The landing page for everything Portapique
Although this blog is currently focused on driving and traffic, it was previously focused for a time on the Nova Scotia mass shootings that took place in Portapique April 18th and 19th 2020. Paul Palango has proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the RCMP is hiding much of what actually took place that weekend regarding their response and incompetence. You won’t find any of this information, which is backed by hard evidence including video, anywhere in corporate news media. However, you will find a lot of information in Paul’s book ‘22 Murders‘.
“There is no virtue so truly great and godlike as justice.” – Joseph Addison
Paul Palango is a Nova Scotian
The Portapique Portal – Part 1; A cold dark night
A comprehensive timeline of the events leading up to and during the Nova Scotia Massacres on April 18-19 2020.
The Portapique Portal – Part 2; Where’s Wortman?
The Portapique Portal – Part 3; A lingering darkness
The Portapique Portal – Part 4; It’s Zero degrees outside!
Nova Scotia Massacre memorials
RCMP radio communications April 18 2020 in Portapique Nova Scotia
EHS And DNR Radio Comms April 19 2020
The Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission
Orange Skies and RCMP lies; Portapique catches fire
SEARCHING FOR THE MOST COMFORTABLE TRUTH
By Paul Palango
When the Mass Casualty Commission was empanelled in July 2020 to investigate the Nova Scotia massacres, the federal and provincial governments made a big deal out of the fact that it would all be conducted according to the principles of restorative justice and would be “trauma-informed.”
Everything would be done in consultation. There would be group sessions. Nothing would be adversarial. Any qualified person who wanted to participate would be welcomed. Family members of the victims would be given priority, pride of place, as it were. Maclean’s Magazine, for one, hailed all this as a great achievement, and applauded commissioners Michael MacDonald, Leanne Fitch and Kim Stanton as luminaries in the fight for justice.
As reported in this space yesterday, the province and the feds agreed to put up $100,000 for legal fees for every party represented at the hearings. MacDonald is reportedly being paid $2,000 a day. It’s easy to see how the commission has racked up $13-million in expenses before even opening its doors to the public. Everyone involved got themselves a lawyer or three. The price was that they were required to sign some kind of non-disclosure agreement so that they wouldn’t let the cat out of the bag about what was going on.
The biggest single group is represented by Patterson Law, led by lawyers Robert Pineo, Sandra McCulloch and Grace MacCormick. In the parallel civil law suit, Patterson Law represents all the families. For the inquiry, the firm represents a dwindling number of them, including the families of Lisa McCully, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins, Jamie and Greg Blair, Corrie Ellison, Tom Bagley, Kristen Beaton, Joey Webber, John Zahl, Elizabeth Thomas, Dawn Madsen (Gulenchyn), Frank Gulenchyn and Heather O’Brien. (Patterson Law also represents Carole and Adam Fisher, Leon Joudrey, Bernie Murphy, Deb Thibeault, Mallory Colpitts, Darrell Currie and Greg Muise.)
Lead counsel Steve Topshee from Burchell MacDougall is joined by co-counsel Linda Hupman, clerk James Russell and paralegal Ashley Zwicker in representing four clients: the families of Aaron Tuck, Jolene Oliver, Emily Tuck and Lillian Campbell (Hyslop). Jane Lenehan from Lenehan Musgrave LLP represents the family of Gina Goulet. Josh Bryson from Wells, Lamey, Bryson, Schnare & Mailman is there for the family of Joy and Peter Bond.
For the past few months, the families and their lawyers have been beavering away under the direction of federal government prosecutors who are serving as directors. Commissioners MacDonald, Fitch and Stanton are nowhere to be seen most days. The families were deemed to be part of the ‘first phase’ of the hearings, along with the governments and the RCMP. This must have made them feel important. They were working as a team, marching forward arm in arm in arm with representative from the very organizations that were responsible for the incompetent and negligent behaviour that led many of their loved ones to be murdered.
