Police watchdog investigates RCMP over threats against B.C. woman, later found dead

SURREY, B.C. — British Columbia's police watchdog has launched an investigation into the RCMP's handling of alleged threats made five months ago against Tatjana Stefanski, who disappeared from her home in the B.C. Interior in April and was later found dead.

The Independent Investigations Office said in a release Friday it was probing the police response to a December 2023 incident in Lumby, in which the Lumby and Vernon RCMP detachments received a report "indicating concern for the safety of a woman."

It said the woman was found dead on April 14.

"The IIO investigation will now seek to determine what if any role police action or inaction may have played in the woman’s death," said the statement, which did not identify Stefanski.

Stefanski's partner, Jason Gaudreault, told The Canadian Press that he and Stefanski went to police about death threats against her in December, months before she vanished from their home on April 13.

RCMP say Stefanski, 44, was last seen with her ex-husband before "departing unexpectedly" with him in a black Audi. She was found dead the next day.

Gaudreault said the "extreme" threats were made via messaging app WhatsApp to Stefanski's father in Germany, threatening to "chop her up" and "send her back in a body bag."

"Of course everybody's panicked, and we're kind of freaked out," Gaudreault said. "And I had talked with Tatjana. I just said, 'You know what? Enough is enough. This has to stop.' I said this (is) not even borderline — this is over the top.

"I said we need to report this. So she finally agreed, and we did."

Gaudreault said he asked police for a protection order but did not receive one.

Police said Stefanski's body was found in a rural area outside town. They said a man "believed to be involved in this death was arrested in the general vicinity," but the suspect was freed with conditions.

Gaudreault has previously said he didn't understand why the suspect was released. He said he feared that he or Stefanski's children — a nine-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter — could be next, so the family went into hiding.

B.C. RCMP said in a statement to The Canadian Press last week that the "investigation is in its infancy," and the threshold for charge approval was "not insignificant."

The Independent Investigations Office said Stefanski's death was being investigated by RCMP Southeast District Major Crimes Unit and the BC Coroners Service.

Gaudreault said he doesn't blame police, but added laws surrounding victims need to change.

— By Chuck Chiang in Vancouver, with files from Brieanna Charlebois

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2024.

The Canadian Press