VICTORIA, B.C. – Peter Lee sought help from a Victoria men’s counselling group in the weeks prior to the horrific murder-suicide that saw him kill his young son, his wife, two in-laws and himself in September 2007, a surprise witness told a coroner’s inquest Wednesday.
Rob Boyd, former president of the now-defunct Victoria Family Violence Prevention Society, testified that Lee contacted his group by telephone in late July 2007 and attended an orientation meeting, but never returned.
Lee, 38, was arrested in Victoria on July 31, 2007 and charged with trying to harm his wife in a staged car crash.
He was released on bail and was under orders to stay away from his family home in the Victoria-area community of Oak Bay.
But on Sept. 4, 2007, Lee broke through a basement window and stabbed to death his six-year-old son, Christian, his wife Sunny Park and her parents, Kum Lea Chun and Moon Kyu Park.
Lee then killed himself in the bedroom where the bodies of his wife and son were found.
“It was pretty clear that he was a man who needed help, who needed treatment,” said Boyd outside the courthouse where he testified.
He said Lee contacted his former organization by telephone on July 25 and appeared for an orientation session on July 26, but was never seen or heard from again.
Boyd said the organization’s receptionist thought Lee exhibited strange behaviour because he said he was domineering and had a jealous streak.
“The person taking that call thought that he was odd. Lee said he thought he would manipulate the group,” said Boyd.
Boyd said the organization keeps its file confidential, but felt obligated to share its information with the inquest.
The information about Lee seeking counselling support had never been made public until the inquest, he said.
Lee told the organization he had threatened his wife in the past, but did not indicate he was preparing to end the lives of his wife, son and in-laws, Boyd said.
“If he had said that our staff would have contacted the police immediately,” he said.
Boyd called the deaths in the Lee tragedy, “the worst possible outcome.”
Boyd said his organization is no longer in operation after it lost provincial government funding in 2002. He said the organization managed to continue without government funding until September 2008.
The inquest is expected to hear from its final witness Thursday.
Coroner Jeff Dolan warned Wednesday that the five-person inquest jury is on the verge of information overload and of exceeding its duties.
Dolan rejected efforts to have jurors consider police recommendations to the Crown in the days before Lee killed his family.
Some lawyers at the inquest have been highlighting the fact that Lee was arrested, but then released five weeks before the killings.
But Dolan said the jury has already fielded and asked questions about political influence, policy and procedure and Crown actions before the September 2007 murders.
He noted it is the coroner’s responsibility to ensure the jury maintains its goal of fact finding, not fault finding.
Lawyer Diane Turner, representing Victoria anti-Domestic violence groups, said the jury has been asking to see the report and it would help provide a clearer picture about the reasons behind Lee’s release before the murders.
Victoria Police arrested Lee on July 31, 2007 and charged him after the car crash.
Lee was released on $5,000 bail in August 2007 and ordered to stay away from his family home.
Earlier, the jury saw police video interview evidence of Sunny Park saying she was afraid Lee would try to kill her and her son.
Lawyer Reg Harris, representing the Victoria Police Department, opposed entering the report as evidence, saying it contains too much private information about the investigation and police tactics.
He also opposed an application to include the report with private police information removed.
Lawyer Richard Peck, representing the British Columbia’s Criminal Justice Branch of the Ministry of Attorney General, said offering the jury a severed report would create confusion, and allowing jurors to view the full report would lead them toward the “path of blame.”
A legal issue 19 months ago resulted in the abrupt adjournment of the inquest when the jury asked to question the two Victoria Crown prosecutors who decided to release Lee on bail after the July car crash.
The dispute went to the B.C. Court of Appeal, which ruled last July in favour of the Crown, saying the Crown cannot be compelled to testify.
The inquest has heard chilling details of what police found after they were summoned to the family’s house in Oak Bay by a hysterical dying woman who called 911 on Sept. 4, 2007.
Sunny Park was stabbed 49 times and Christian Lee was also stabbed repeatedly, as were Park’s parents, who were slashed several times in the chest and back.
The inquest has also heard from police and government officials who testified domestic violence is a major crime issue in B.C, but budget constraints are restricting authorities and government on the domestic violence front.
Jocelyn Coupal, a Crown prosecutor who administered a six-month government domestic violence pilot project in Langley, near Vancouver, testified her project resulted in increased guilty pleas by accused and fewer instances of witnesses refusing to testify against their attackers.
Coupal also said domestic violence cases make up the second highest number of criminal files in B.C., with drunk driving cases topping the list.
Despite the high number of files, public information about domestic violence is barely visible in B.C., especially when compared with the province’s high profile anti-drinking and driving campaigns, she said.