Wife seeks to stop release of details of her husband’s death

The wife of Ben Kilmer, whose disappearance last year prompted a massive public search, is trying to stop the B.C. Coroners Service from releasing details of her husband’s death.

Tonya Kilmer fears the information will have a negative impact on her two young children.

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Ben Kilmer, a 41-year-old electrician from Cobble Hill, was reported missing May 16, 2018, after his white van was found abandoned and running in the Sahtlam area, west of Duncan.

His body was found by a hiker five months later in a remote area of the Cowichan Valley near the Chemainus River.

The cause of death was not released at the time, but police ruled out foul play.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe is planning to release her office’s report on Kilmer’s death as early as next week.

Tonya Kilmer could not be reached for an interview, but Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau confirmed that her office has been advocating on Kilmer’s behalf.

Furstenau said Kilmer is concerned about the impact on her children if details of her husband’s death are released.

“The public has a right to know, but the level of detail is what she’s saying isn’t necessary for the public good,” Furstenau said.

“There’s no danger to the public. There’s nothing beyond the circumstance of the death, but you don’t have to know these details.”

Furstenau said Kilmer has received word from the coroner’s office that it plans to proceed with releasing the report.

“The coroner is an independent office,” she said.

“We were supporting Tonya in her efforts to advocate on behalf of her family in whatever way we would. We are disappointed at the outcome.”

The coroners service issued a statement Friday saying Lapointe determined that releasing the basic information in the report is necessary to support the coroner’s findings.

Lapointe also concluded that the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs Ben Kilmer’s personal privacy in this instance.

“The chief coroner is required to balance all interests in coming to a decision,” the statement said.

“The brief summary of findings contained in a coroner’s report serves to establish the facts, address speculation, and quiet the public imagination.”

In an earlier letter to Tonya Kilmer, Lapointe noted that Ben Kilmer’s disappearance received intense publicity and ignited widespread speculation and concern about what might have happened to him.

“Not disclosing the cause and manner of your husband’s death would mean that these facts remain secret and confidential indefinitely and that the speculation and/or apprehension surrounding his disappearance would remain unaddressed,” Lapointe wrote.

She added: “The fact and concerns regarding your husband’s disappearance were widely shared and included requests for information.

“To prevent anyone from now knowing the material facts surrounding your husband’s death, when numerous public appeals were made to assist in determining those facts, is problematic and not consistent with the mandate of a coroner’s investigation or the role of the coroners service.”

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