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Justin Bourque is shown in this artist's sketch during his court appearance in Moncton Friday, June 6, 2014. Bourque is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder after one of the worst mass shootings in the RCMP's history.Carol Taylor/The Canadian Press

The man accused of killing three Mounties was grappling with the effects of substance abuse, relationship troubles and job insecurity – a combination that led to paranoia that someone would take away his guns.

The shooting suspect's older sister, Sophie Bourque, said Wednesday that her last encounter with Justin Bourque was just one hour before gunfire erupted the evening of June 4. He had been at the family's home around suppertime, talking with her as she ate dinner.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Bourque said her 24-year-old brother's troubles began around age 19, when he started drinking heavily. "It did a lot of damage to his brain," she said. "He used to be a really sharp person. As the years went by, the more damage was caused. He just wasn't the same."

The 25-year-old woman also spoke about how her loved ones are faring, and about the outpouring of support from those trying to reconcile the accusations against Mr. Bourque with a family many have described as "good" and "warm."

Ms. Bourque said "a lot of things" led to her brother's arrest, including past alcohol and drug use.

"He got fired from his job after he left our home [about two years ago], and then he lost his car. Things weren't going good with girls," she said. "He started reading a lot about conspiracy theories, and he wasn't as mentally stable as he used to be…. He kind of got paranoid that somebody was going to take his guns away."

Ms. Bourque's remarks reveal new details about a man whose life has been difficult to trace, in part because he was home-schooled and had bounced from job to job. He wasn't known to police, and many locals have said they'd never heard of him.

Constables Fabrice Gévaudan, Douglas James Larche and  David Ross died the evening of June 4. Two others were injured. A terrorized city went into lockdown. Today, the Bourques are seeking clerical support at their Moncton home after briefly living at an undisclosed location since the shootings.

Asked about her message to the community, Ms. Bourque struggled for an answer, saying, "We're sorry that it happened, but I mean there's nothing…."

Mr. Bourque is the son of Victor and Denise, a brother to six siblings ranging in age from 15 to 29. Despite the family's struggles, Ms. Bourque said, her 22-year-old sister still plans to get married this summer.

"A lot of people say it might've had something to do with the way he was raised, but we were all raised the same way and all of us are productive members of society," she said. "What he did will always hurt us."

The last time Ms. Bourque saw her brother was one hour before the gunfire last week in northern Moncton. Ms. Bourque, who had just recently come home from her job, sat down to supper and asked her brother why he wasn't working.

He told her he'd called in sick. He seemed calm but avoided eye contact, saying he was headed next to a friend's house.

"He was essentially saying goodbye without us knowing," she said.

She said her family hasn't seen Mr. Bourque since that night, but plans to visit him soon. As for the ongoing investigation, she said as far as she knows he's "just answering straight questions."

Ms. Bourque said her brother moved out of the family home and into a local trailer park about two years ago. On Wednesday, the park's management cleaned out the white and brown mobile home where he'd lived, a neighbour said. A large dumpster out front was filled with garbage and debris.

The trailer park is working hard to return to some sense of normalcy after residents said they saw Mr. Bourque walk heavily armed into the woods at the foot of their potholed avenue.

"I would never defend him for what he's done," Ms. Bourque said, her eyes welling as she lowered her gaze. "It's horrendous.… But people who try to dehumanize him, it's hard. People calling him a monster and stuff.…"

A priest had earlier visited the Bourque home, where he offered words of comfort to the family. Ms. Bourque said her parents are doing slightly better than in previous days but are still deeply upset.

"It's going to be a long road to recovery," she said. "I don't think [my parents] will ever fully recover from it. This is going to follow us for the rest of our lives."

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