Inquest into Langley bank robber's death hears he bled to death

A smiling Frank Frechette, centre, is surrounded by family in this image, which greeted members of the jury in the coroner’s inquest into his death. The three-day hearing opened Tuesday in Burnaby.  - Handout photo
A smiling Frank Frechette, centre, is surrounded by family in this image, which greeted members of the jury in the coroner’s inquest into his death. The three-day hearing opened Tuesday in Burnaby.
— image credit: Handout photo

Only two people know exactly what happened in the second-floor living room of a Langley City house on Sept, 30, 2008, the day 49-year-old Frank Frechette died.

Frechette never got a chance to tell police his version of events because he died shortly after he crashed naked through a second-storey window after suffering stab wounds to his chest.

He was Tasered by one of the RCMP officers at the scene after he ignored their commands to surrender and tried to re-enter the house.

The other person, girlfriend Trina Toffan told the coroner’s inquest into Frechette’s death that he became irrational after he robbed a Brookswood bank that day only to discover the money had been booby trapped with an exploding dye pack.

She said Frechette tried to scrub the dye off, then stabbed himself in the chest before leaping through the window.

Toffan denied telling police that she and Frechette both did heroin the morning of the bank robbery, insisting that she had only tried the drug once.

The next day, her credibility came under attack when a lawyer for the RCMP officers played a video of her interrogation the day after Frechette died.

It shows Toffan in the interview room at the Langley RCMP detachment, telling an officer that she was a regular heroin user.

“I need to have it every day to get out of bed,” Toffan told the officer during the Oct. 1, 2008 questioning.

She explained that she got hooked about 10 months earlier, when she talked Frechette into injecting her.

“I thought I would try it once and that would be fine,” she said.

She tried going into rehab to shake the habit without success, Toffan told the officer.

According to Toffan, Frechette continued to inject her once a day with what she described as a “minimal” amount” while he injected himself four to five times a day.

The officer conducting the interview asked Toffan if she was telling the truth when she said Frechette stabbed himself in the chest, then leaped through the glass window.

Toffan said her account was “125 million per cent” the truth.

The RCMP officer who co-ordinated a review of the incident said investigators have concluded that the two stab wounds were indeed self-inflicted with a 13.5 inch butcher knife with an 8.5 inch long blade, taken from a kitchen drawer in his home.

“He stabbed himself” Cpl. Lorna Dicks said.

A forensic pathologist who did the autopsy on Frechette told the inquest he determined the cause of death was the result of severe blood loss from a stab wound that punctured Frechette’s lung.

Dr. David Charlesworth said the bleeding may have been accelerated because Frechette’s heart would have been beating fast after his leap through the window.

The heart is a pump,” Charlesworth observed.

“The faster it pumps, the more you bleed.”

Charlesworth said it was impossible to determine from the angle of the stab if the wound was self-inflicted or not.

“I can’t tell you whether he did it or someone else did,” Charlesworth said in response to a question from a member of the coroner’s jury.

Charlesworth was also unable to definitely say whether the shock from the Taser darts played any part in Frechette’s, death, but thought the fact Frechette was still alive and breathing “post-Tasering” made it unlikely.

“I don’t think it’s it’s clear [whether the Taser was a contributing factor]” Charlesworth said.

Toxicologist Ronald Pon said an analysis of Frechette’s bodily fluids found evidence of cocaine and heroin use, but the levels indicated a “low to moderate” dose that was unlikely to produce bizarre behaviour.

Paramedic Matthew Nasseri said Frechette was unresponsive when he and his partner arrived and started working on him, a “three” on a 15-point scale of consciousness used by medical professionals.

Nasseri said Frechette quickly went into cardiac arrest.

One of the police officers at the scene helped the paramedics perform CPR because local firefighters were never dispatched.

There is no advanced life support (ALS) ambulance in Langley with resources to handle more severe cases, Nasseri told the inquest.

The nearest that day was in Guildford Mall, he said, meaning it would have arrived about the time Frechette arrived at Langley Memorial Hospital.

Asked whether an ALS ambulance might have saved Frechette, Nasseri said it was hard to tell.

“Nothing in medicine is 100 per cent,” he said.

“The patient was in really, really bad shape.”

Nasseri and happens to be one of the two paramedics who were first to arrive at the scene of a Langley Mushroom farm in 2008 when three farm workers died from fumes in an enclosed space.

The three men and two women on the Frechette inquest jury were expected to begin deliberating Thursday afternoon after the final witnesses testified.

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