Arlene Westervelt

Arlene Westervelt, above, and her husband, Bert, went for a canoe trip on June 26, 2016. Originally, Kelowna RCMP classed her death as a drowning that happened when the canoe capsized. CTV's W5 found more to the story.

A national investigative reporting team found much more than they expected when they looked into the case of a Kelowna area woman who drowned in Okanagan Lake.

The CTV newsmagazine program 'W5' airs an episode Saturday on Arlene Westervelt, whose husband was accused of her murder before the charge was abruptly stayed.

"It's a documentary we never expected to make," reporter Jon Woodward said Friday in an interview from Toronto.

"We expected it would be a story about a possible murder, and it ended up being a story of national significance involving things like possible privacy breaches, questions about science, and questions about police discipline," Woodward said.

The program raises concerns about phone-hacking, possible forensic science failures, an inexperienced Mountie, and evidence that wasn't previously disclosed, Woodward said.

Arlene Westervelt and her husband Bert went for a canoe trip on June 26, 2016 after leaving their home in Lake Country. Originally, Kelowna RCMP classed her death as a drowning that happened when the canoe capsized.

In April 2019, however, Bert Westervelt was charged with second-degree murder. In July 2020 the Crown announced the charge had been stayed as a result of new information, which was not specified.

On Sept. 14, the day the second-degree murder trial was to have begun, about 30 of Arlene Westervelt's family and friends gathered on the steps of the Kelowna courthouse demanding to know why the charge had been stayed.

"There's been no explanation given to us why the charges have been stayed, and in fact we've been told emphatically that we have no right to know why," Arlene's sister, Debbie Hennig, said at the time. "I have faith and I have hope that the truth will eventually be revealed."

Woodward said he hopes the program, which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on CTV, will prompt viewers to question how much information should be released when murder charges are stayed.

"I want people to wrestle with whether the lack of transparency here is truly a mask for some other things that we've discovered may have been going on, and how much transparency and disclosure we should demand of the justice officials and elected officials who act in our name," he said.