The process in which they are all participating works something like this. Each foundation paper is a subject: the replica police car, etc. Hours are spent going paragraph by paragraph around the table. Everyone who is invited gets to put in their two cents on everything. This isn’t so much a search for the truth but rather a consensus about what might be the most comfortable truth.
Once the foundational papers are completed, they will be released to the media. There will be a three-day splash of horrible headlines and then the families can say whatever they want to say. Sounds great, right? But once they’ve signed off on the completed foundation papers, there is little to no room for further debate. No second thoughts. The families have been snookered. Whatever comes out, for better or worse, they have agreed to.
Some seem to think that they have a trump card, information that has been gathered by private detectives. Whatever it might be, if it matters at all, will only serve as leverage with an eager-to-pay government. Once any agreement is reached, any damaging information will be sealed by consent. That’s the way these things work. At that time the families can speak publicly, but what are they going to be able to say, if anything? Meanwhile, there are other victims who are not family. Some of them were closer to the action than any of the family members, but they are being treated as junior partners, barely given the time of day by the commission.
“There is no transparency,” one of them told me in an interview. “They are treating the families as if they are the only victims. It’s totally wrong. I wished I had never signed that non-disclosure agreement.” Finally, there is that last, and largest, class of victims – citizen taxpayers, who continue to suffer psychologically, and yes, financially by all this. And the bleeding has only just begun.
40 Gallons And A Mule (excellent Wortman insights)
Portapique Mountain and Five Houses
Driving from Portapique to Wentworth
The Nova Scotia Remembers Memorial Walk Trail – Victoria Park, Truro
200 Portapique Beach Road – the cottage
‘There were no police around’: what didn’t happen in Portapique
By Paul Palango
Around the time the first Mounties arrived at Portapique Beach on the night of April 18, five of the 13 victims that night were still alive or in the process of being killed, according to a reconstruction of events by Frank supported by the evidence of key witnesses and a family member of one of the victims. According to the RCMP’s own recent admissions and statements to surviving members, the RCMP was reportedly on scene at 10:26 p.m. on April 18 and Wortman did not leave the area until 10:45 p.m., giving him almost 20 minutes to continue his spree. He was seen moving through a field in his replica police car with its lights off by a group of riders on ATVs who had come to investigate the fires.
There is further evidence that the RCMP did not protect or preserve crime scenes throughout the night, left bodies uncovered, evacuated only a handful of residents and did not call in enough reinforcements and investigators to deal with the nine different crime scenes. In the eight months since Gabriel Wortman went on a rampage and began killing some of his neighbours that Saturday night, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Crown and governments have been extraordinarily vague about what took place. A public inquiry has been announced but there is no set date for when it will begin conducting hearings. There have been at least three shifting accounts about when the first 911 call came in. The force eventually settled on 10:01 p.m. as the time of the first call, although unredacted documents state that neighbour Alan Griffon called at 9:15 p.m. after noticing a fire at Wortman’s residence at 200 Portapique Beach Road. There has been no explanation given about the difference in times.
The RCMP originally had different times for the arrival of the first police officers, eventually settling on 10:26 p.m. It has never formally identified which officer or officers were there, which detachments they came from or what they did or didn’t do. It has never released the name of the officer in charge of the incident or the role played by the highest-ranking officers in the force. Sources say members of the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team did not arrive at the scene until shortly before midnight – two hours after the first 911 call. The RCMP and the Crown have refused to release call logs, radio transmissions or any other conclusive evidence about who did what and when. The RCMP and the Crown also have declined to put out a timeline which might show the order in which Wortman’s victims were killed. Documents which were used to provide evidence for search warrants, which by law should be readily available to the public, have been and continue to be heavily redacted so that it has been difficult to verify what actually happened. Some information, once redacted, were blacked out once new information was released.
