Drugs blamed for death of N.W.T. woman found along highway in B.C.

The mysterious death of Brittany Martel is no longer a mystery – the woman from  Hay River, N.W.T., died of a drug overdose.

There were fears Martel was murdered after her body was discovered July 22, 2018 in a ditch alongside the Coquihalla Highway in southern B.C.

Merritt RCMP quickly said the case was “not deemed suspicious,” angering Martell’s family, friends and advocates for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“I know deep in my heart that she was put there by somebody,” said her aunt Dolly Martell at the time. “I can’t see her just walking in the bush, plus where she was found.

“I want justice for her. I want closure for my family.”

But RCMP said they couldn’t say more until an autopsy was concluded and the family informed.

Now the B.C. Coroners Service has made its report public.

The report released Friday said the 27-year-old died after her heart stopped due to“cardiac ischemia” because of “methamphetamine and cocaine toxicity.” It concluded the overdose was “accidental.”

Read more: A Lonely Road: The mysterious death of Brittany Martel 

Martell’s body was found 60 km south of Merritt by the driver of another vehicle. The report said she was at the bottom of an embankment fully clothed but barefoot.

She had been travelling with a friend to the lower mainland of B.C. Her friend told police they stopped at the Britton Creek Rest Stop on July 17, 2018 to sleep and when she awoke, Martell was gone.

“The friend then continued on her journey to the lower mainland. Ms. Martel was not reported missing,” the report said.

Numerous witnesses driving on Highway 5, between July 17, 2018, and July 20, 2018, in the areas around the Britton Creek Rest stop and where she was found on July 22, 2018, reported sightings. One motorist even recorded seeing her on his dashcam and shared the video with APTN.

“Martel’s shoes were found approximately 35 meters from where she was located. A path of bare footprints was seen leaving the area where the shoes were found, toward where she was located,” the report said.

Her purse and cellphone were found at the rest stop.

The report said Martell had a history of drug use, and her friend told officials during the road trip Martel “appeared to be experiencing hallucinations, which she believed to be from withdrawal of substances. Family indicated she had contemplated entering treatment in the past.”

There was no evidence of traumatic injury, added the report, which made no recommendations.

Read more: Woman found dead in B.C. had plans to document her travels on the road

Investigative Reporter / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for aptnnews.ca. A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.