A B.C. coroner's report released this week sheds some light on the puzzling death of an Australian woman who was found in a Whistler lake nearly two years ago.
Alison Raspa, a 25-year-old native of Perth, was last seen leaving a village restaurant just after midnight on Nov. 23, 2017. CCTV footage showed that Raspa, who was reportedly distraught and intoxicated at the time, had disembarked from a bus in Creekside about an hour later.
The following morning, several of Raspa’s personal items were found in two different locations close to where her body was eventually found: her cellphone was recovered in Alpha Lake Park, while her backpack, wallet and jacket were found at the intersection of Highway 99 and Lake Placid Road.
Although five separate searches were conducted in Alpha Lake, it wasn’t until March 16, 2018, once the ice began to thaw, that Raspa’s body was found.
Coroner Heidi Havdale ultimately ruled the death a suicide. Based on several witness statements suggesting Raspa was despondent, along with text messages she sent on the day of her death, Havdale wrote that: “it is reasonable to conclude that Ms. Raspa intended to end her life in this manner.”
It had been reported to police that Raspa was familiar with Alpha Lake, a place she was known to frequent in the summer months.
A toxicological analysis found elevated concentrations of alcohol and diphenhydramine, an antihistamine used for common colds, in Raspa’s system. Although the amounts detected were not lethal, Havdale said the combination of alcohol and diphenhydramine can “potentially produce more pronounced central nervous system depression.”
A number of people interviewed by authorities after Raspa went missing indicated that she seemed depressed, was struggling with alcohol use, and had expressed suicidal ideation in the past.
On the evening before her death, she arrived at Three Below Restaurant shortly after 5 p.m. A staff member who knew Raspa reported that “she was alone and told him she was upset because she had no friends in Whistler and her boyfriend had left and gone back to Australia,” according to the report. She was seen distraught and crying throughout the night and was cut off from alcohol service at about 11:30 p.m.
Reviewing her call history, police found that Raspa had sent a text message at 1:12 a.m., and multiple outgoing phone and Facebook Messenger calls between 1:16 and 1:25 a.m. that went unanswered. Raspa did not pick up two incoming calls between 1:26 and 1:28 a.m.
The Crisis Services Canada suicide prevention hotline is 1-833-456-4566 and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.