The official narrative has been versions of a story in which Wortman and his long-time girlfriend/common law wife, Lisa Banfield, had a fight and that Wortman either tied her up or handcuffed her. Wortman is said to have then gone on a shooting spree where he killed 13 of his neighbours in about a 35 to 40-minute span. That narrative has also shifted over time. The unredacted information, for example, makes no mention of the girlfriend being restrained, but in fact places her at the scene at the time Wortman is setting fire to his log cabin cottage at 200 Portapique Beach Road and his warehouse at 136 Orchard Beach Road. One can travel between the two properties via a narrow path through the woods. There is no other road connection linking them. For Wortman to go by road from one door to the other is a little more than a kilometre in distance. It appears from the official narrative, such as it is, that Wortman burned his buildings first and then began killing. It is not clear from the sequence of events when the girlfriend purportedly escaped from Wortman or from which location.
Alan Griffon lives at 4 Faris Lane, a rutty, dead end road that runs for a couple of hundred metres parallel to the water east off Portapique Beach Road. It lay south of Wortman’s cottage across a tiny indent in the shoreline. There is a direct view from Griffon’s house of Wortman’s prominent dock jutting out from the bank. Griffon told RCMP investigators in partially unredacted documents that he and his wife first noticed Wortman’s house burning around 2100 hours or 9 p.m. This is much earlier than previously reported. The police say the first reports of fire and gunshots didn’t come in until 10:05 p.m. Alan Griffon’s son, Peter, a friend of Wortman’s, also reported hearing the sound of fire from Wortman’s warehouse burning around the same time. Both Griffons said they called in the fires to 911. Neighbours told Frank that they believe that the first to be killed before or after the fire was started at Wortman’s home were his nearest neighbours to the south, John Zahl and Elizabeth (Jo) Thomas. Their A-Frame cottage was located across the road from the Griffons. The property abutted 287 Portapique Beach Road, a 20-acre vacant tract of land owned by Wortman.
According to this scenario, Zahl and Thomas were shot and their house set on fire sometime before 10 p.m. Because the house was burned to the ground, initial suspicions were that Wortman either used a lot of gasoline or an incendiary device. If one is to accept the RCMP timeline, the Zahl fire appears to have been started as something small because it wasn’t noticed by the Griffons until the house was more fully engaged, around 11:30 p.m. Wortman would then have had to drive about 1.5 kilometres up Portapique Beach Road and down Orchard Beach to get to the properties of his next victim. There is conjecture in the neighbourhood about whether it was Greg and Jamie Blair or elementary school teacher Lisa McCully. McCully, who told others that she had had had a fling with Wortman in the past, lived in a house that Wortman’s uncle had built, financed by Wortman. The distinctive raised bungalow has about 2,500 square feet of living space and is among the largest in the neighbourhood. He believed it rightfully should have been his but lost a battle in court with the uncle who afterward sold it to McCully for $189,000, high for the area. The property at 135 Orchard Beach Road sat on a 1.5-acre lot, directly across the entrance to Wortman’s warehouse/man den at 136 Orchard Beach. The warehouse, which featured an apartment, sat on a 3,200 square-foot concrete pad.
Either the burning building across the road or the gunshots from the murder of her next-door neighbours, Greg and Jamie Blair, attracted McCully’s attention. When she went outside, her children, aged 10 and 12, had just gone to bed. Her body was found on her front lawn near the rail fence in the middle of the yard not far from the road. The body of curious onlooker, Corrie Ellison, was found lying near the ditch across the road, a few steps south of the steel gates across the driveway to Wortman’s warehouse. Ellison walked about 400 metres up the road from his father’s cottage to investigate the source of the glow in the sky from the burning warehouse. Before he was killed, Ellison told his brother, Clinton, on the phone that he was taking photographs of the fire.
When Clinton went looking for him and found him dead, he retreated south, likely several hundred metres before turning into a laneway. He hid in the nearby underbrush. He said he saw a flashlight sweeping the area behind him and assumed Wortman was stalking him. Ellison had a cell phone with him and called his father, telling him to call 911. Ellison didn’t call 911 himself and says he hid in the woods in freezing temperatures for about four hours and suffered mild hypothermia. It is not known whether Wortman took the time to actually stalk Ellison in the midst of his spree or was using the laser sights on his weapon to sweep the area. Whatever the case, he appeared to be intent on eliminating any witnesses to his deeds. Wortman likely then made his way north to the house of Greg and Jamie Blair, next to McCully’s. Their neat red and white cottage sits largely hidden from the road by the overgrowth. The house faces south toward the water and not the road. On the way up the driveway there is a tiny shed. On the door is a sign that reads: “WARNING: This property is protected by a double-barrel shotgun 3 nights a week. You guess which ones.”
