Monday, July 27, 2020

Nova Scotia mass killer had ‘secret rooms’, ‘burns bodies’ and was ‘a sexual predator,’

The gunman in this country’s worst mass killing, “builds fires and burns bodies, is a sexual predator and supplies drugs,” one witness told police in the days following the April massacre.

The same witness told police the shooter had smuggled guns and drugs across the Canadian border from Maine, and that he had a stockpile of guns and “a bag of 10,000 OxyContin and 15,000 Dilaudid” — extremely potent opioid painkillers.

A Nova Scotia court on Monday released previously redacted information about the Portapique shooting rampage that left 22 victims dead — details that enhance the portrait that has emerged of the shooter as a secretive and paranoid man.

Newly released details in witness statements to police contain multiple accounts of the shooter having false walls and hidden storage rooms in his Portapique properties and his Dartmouth, N.S. residence.

The information comes from a series of information-to-obtain (ITO) documents, which are the rationale police put before a judge in order to get search warrants.

The documents were originally released in heavily censored form, and have been at the centre of a court battle as media outlets have fought for more details to be made public.

If the new details are anything to judge by, the shooter had few reservations about sharing his secrets with others. In several of the newly revealed portions of the ITOs, witnesses recounted him showing them or telling them of hidden compartments, false walls and secret rooms.

He showed one witness a hidden compartment in his garage underneath a workbench, where he kept a high-powered rifle, the documents say. He showed the same witness a false wall in the right-hand side of the shed at his residence in Dartmouth, which was attached to his denturist clinic.

Other witnesses told police about the killer’s “secret hiding spots” and “secret rooms behind false walls,” according to the ITOs.

Many areas of the documents remain redacted, including a puzzling passage in which police outline some of the evidence they planned to look for while executing their warrant.

“The following items (things, or some part of them): a) Firearms, ammunition, explosives, chemicals, [REDACTED];” reads one passage in the ITO for search warrants for the shooter’s properties in Portapique and in Dartmouth.

Also still obscured are details about the type of weapons the killer possessed, as well as most of the witness statement from the killer’s common-law wife, who was assaulted by the killer before he began his rampage. She managed to escape and hide in the woods overnight.

A consortium of media organizations both national and local — including the Halifax Chronicle Herald and Halifax Examiner — have been before the courts for weeks, seeking first to have RCMP search warrant requests released, then to have redacted portions revealed.

Over a 13-hour period on April 18 and 19, Gabriel Wortman went on a rampage in Colchester County, N.S., in which he killed nearly two dozen people, shot pets and burned houses. He was finally spotted and killed by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., almost 100 kilometres away.

In a statement taken by Halifax Regional Police Det.-Const. Anthony McGrath, a witness said that, “Gabriel Wortman builds fires and burns bodies, is a sexual predator, and supplies drugs in Portapique and Economy, Nova Scotia.”

The same witness told police he “was aware that (the shooter) had smuggled guns and drugs from Maine for years and had a stockpile of guns.”

He also told McGrath: “Gabriel Wortman smuggled drugs from Maine and had a bag of 10,000 oxycontin and 15,000 dilaudid from a reservation in New Brunswick.”

The witness said he was “aware of all the secret hides located in the building. There are two false walls in the back bathroom and two in the garage.”

The RCMP has faced heavy criticism about its response to the massacre, including questions about the manner and timing of warnings to the public, most specifically its decision to use social media to communicate rather than the province’s emergency alert system.

Questions are also being asked about the Mounties’ apparent decision to decline an offer of help from the nearby Truro police force.

The RCMP’s reticence to provide information has been cited in calls for an inquiry into the events surrounding the massacre.

On Thursday, federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey announced an independent review of the matter.

The review falls short of the open process called for by families of victims, who have urged a public inquiry, in which witnesses could be compelled to testify under oath.

Those calls have been echoed by more than three dozen senators and almost as many members of Dalhousie University’s law school faculty, both of whom wrote letters calling for a public inquiry.
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