Court documents released Monday describe the violence a Nova Scotia mass killer inflicted on his father years before his rampage as well as the gunman’s paranoia and suspicious financial transactions ahead of the killings.
Fifty-one-year Gabriel Wortman took 22 lives on April 18-19 before police killed him at a service station in Enfield, N.S.
In documents that a media consortium, including The Canadian Press, went before a provincial court judge to obtain, Wortman’s spouse and cousin both describe how in 2016 he smashed his father’s head against the pool during a family vacation in the Caribbean, causing blood to flow in the water.
The cousin, a former RCMP officer, said as Wortman was growing up he was a “strange little guy” who later became a career criminal who financed his way through university with illegal alcohol and tobacco smuggling.
“(The cousin) went to Dominican (Republic) in 2016 with family and could see problems with Gabriel … While in Dominican he beat up his father,” the document states.
The document says the witness told police he’d believed Wortman was capable of perhaps killing his parents but hadn’t imagined he would go on a mass shooting rampage.
The accounts of Wortman’s tensions with neighbours are also discussed in the documents, with one witness describing how the 51-year-old denturist had once argued with Aaron Tuck — a Portapique neighbour he would later murder during the rampage — over the price Tuck was asking for his home.
The spouse told investigators Wortman disliked police officers and even once mentioned they would be easy to murder.
Yet, there is also a description from her of a calm period on the morning of April 18, as the couple drove around the countryside in the area of Debert, N.S., hours before he began his rampage.
“We were making plans,” she’s quoted as saying about the night of April 18. “It’s like he snapped. I don’t know.”
The documents contain a chilling description of the gunman’s attempt to kill RCMP Const. Chad Morrison in Shubenacadie, N.S., on April 19, when the officer was shot and wounded by Wortman.
Morrison said as he awaited his partner, Const. Heidi Stevenson, he hadn’t been expecting Wortman’s arrival, believing the gunman was still 22 kilometres to the northwest.
The constable realized Wortman’s intent as he pulled alongside him in the replica police cruiser he drove for much of his rampage.
“Const. Morrison said the suspect looked to have a melancholy expression as he was turning in front of him and then he had a ‘grit’ look on his face as he started to raise the gun,” the document said.
The documents released by Judge Laurel Halfpenny MacQuarrie include an account of a federal Finance Department agency looking into allegedly suspicious financial transactions by Wortman and Northumberland Investments Inc., a firm he owned.
Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, or FINTRAC, told the RCMP it learned that ”Gabriel Wortman used his account to make purchases of vehicle accessories commonly used by police, including items explicitly labelled as being intended for police use via eBay.”
It’s unclear from the document when FINTRAC first started tracking Wortman’s financial activities, but the court documents say the reports were prepared April 22 and 30, shortly after his rampage.
Erica Constant, a spokesperson for FINTRAC, said in an email the agency is prohibited from disclosing information that may have been provided to it by police, and a RCMP spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment.
The agency looked at transactions on Aug. 10, 2010, when Northumberland made deposits of $200,000 in cash and $46,000 from a term deposit to a Toronto-Dominion bank in Fredericton. There is a also detailed account of how Wortman received $475,000 in $100 bills from a Brinks facility in Dartmouth, N.S., on March 30 this year, as he grew increasingly anxious about COVID-19.
Investigators also describe a series of 2019 transactions the gunman made via PayPal as he created his mock police vehicle. The purchases included police cars, light bars, siren light controls, a dashboard camera, vinyl decals and a push bar for the front of the car to create an almost identical replica.
In addition, witnesses quoted in the documents cast fresh light on the assistance Wortman received in creating decals for the vehicle. Peter Griffon provided a statement to police describing how he’d made the RCMP decals for Wortman’s car, without the knowledge of his employer, using a computer at the back of the shop to research RCMP emblems.
The owner of the graphics company is quoted in the documents saying he’d told Griffon not to make the decals, as “he should not be messing around with stuff like that.”
Griffon, who was on parole from prison, has since had his parole revoked as a result of the work he did for Wortman.
The 40-year-old man had been on parole, and living with his parents in Portapique, N.S., doing odd jobs for Wortman, when he completed the decal work.
A National Parole Board decision provided to The Canadian Press says Griffon was convicted of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in 2017, and received parole a year later.
The board said in its decision, “the consequences of your (Griffon’s) most recent flawed decision-making contributed to a horrific end that touched every life in your province. Those decisions are inconsistent with being on parole.”
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
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