Greg Blair, who ran a successful business in nearby Truro, is believed to have responded to the “police car” in his yard. He had recently had a dispute with Wortman, sources say. Wortman shot him outside. As he came toward the house, passed the large “Welcome” sign to the right, Wortman went after Greg’s wife, Jamie. Seeing the danger, she shuffled her two sons, also aged 10 and 12 into a bedroom, where they hid either in a closet or behind a bed. She may have dialed 911 or was in the process of doing so. Her back was against the bedroom door. Wortman shot through the door eight times killing her and narrowly missing her children. He then pulled burning logs out of the fireplace. He placed them in the middle of the room, according to the same sources.
The Blair house filled with smoke. The children managed to put the logs back into the fireplace and then ran next door to McCully’s house, where her children were in bed. They roused them and all four went to the basement and called 911. The McCully house has near wrap-around windows in the basement making it tricky to find shelter. The time was around 10:05 p.m., although the police have not confirmed this. Wortman then travelled north a few more hundred metres where he killed Frank Gulenchyn in the kitchen of his house and his wife, Dawn Madsen, in the living room, according to Dawn’s son, Ryan Farrington. Wortman set a small fire in the kitchen and then went back outside and sat in his “police car” which was backed into the driveway.
The police did not give chase
Andrew MacDonald operates Maritime Auto Parts, an auto recycler in nearby Glenholme. He has a neatly appointed cottage right at the junction of Portapique Beach and Orchard Beach roads. MacDonald’s company is the sponsor of a police hockey team in the local seniors’ league. He knows the local Mounties and they know him. MacDonald has refused to be interviewed and has hung up the phone when called by a number of reporters, but glimpses of his story have been told in the earliest days after the shootings, in the unredacted documents recently supplied to the public and in conversations he has had with others. MacDonald and his wife, Katie, got into one of his vehicles and went to investigate the source of all the smoke and the obvious fire. They drove past the small, blue-gray cottage lovingly built 10-years ago and fastidiously decorated by Gulenchyn and Madsen. MacDonald saw a police car sitting in the driveway. There was a flicker of flame behind the French doors where the kitchen was located. There was no way that they could have known that Gulenchyn and Madsen were already dead. Wortman again had started a small fire. There is speculation the fire was intended to lure another neighbour and his wife out of their property across the road and into his laser gun sight. That neighbour didn’t bite.
MacDonald drove down Orchard Beach Road for a bit. The warehouse fire was on his right. He apparently didn’t notice the bodies of McCully or Ellison. There was no street lighting. It was pitch dark. He turned his vehicle around and headed back up the road. Wortman pulled out of the driveway and headed south toward him. They met door to door. Wortman, dressed as a Mountie, raised a handgun. It sported a red laser line which MacDonald can see was painting his forehead. He ducked. Wortman fired. The bullet grazed his head. A second shot unknowingly lodged in his parka and missed him. He and his wife appear to be the only eyewitness to get away. MacDonald hit the gas and headed north, passed his house and toward Highway 2. It would have taken him a minute or less. Wortman was pointed south toward the water.
