Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Ottawa September 27, 2016 - 7:00 am

Ottawa Police still investigating death of artist Annie Pootoogook

“We find elements of her death somewhat suspicious so we’re taking a real close look at this"

“Picking Lice” by Annie Pootoogook
 from a 2009 Ottawa Art Gallery exhibition called “Burning Cold.”

“Picking Lice” by Annie Pootoogook
 from a 2009 Ottawa Art Gallery exhibition called “Burning Cold.”

OTTAWA—The investigation into the death of Annie Pootoogook has been transferred to the Ottawa Police Service’s major crimes unit because of “suspicious elements” connected to the case.

Staff Sergeant Bruce Pirt was unable to provide details because the investigation is still ongoing, he said.

“How do I say this… it’s a suspicious death in that elements of it are suspicious,” Pirt said Sept. 26. “We find elements of her death somewhat suspicious, so we’re taking a real close look at this.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s a potential homicide, Pirt said.

“Some people had a funny feeling about this so we took a look at it and ya, we got a funny feeling about it, too,” he said.

Friends, family members, art lovers and others around Canada and beyond have been in mourning since last week, when news broke that Pootoogook, a well-known and award-winning Inuit artist, had been found dead in the Rideau River at around 8:50 a.m. Sept. 19. She was 46.

Pootoogook, whose whimsical and sometimes raw look at modern Inuit society departed from traditional images of Inuit art, preferring to sketch pictures of everything from the mundane—shopping at the co-op or watching talk show TV—to violence, sex, suicide and addiction.

That unique and bold lens earned Pootoogook international attention and in 2006, the Cape Dorset artist won the coveted $50,000 Sobey Art Foundation Award.

But of late, she had been living in Ottawa struggling with her own addiction and intermittent homelessness, sometimes panhandling and sometimes selling her drawings for a pittance to passersby.

Pirt said an autopsy has been performed but a cause of death has not been released yet.

Although it’s important to respect the wishes of family members and release Pootoogook’s remains to them as soon as possible, police will retain her body for the time being as the investigation continues, Pirt said.

Police have been trying to piece together the last days of Pootoogook’s life before she was found in the water near Bordeleau Park in the city’s Lowertown district.

A public request for tips has garnered a few phone calls, Pirt said, but some of the information given so far is a bit out of date. They are still waiting for information about Pootoogook closer to the time of her death.

“We’re still working on it. We’re trying to put together her last movements. Anybody who has information as to her last whereabouts, it would be great to come forward with it,” Pirt said.

You can do that by calling 613-236-1222 xt. 5493. You can leave a tip anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers as well: 1-800-222-8477.

It’s still early to tell whether memorial services will be held for Pootoogook in Ottawa, Nunavut or elsewhere. As of the end of the day Sept. 26, plans were still up in the air.

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