Quebec police mistake body of missing woman for mannequin, throw remains in garbage

SHERBROOKE, Que. — Police and firefighters in Sherbrooke, Que., allegedly mistook a woman's body for a mannequin and threw her remains into a dumpster, police Chief Danny McConnell said Thursday.

The incident occurred July 23 in the city about 150 kilometres east of Montreal, McConnell said, adding that the coroner's office is investigating and the Crown prosecutor's office has been notified.

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McConnell held a news briefing Thursday alongside the city's fire chief and a senior city official during which he apologized to the woman's husband and children.

"We are evidently sorry for this situation and rest assured the family is being advised at each key moment of this investigation," McConnell said.

Firefighters were called to a brush fire behind a factory just after 10 a.m. on July 23 after witnesses allegedly said they thought a silicone mannequin had been set on fire, McConnell said.

Police were called to the scene about 10 minutes later and they spoke to witnesses, he added. After consulting with firefighters, police decided that what they thought was a mannequin would be taken to a dumpster behind the police station, which isn't accessible to the public.

About 10:45 a.m., firefighters dropped off the remains at the police station.

McConnell said police received a call four hours later from a man reporting his wife missing, adding that they used a signal from the missing woman's cellphone to find her car, which was parked near the factory where the blaze had occurred.

He said investigators around 6:30 p.m. that evening decided to look into the dumpster for clues and discovered human remains.

Stéphane Simoneau, head of the city's fire department, vowed to get to the bottom of what happened. He said psychological help is being offered to his staff.

"We take the situation very seriously," Simoneau said. "I am personally committed to shedding light on this intervention, which is unusual —even shocking — to say the least."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2021.

—By Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.

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