As MacDonald approached Highway 2, the first Mountie arrived at the scene. It was Constable Stuart Beselt, a hockey player on the team MacDonald’s company sponsored. They apparently knew each other. MacDonald told him what happened and then pulled over as the second RCMP constable arrived. His name was Jordan Carroll, which has been reported earlier. Carroll’s father, Al, a staff-sergeant was the commander that night at the Bible Hill detachment, about a 30-minute drive away, on the other side of Truro. According to the unredacted documents, MacDonald told the officers that Wortman or someone who looked a lot like him, was dressed as a Mountie in an RCMP marked car and had shot him. At 10:36 p.m. five more Mounties were dispatched to the scene, one of the victim’s family members subsequently was told. Based on the unredacted documents and police sources, the four were Corporal Natasha Jamieson, Constable Chris Grund, Sergeant Dave Lilly and Staff-Sgt. Steve Halliday. It is not known who the seventh officer might have been or whether that officer responded to the call. RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell told a CBC reporter that four officers were initially dispatched. At other times, the RCMP has indicated six were at the scene in the first few hours.
MacDonald had told them who had done the shooting, what he was driving and where he was headed — toward the bottom of the road. The police did not give chase. They remained huddled near the highway, likely waiting for emergency response units, which they had to know would take hours and did, being that its members were spread out across the province. The first ERT units arrived around midnight. Meanwhile, the Blair and McCully children had been on the line with 911 for almost half an hour by this time. Responding fire fighters and paramedics were held back from the scene, as were the police, themselves. As reported in the Halifax Examiner in July, a police supervisor warned some of the officers who were eager to charge down the road to hold their positions. “If you go down there this will be your last shift in the RCMP,” the supervisor said. The Mounties stayed put until around midnight.
The children were on the line for two hours with a 911 operator, which was first reported in McCully’s obituary notice and later in Maclean’s. The police at the scene would have known where the children were. The shooter’s location was not known so the children were in danger. The RCMP says that at some point officers went down Orchard Beach Road and saw two bodies at one residence and another on the lawn next door. This would have been the Blairs and McCully. The RCMP has never said when this took place or which officers were involved. The combination of events suggests that the RCMP knew the children were in the basement but did not attempt to rescue them. The RCMP has issued statements stating that six officers were hidden in the woods and were protecting the house and the children. Not true. Around midnight, Sgt. Lilly (who is referred to as a constable in the unredacted documents) and Constable Grund made a foray down Orchard Beach Road, extracted the children and took them to the hospital in Truro.
Meanwhile, after the run in with Andrew MacDonald, it would have taken Wortman a little more than a minute to get down to the bottom where Cobequid Court intersects with Orchard Beach Road. To the right stands three houses, respectively owned by Aaron Tuck, Peter and Joy Bond and a third person who was not there that night. ‘There was a clear altercation at the door’. Wortman appears to have been moving very quickly by now. He first killed Peter and Joy Bond whose house faced the intersection at Orchard Beach. Joy had answered the door wearing her pyjamas and Peter had come out to see what the police officer wanted.
He then visited the ramshackle, blue, dilapidated house occupied by Aaron Tuck and his family. A discarded toilet sat by the front steps. A bathtub in the front yard was filled with empty liquor bottles, while other bottles were strewn around the property. Tuck had just bought several thousand dollars worth of tools and equipment and was planning on renovating the property, according to Tammy Oliver-McCurdie, the sister of Tuck’s wife, Jolene Oliver and aunt of fiddle-playing Emily, their 17-year-old daughter. Oliver-McCurdie is the liaison person in her family with the RCMP. “I was told that Aaron had just cracked open a beer and was found dead at the door.” But even that version of the story was sugar-coated, as it were, by the Mounties. Oliver-McCurdie finally received a copy of the Medical Examiner’s reports on the deaths on November 26. The story it told was much more descriptive and disturbing.
The reports state that Aaron was shot three times, Jolene twice and Emily once, but Aaron’s and Jolene’s injuries paint an even darker picture. “Aaron had many blunt force lacerations and bruises on his palms, legs and face. Something not sharp was forced against him on his hands and legs,” Oliver-McCurdie said. “He was a little guy but he knew karate. There was a clear altercation at the door. He gave everything he had not to let him in the house. He would protect his girls to the death. I don’t understand how Wortman did it alone. I strongly feel there was more than one person there.” Oliver-McCurdie said Jolene appeared to be turning to run back into the house when she was shot through the arm which entered her thorax. A second shot was to the side of her head. Emily was shot once in the living room.
