Woman found in Sacred Heart grotto likely died of hypothermia, coroner says

Woman found in Sacred Heart grotto likely died of hypothermia, coroner says

A Quebec coroner has found that an Iranian woman visiting Montreal in the winter of 2017 likely died of hypothermia after getting lost and confused.

Leila Tatari's body was found on the grounds of Sacred Heart School, an all-girls English Catholic high school, on Atwater Avenue.

Dr. Ethan Lichtblau's report into the 69-year-old's death sheds some light on how the woman ended up in the grotto on the school's property, about three kilometres from the Côte-des-Neiges apartment where she was staying.

Tatari came to Montreal to help a relative who had recently given birth. On the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 25, she left the apartment, likely to go for a walk.

She was not carrying identification or any money, and did not speak English nor French. She was reported missing that night.

Three days later, she was found in the stone grotto, next to a statue of the Virgin Mary.

In his report, Dr. Lichtblau says Tatari was found on her back, with her coat open and her sweater pulled partway up her chest. Her shoes and a black and grey scarf were at the far end of the grotto.

There were therapeutic traces of antidepressant and anxiety medications in her blood. She likely suffered from diabetes given the damage noted to her kidneys during the autopsy, he wrote.

Dr. Lichtblau said it's impossible to know the exact circumstances of her death, but a likely scenario would be that once she left on her walk, she became lost and and wandered farther from her home.

Because she couldn't speak English or French, she couldn't ask for help. She took refuge at Sacred Heart and in her confused state, began to remove clothing — a phenomenon known as paradoxical undressing.

He says her diabetes likely altered her capacity to realize her body was getting cold, and that hypothermia was setting in.

Dr. Lichtblau concluded that Tatari died of hypothermia, and that her death was accidental.