into the killings heard yesterday.
“Specific training? I would have to say no,” Oak Bay Police Chief Ron Gaudet told an inquest into those deaths yesterday.
While two neighbouring police departments involved in the case have launched reforms since those deaths, Chief Gaudet promised his members will complete a mandatory, one-day online training program by next spring.
“We have all the manuals,” Chief Gaudet told the hearing, “but we haven't had the opportunity to do the training.”
The inquest is looking into how Mr. Lee, who was on bail facing domestic assault charges, broke into the family home on Sept. 4, 2007, and killed his young son, Christian Lee, his estranged wife, Sunny Park, and her parents, Kum Lea Chun and Moon Kyu Park. He then killed himself.
Training might not have made any difference in this case, however, because by the time an Oak Bay police officer reached the residence – having first dropped off a drunken teenager at home – it is likely all five members of the family would have bled to death from multiple stab wounds.
The inquest has sat for 11 days and was nearing completion yesterday afternoon when the coroner's lawyer, John Orr, called a surprise witness who shed new light on Mr. Lee.
Robert Boyd, president of the Victoria Family Violence Prevention Society, came forward with confidential files showing Mr. Lee had reached out for help weeks before the murders.
“We just didn't think it was right to not let the inquest know of this connection made,” Mr. Boyd explained.
Mr. Lee called the agency's Family Violence Project – which has since laid off all staff because of government budget cuts – on July 24, 2007, to seek treatment.
The initial call was made one week before Mr. Lee allegedly tried to kill his wife by driving the family vehicle into a utility pole – an event that resulted in him being on bail, out of work and homeless.
The intake files show Mr. Lee confessed he had been physically abusive to Ms. Park, “a few times.” He was described in the files as “odd” and said he wanted to come for counselling but warned: “I know I will try to manipulate you guys.”
Mr. Lee told the counsellor that he was embroiled in a fight over the ownership of the family home, that he was jealous after finding his wife in a bathroom with another man, and that he had a bad relationship with his mother-in-law.
Mr. Boyd testified that Mr. Lee was scheduled for treatment but never showed up for orientation sessions. Efforts to contact his wife failed.
On Sept. 5, 2007, a counsellor who conducted the initial assessment, heard of the murders in Oak Bay and wrote: “My fear at the time was this might have been a client of ours.” But because of privacy issues, Mr. Boyd said he didn't learn of that concern until this fall. When it became apparent no one was going to ask him, he came down to the Victoria courthouse on Tuesday afternoon and alerted the coroner's lawyer.
Mr. Boyd testified that few services are now available to abusers in Victoria to help them stop spousal abuse, and waiting lists are long.
It is the first time that treatment options for abusers has been put in the spotlight in the inquest. Most of the evidence has focused on what efforts were made to protect Ms. Park and her family, and how police services responded to the 911 call made by Mr. Lee's mother-in-law that night during his frenzied attack.
Some details, it became clear yesterday, will never be known. The jury's request to see the report that went to Crown counsel on Mr. Lee's initial domestic violence charge was rejected after lawyers for the province and police opposed its release.
Police recommended that Mr. Lee be denied bail, but Crown prosecutors decided they did not have enough evidence to hold him.
Ms. Park's family is not represented at the inquest, but Diane Turner, a lawyer representing the Ending Violence Association of B.C., fought for the release of the file to the jury.
“There is a risk that if we are so concerned that someone might feel badly about the findings, that we don't go down that path [to]uncover every aspect of this,” she said. The point is not to assign blame, she added, but “to try to find ways to prevent this from happening in the future.”