For Wortman there was a direct exit from the neighborhood across Orchard Beach Road at the eastern end of Cobequid Court, which he took. Running north between the tree line behind the properties on Orchard Beach Road and massive blueberry patch is a perfectly passable gravel road. According to residents it was regraded about a year ago and any vehicle could easily drive along it for its kilometer course up to Brown Loop, a muddy, potholed semi-circle of a passageway that has two openings onto Highway 2. “Everyone knows that’s the evacuation road if you want to get out of here in a fire or something,” said Judy Myers, a bookkeeper who lived about 100 meters from the Bonds and Tucks. The three families were the only permanent residents in that area of the neighborhood.
The RCMP say an unnamed witness told them that a car believed to be driven by Wortman used the route to escape the scene at around 10:35 p.m. But that wasn’t true, either. In fact the vehicle seen at that time was a white vehicle being driven by a curious neighbour who had seen the fires and had driven to investigate. “He went in the Brown Loop and sat at the edge of the field. I don’t know why he was there. He left around 10:35 p.m.” a relative of the man said in an interview. In fact, the RCMP now admits that Wortman didn’t leave the area until 10:45 p.m. when he drove with his lights out to Brown Loop and east toward Debert. Wortman’s vehicle was spotted on video passing a gas station in Great Village at 10:51 p.m. He drove for 32 minutes or so before pulling in behind a welding shop near the historic Debert Diefenbunker next to the airport. He apparently spent the night there, discarding items into a field before he left the area at 5:43 a.m. the next morning.
On that Saturday night there were 13 dead spread over three pods of killing – at the bottom of Portapique Beach Road, near the top of Orchard Beach Road and on Cobequid Court. Although the RCMP knew that a number of people had been murdered and four structures were burning, it didn’t know everything and wasn’t rushing to find out what it didn’t know. After the children were rescued sometime around midnight and taken to the hospital in Truro, there appears to have been only four regular Mounties left at the scene and the first ERT members. The RCMP would later say that there were “30 resources” there without times or details of their deployment. Emergency response teams and other Mounties were being called in from as far away as Woodstock, NB, police sources say. But they wouldn’t get there for hours. Around 2 a.m. Clinton Ellison was rescued by ERT members from his hiding place in the woods and taken to hospital to be treated for mild hypothermia.
Approaching 4 a.m. the police seemed to be concentrating their entire effort, such as it was, on Portapique Beach Road where Zahl and Thomas were murdered and Wortman’s cottage burned down and not on Orchard Beach Road where 11 bodies lay dead in six locations. ‘There were no police around’ Enter Leon Joudrey. He is a forest technician for the Department of Natural Resources. He has lived in the area for two years since his marriage ended. A typical early riser, he had socialized until shortly before 9 p.m. the night before with the Blairs and another neighbour, having dinner in their garage to maintain social distancing requirements. Nothing unusual was going on, he said. Dead tired, he went home and straight to bed. He was awakened in the middle of the night by the smell of smoke. It was 3:45 a.m. “It didn’t smell like a forest fire,” Joudrey said over the course of a series of interviews. “I thought I should go investigate.”
Joudrey’s house is located at 140 Portapique Crescent, which is a loop that begins and ends on the east side of Orchard Beach Road, between it and part of the blueberry patch. It sits behind the Gulenchyn house on its own large lot. There was only one other permanent resident on the road that night. They were unharmed and were not evacuated. Joudrey said in an interview that he drove out to Orchard Beach Road and then up to the intersection of Portapique Beach Road. He turned left and drove passed Andrew MacDonald’s house until he came to a parked RCMP armored vehicle near the smouldering ruins of Wortman’s cottage. He had driven about a kilometre and had seen no other police cars or officers.
