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Nova Scotia mass shooter's spouse worried he was looking for her when killings began


HALIFAX — The spouse of the gunman who killed 22 people in Nova Scotia last April told police that she has had guilty feelings and wonders whether others died because she ran away from her partner when his rampage began.

Lisa Banfield told police that she questions whether Gabriel Wortman went to locations she might have run to in order to get help and then killed people as he went along. 

"Lisa questions whether people would have died if she didn't run away," says information contained in a statement she provided to RCMP Staff Sgt. Greg Vardy on April 28. The information was used as part of a police application for a search warrant. 

Previously released court documents related how Banfield had escaped after being assaulted by Wortman on the night of April 18. 

After her escape, Wortman began a killing rampage that only ended the next day after a police officer shot him dead at a gas station in Enfield, N.S. 

Banfield told police that in the days prior to the killings Wortman was "caught up with COVID-19," was talking about death and said that he knew he was going to die.

She said about a week before his deadly rampage, Wortman wanted to "load up" on gas because the price was low. Banfield told police he purchased $500 to $600 worth of gas and filled two 40 gallon blue coloured jugs and numerous red plastic jerry cans.

According to the documents, when police asked for further details about the gas purchase, Banfield said that Wortman was "very paranoid about COVID" and that one day they went to the gas station across from the Masstown Market to make the purchase.

Banfield told police it was like he was "preparing for the end of the world", noting he even wanted to buy a large quantity of rice and other food items.

On the night of the assault, the killer poured gasoline around his cottage in Portapique, N.S. and burned it to the ground. He later burned three homes belonging to people he killed.

Banfield previously told police that Wortman had been abusive towards her in the past and that she didn't report any of the incidents.

According to new information contained in the search warrant application, she said her former partner had become controlling over time.

She said she was close with her family, something he didn't understand and got upset about. Banfield also said she typically kept her nieces away from Wortman, who did not like children. 

"He always said things about hurting her family so she was afraid to leave him," the documents state.

Banfield told police "she knew Gabriel Wortman was different but never thought he would do what he did."

Banfield, 52, is among three people charged with unlawfully transferring ammunition to the gunman in the month before his rampage.  But police have noted that she and others had "no prior knowledge of the gunman's actions.''

Kevin Von Bargen, a Toronto-based lawyer who was friends with the couple, told police in an April 21 telephone statement that he had a "normal" conversation with Wortman just two days before the killings began.

He said they talked about COVID-19, bikes and bike parts, and Wortman's recent request for a permit to put an addition on his shed. 

Von Bargen said they had been friends for three-and-a-half years after being introduced through a group of people who share a passion for restoring motorcycles.

He told police that he spoke with Wortman after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, noting his friend was convinced the world economy was going to collapse. Wortman had even contacted his bank to redeem his GICs and collected about $475,000 in cash a month before the rampage, Von Bargen added.

Van Bargen described their friendship as "pretty strong", telling police that they had confided in each other in the past and that "Gabriel did not talk about having a grudge against anyone."

He told police he was shocked by what happened and that "Lisa Banfield had told him it sounded like Gabriel was going door to door looking for her."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2021.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press

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