Skip to main content

A couple pays their respects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on April 22, 2020.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia RCMP have charged three people with unlawfully supplying ammunition to the man responsible for the worst mass shooting in Canadian history, including his common-law wife who was frequently terrorized by his violent outbursts and assaulted by him the night he began his killing rampage.

Lisa Banfield, a 52-year-old denturist assistant from Dartmouth, was charged on Friday along with her brother, James Banfield, and brother-in-law Brian Brewster. All three have been co-operative with police and none of them was aware of what Gabriel Wortman, a 51-year-old denturist, planned to use the ammunition for, RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell said.

These are the first charges laid in relation to the mass shooting that began April 18 in Portapique, N.S. They follow a nearly eight-month investigation. The three are accused of transferring .223 calibre Remington cartridges and .40 calibre Smith and Wesson cartridges in the month leading up to the attack. RCMP say the ammunition was purchased in Nova Scotia.

Investigators have said since they began their investigation they believed the gunman may have had help gathering materials for his attack that left 22 people people dead across rural Nova Scotia, and injured three others. This is the first time Ms. Banfield’s name, which has been redacted from documents used by the RCMP to obtain warrants, was revealed publicly by investigators.

She has declined interview requests to tell her story. In a lawsuit filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court against the gunman’s estate, initially valued at more than $1.2-million, she says she was the victim of assault and battery, and suffered physical, emotional and psychological injuries and trauma at the hands of Mr. Wortman.

“The gunman’s relationships with others was very much a part of this investigation and, as with every piece of information, were analyzed as we pieced together the gunman’s actions, motives and the potential for others’ involvement,” Supt. Campbell said in a statement.

Some in Nova Scotia expressed surprised that Ms. Banfield was charged, given the gunman’s history of abuse.

“This is unconscionable. He hoarded weapons, his violence and abuse were repeatedly reported, every red flag was ignored, and one of his victims is charged like she’s responsible for what he predictably unleashed?” said Betsy Hogan, a pastor at St. Matthew’s United Church in Halifax.

“We need an explanation for why no discretion was exercised here.”

Ms. Banfield, who worked with Mr. Wortman at his Dartmouth clinic and lived with him at their apartment above it, and at his rural Portapique home, was attacked by the gunman on April 18 in an domestic assault that preceded his rampage. The couple were celebrating their anniversary that night, according to court documents.

According to interviews she gave to police, Ms. Banfield was handcuffed by the gunman and put in the back of one of his cars, but managed to escape and hid in the woods overnight while he burned down the house and began shooting his neighbours.

Mr. Wortman, dressed as an RCMP officer and driving a look-alike police cruiser, went on a killing rampage for 13 hours until he was gunned down by police at a gas station north of Halifax. Previously released court documents suggest he had begun gathering the material he needed for his attack more than a year earlier.

“Though the gunman is ultimately responsible for his actions, and can never stand trial, we have a duty to investigate by the same standards that we would if he was alive. In an investigation, there is no room for speculation,” Supt. Campbell said.

“Every piece of information we uncovered and received was analyzed, fact checked and corroborated in order to assess the weight, validity and value of the information.”

The RCMP declined to comment further on the new charges, saying their “most appropriate and unbiased opportunity to provide any additional information” will be through the public inquiry into the mass shooting, which began in October.

That inquiry’s commissioners have been asked to examine issues such as the police response, steps taken to inform victims, their families and the public, the role of gender-based violence and whether there was any relationship between the gunman and RCMP.

Investigators say they don’t believe the gunman had a firearms licence. They haven’t confirmed the type of weapons he used in the rampage – but they’ve said he had illegal pistols and rifles. Three of those weapons came from the U.S. and one came from the estate of someone he knew in Canada.

He also took the service pistol belonging to Constable Heidi Stevenson, whom he killed in a confrontation near the highway in Shubenacadie, N.S.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.