He pulled up to the armored car and tried to talk to the driver, who did not or could not roll down his window. “He got on his loudspeaker and told me to turn around and go back to the top of the road,” Joudrey said. “Thinking about it now, if the RCMP were looking for Wortman, they weren’t exactly acting like that. That guy could have cared less about who I was. If they were looking for him, why wasn’t I evacuated? If these were crime scenes, why was I able to drive through them? What the Mounties are saying doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to me. What are they hiding?” Joudrey turned his pickup around and headed toward home. He passed Frank Gulenchyn’s house but didn’t notice in the dark that it had burned to the ground. He raced down Orchard Beach Road at high speed. He didn’t see anything, so he turned his vehicle around and headed north back toward his house. Along the route he unknowingly passed the body of Corrie Ellison who was lying dead just south of the steel gates to Wortman’s warehouse/workshop at 136 Orchard Beach Road that had also been set on fire.
Like Wortman, Joudrey said he had had a brief fling with Lisa McCully. She had told him about her relationship with Wortman. She always spoke highly of Wortman, Joudrey said, which was his first clue that there might be more afoot to their relationship than might appear at first blush. Joudrey didn’t notice McCully’s body hidden in the dark near her rail fence. Next door to her at 123 Orchard Beach lay the bodies of Greg and Jamie Blair. Joudrey didn’t see them either because he didn’t go up their driveway. “There were no police around. There wasn’t a flashing light. I drove for a couple of kilometres and didn’t see anything but that one armoured vehicle,” Joudrey said.
At 6:30 a.m. that morning, the night shift of officers at the scene, wherever they were and whatever they had been doing, went home, as was first reported in the Globe and Mail. The investigation into the murders on Orchard Beach Road had not even begun. Around that same time, Wortman’s girlfriend materialized out of nowhere and knocked on Joudrey’s door. She told him that she had been hiding in the woods all night. He was a woodsman. He knew the area. He didn’t believe her. When the Mounties came for her, they didn’t much bother with him or even search his house. They just carted her away. “How did they know he wasn’t in the house holding someone hostage?” Joudrey asked. “Nothing they did was thorough or professional.”
‘A leg was sticking out’
Bookkeeper Judy Myers had gone to bed late, as is her habit. She said she heard what she thought were gunshots — three than two – at precisely 11:28 p.m. because the evening CTV news was almost over. She was getting ready to watch the Honeymooners. Her recollection doesn’t fit the timeline but she’s not the only one to reference that time period. The three Griffons in their statements to the police talk about events happening at around that time, as well. But the police say Wortman had left the area by that time. Myers says she awoke around 4 a.m. after hearing feral cats fighting in her yard. She went outside and didn’t hear or smell anything. It was peaceful. When she awoke in the morning, she was shocked to find out on Facebook what had taken place around her. Around 9 am, she said, a RCMP ERT vehicle turned around in her driveway and 15 minutes later one stopped in her driveway. Officers in their tactical gear came to her door. They asked her if she was safe and whether they could search her sheds and a trailer she owned at the time. They did that and then told her that she should leave and go to the Onslow Fire Hall for shelter.
“When we left we drove up the road and when we got near where Gabriel’s warehouse had been it was gone and there was a body lying under a yellow tarp near the gate. A leg was sticking out. I guess that was Corrie Ellison” Myers recalled. “There were no policemen around or any yellow tape. Across the road you could see another yellow tarp where Lisa McCully was laying. There was no yellow tape there. I didn’t see any other bodies, but Frank and Dawn’s place was burned to the ground.” One other important thing Myers saw which helps to illustrate the lack of manpower the RCMP threw at the incident. Around 10 a.m., Myers said she was driving along the four-lane divided Highway 104 just outside Truro. As she approached the exit for Highway 102, which leads to Halifax and the South Shore, one single RCMP officer was flagging down traffic and conducting inspections. By this time the first reports were coming in that Wortman was killing people to the near north of the area, near Wentworth.
There are more than 1,000 Mounties in various roles in Nova Scotia. The RCMP did not appear to call for help from its own members in Nova Scotia or from municipal police officers in nearby Truro, Amherst, Halifax, New Glasgow or Stellarton. On the other hand, the force may have tried to call in reinforcements, but no one would respond to something so potentially dangerous and life-threatening. If so, that would be just as disturbing.
