Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic subject matter.
The cause of Stanley Fischer’s Nov. 15, 1981 death while in Victoria police custody is being called into question by his family. The death was ruled a suicide and that Fischer died by asphyxiation after he was found hanging in his cell – just hours after his arrest.
His nephew, Mark Fischer, believes the cause of death was more nefarious, alleging that Stanley was possibly murdered in his jail cell before his death was staged to look like a suicide.
A coroner’s inquest found Stanley hung himself in his cell with a hand-torn strip of police-issued blanket. Mark said the blanket would’ve been impossible to rip by hand, and it would’ve needed to be cut with something.
Stanley’s brother, Richard, testified about the night of his brother’s arrest during the inquest. Richard’s sworn testimony states he was with Stanley at the Motor Colony Inn when a disagreement broke out over the wrong drinks ending up on their bill. A kerfuffle ensued, and Stanley was pinned face-down on the floor by four men and two police officers. Richard testified Stanley was then handcuffed and dragged into the back of a cruiser, where he tried to kick the window out while being repeatedly hit by officers – before one said “I’ll kill you.”
Mark claims Stanley would’ve been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at the time, after previously serving overseas with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Stanley had three broken ribs, but Mark doubts they were from efforts to resuscitate him as the inquest suggests. Mark thinks his uncle could’ve been severely beaten while jailed – to the point where Stanley couldn’t breathe, possibly causing his asphyxiation death.
“There’s no documents to prove (whether) Stanley’s ribs were broken prior to his death or after,” he said.
Mark also pointed to another discrepancy from Richard’s testimony that he says raises questions. The doctor who declared Stanley dead at 4:40 a.m. said there was no sign of blood on the body. Richard testified that when he saw his brother’s body in the hospital morgue just after 6 a.m., there was blood on his cheek and forehead.
The inquest also heard that the jail guard on duty that night had neglected to do some of his check-up rounds, which Mark says would make the department liable for Stanley’s death. Another inmate testified that police denied Stanley’s repeated requests to talk to his lawyer.
“They were responsible for him, prisoners have rights,” Mark said.
Earlier this month, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner said a misconduct complaint submitted by Mark wouldn’t be investigated because his claims lacked evidence that Victoria police officers and/or other inmates were responsible for Stanley’s death.
A Victoria police spokesperson says they’re just at the start of reviewing Mark’s concerns and they haven’t been able to respond yet, but hope to have more information in the weeks ahead.
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