Police and firefighters in Quebec mistakenly threw a woman’s body into a dumpster after they believed her to be a mannequin.
The Sherbrooke Fire Department in Canada received a call from employees of a factory near Roy and Cabana streets on July 23. They reported to emergency services that a mannequin was on fire in a nearby wooded area, and smoke was visible to the factory workers, according to Radio-Canada.
Both police and firefighters responded to the bakery factory, and fire crews extinguished the fire. Officials on the scene thought the burnt woman was a silicon life-size doll or a store mannequin at the time.
“When they arrived, witnesses declared that someone had lit a silicone mannequin on fire,” Sherbrooke Police Chief Danny McConnell said at a Thursday press conference.
The emergency crews discussed briefly what to do with the woman’s body, which they believed at this point was a charred “dummy.” They took the body back to the police station and threw it in the dumpster, believing that to be the best way to dispose of it.
The dumpster was behind the police station and not accessible to the public, according to McConnell.
About four hours after the police responded to the fire, a missing person’s report was filed with the station by the partner of a woman who had disappeared. The police located the woman’s phone signal, which was later found in her car parked near the factory, according to police.
The police recognized the description of the woman in the missing person’s report and with the car being found by the fire, they decided to check the dumpster. The “mannequin” the police and firefighters had thrown into the department’s dumpster was discovered to be the woman’s body around 6:30 p.m.
“We are obviously sorry about this situation and rest assured the family is being advised about every key detail of this investigation,” McConnell said. “Our hearts are with the family, her partner and the kids in this very dramatic situation.”
The coroner has launched an investigation into how the woman died. The Crown Investigation Agency and the Independent Bureau of Investigators [BEI] are independently investigating the incident, while the Sherbrooke police are looking into the case as a suspicious death.
Details about the incident that occurred Friday were just made public nearly a week later, promoting the police and fire chiefs to address the public. Stéphane Simoneau, Sherbrook’s head of the fire department, wanted to clear the “lack of transparency.”
“I’m quite stunned by this news and I can say that my entire team, the entire department, as well as those who were there that day, are in shock,” Simoneau said. “People were overcome by certain emotions, so we have to manage that situation in order to stabilize our teams, psychologically, and that’s what we’ve been doing,”
Flowers were placed in the wooded area where the ground was charred and the woman’s body was first discovered.