Deer caught in the headlights
As the story of the horrible carnage slowly emerged that Sunday, April 19, Canadians were told that the RCMP would be holding a press conference at 6 p.m. to inform the world about what had been going on. It was inexplicably delayed for more than an hour. When it finally began two senior Mounties took the podium. One was Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman, the person in charge of the RCMP in Nova Scotia. The other was Chief Superintendent Chris Leather, the number two Mountie in the province. He was the Criminal Operations Officer – the so-called CROPS officer, who supposedly oversaw all operations in the province. All Mounties agree that the CROPS officer is the man in charge when the excrement hits the fan. Their televised appearance was notable for the fact that the two Mounties seemed almost bewildered and nervous, like deer caught in the headlights, as the old saying does. When they described what happened, they didn’t get into details, especially about the number of dead. Throughout the day the number of people killed was rumoured to be eight. They would be the first eight. But now, Leather had a new number because it was known that at least nine people had been killed in Wentworth and elsewhere in Nova Scotia by Wortman.
“There are in excess of 10 families affected,” Leather said, now about 21 hours after the first 911 call. The RCMP had all that time to figure out what happened but could not be specific. The reason for this can be explained by the following fact. Tammy Oliver-McCurdie said that her RCMP family liaison officer, Constable Wayne “Skipper” Bent, told her that her family members were the last to be killed. She has the conversation on tape. Oliver-McCurdie found the information hard to believe. “Aaron would have been on guard,” she said. “He would have heard those gunshots and would have protected his girls. He must have been first.”
But the Tucks’ house on Cobequid Court was far away from the pod of shootings at the top of Cobequid Court. If he was killed first, then the RCMP timeline is wrong. If he was last, he likely didn’t hear anything due to the distance, the thick forest cover and the direction of the wind. The most important thing the RCMP told Oliver-McCurdie may well explain exactly what the RCMP didn’t do that night. “It was approximately 5 o’clock when were able to clear and get into 41 Cobequid that evening, I’m sorry, that afternoon.” RCMP lead investigator Cpl. Gerard Rose-Berthiaume told Oliver-McCurdie in a telephone conversation she taped. “I couldn’t believe it. Five o’clock?,” McCurdie asked incredulously. “That’s almost 20 hours from when they were murdered. Twenty hours. What were they doing?”
As outrageous as that might have seemed to McCurdie, she didn’t realize at the time that the Mounties were still playing with the timeline. She and her sister had been calling the Mounties repeatedly on April 19th in an attempt to have them check on the wellbeing of Aaron, Jolene and Emily, who were not answering their phones or text messages. Tammy’s sister had a time stamp on her phone for the last call to Rose-Berthiaume. It was 5:38 p.m. “He told her that they were on the way to the house but weren’t there yet,” McCurdie said. That alone might explain why Bergerman and Leather looked and acted so weird on television that night. Their prepared statements about what took place had to be retooled in a hurry, which caused the press conference to be delayed. The RCMP didn’t call in the cavalry on the night of April 18. Wortman provided the Mounties with another distraction when he spent the following morning conducting the additional massacre of another nine innocent people. Included in that slaughter was Constable Heidi Stevenson before he himself was killed by police. Caught between the two massacres the RCMP seems to have got itself stuck in neutral – and since then is extremely shy about explaining why that happened.
On the surface these seems like a simple case. A mad man goes wild and kills 22 people and then is killed himself. Eight months later we are still trying to learn simple truths. Eight months! The RCMP and its political, media and citizen protectors have intimated all along that it did everything it could in a desperate situation. The RCMP says it is committed to being transparent and getting to the bottom of the question barrel and providing every possible answer. So why the chaos? Why the confusion? Why all the attempts at distracting the surviving families and the public at large away from the real story.
It is quite clear that the RCMP did the minimum it could possibly do. It is quite clear that Justice Minister Mark Furey and the provincial government has had no interest in providing clarity. It is quite clear that Solicitor General Bill Blair and the federal government is determined to muddy the waters. The big unanswered question is why.
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