Paul Palango is a Nova Scotian – chapter seven

On Wortman’s outlaw biker ties, where he stashed his secret phone, and Lisa’s history of ammo buys as allowed to keep his NEXUS pass – (1/3)

Border officials knew mass killer smuggled guns, but was allowed to keep his NEXUS pass

by Paul Palango – Frank Magazine

A Halifax-area man who was close to Gabriel Wortman for almost 20 years says the RCMP failed to turn over full transcripts of his interviews in disclosures to the Mass Casualty Commission. Robert Doucette told the police tales about, among other things, Wortman’s cell phone, his cache of grenades, a curious incident at the Canadian border and how he was there when Wortman’s common-law wife Lisa Banfieldfired off some rounds from a Glock 40 handgun and had been purchasing ammunition for Wortman for almost a decade.

Frank Magazine recently provided Doucette with copies of his statements released by the Mass Casualty Commission. After reviewing those documents, Doucette said that his statements appear to be strategically edited or sanitized to remove his recollection of some of the criminal and other potentially controversial behaviours by Wortman. Until recently, Doucette, 56, had largely been known as the mysterious Rob The Carpenter, who helped Wortman build his cottage on Portapique Beach Road, his warehouse on Orchard Beach Drive and his denturist office on Portland Street in Dartmouth, among other things. 

Doucette has never been interviewed by the media. After a series of preliminary interviews, Doucette agreed to a three-hour filmed interview which was conducted at an undisclosed location on the afternoon of July 1 by myself, Nighttime Podcast host Jordan Bonaparte and citizen investigators Chad Jones and Ryan Potter. In Doucette’s estimation, somewhere between a third and one half of what he told police in those interviews never made it onto the public record. He said he recently provided his lawyer with the interviews from the MCC website.

“I just gave her a copy as reading material. I didn’t tell her anything was missing… She told me there must be a lot missing because you get sentences and then there is a comment. There just seems that there’s something missed out.” Doucette said his interviews published by the MCC on its website are very misleading. 

“The statements appear to indicate that I spoke with them two or three times. In fact, investigators came to see me seven times. They came so often that I was kicked out of my apartment In Halifax by my landlord. He had some tax issues and the neighbour across the street was a cocaine dealer who complained to my landlord about all the police hanging around.”

The smuggling runs

Wortman had been smuggling cigarettes, drugs and guns across the border since his days at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton from 1987 to 1991. According to government documents released by the Mass Casualty Commission he had been targeted for investigation on numerous occasions beginning in at least 2008 and over the subsequent six years. Nevertheless, he was granted a NEXUS trusted traveler pass on April 1, 2015. Eight months later, Wortman was again targeted by customs officers. Afterward, he was not targeted again. The NEXUS pass was reevaluated in 2018, but not revoked by the CBSA

A heavily redacted CBSA internal communication on the MCC website — an email dated October 22, 2020 with the subject line ‘(Heads Up) Nova Scotia shooting’ — notes that ‘He was a NEXUS member’. In Wortman’s ‘client profile’ (contact information, DOB, etc), his NEXUS status is listed as ‘cancelled’. Although no date is given, one can assume it was a postmortem revocation of privileges. 

Doucette said he accompanied Wortman on two smuggling runs from Houlton, Maine to Woodstock, N.B.between 2016 and 2017. Doucette didn’t cross the border either time. Although the Nova Scotia-born and raised Doucette said he lived in the United States in the past, he had once smuggled into Canada a case of six M-16rifles stolen from the U.S. military which placed him in jeopardy with U.S. authorities. Doucette said that in the first run he got out of Wortman’s vehicle on the Canadian side and had to wait “a day and a half to two days” for Wortman to return. He was vague about what he did killing time during that period. “I was just there. I can hang out anywhere,” he said. 

When they got back to Portapique, Wortman showed him the AR-15 assault rifle that he had smuggled. It was hidden in a false exhaust that Doucette said he had constructed under the truck. “The truck looked like it had dual exhausts but one of the exhausts wasn’t an exhaust. It looked like it went into the engine and came out the back of the truck. The middle looked like it was under a skid plate but that was just an empty compartment.”

On the second run to the border, Doucette said that Wortman returned in about two hours with another AR-15 and a 50-calibre Barrett sniper rifle, a weapon that currently retails for about $5,000. But something strange happened. “He drove right past me and went somewhere else for an hour and a half. He then came back and picked me up,” Doucette said. Wortman never explained the purpose of the side trip and Doucette was not about to ask him.

“That tells me that he had more in there and sold it somewhere,” Doucette said.

“If he was a (police) agent they’d have to photograph it all,” I said, repeating what I had been told by police sources familiar with such situations.

“I would imagine that,” Doucette said, adding that he didn’t know whether Wortman was working with the RCMP, but considering what had happened it was not beyond the realm of possibility.

In her statements to the RCMP, Banfield said that Wortman hid smuggled goods on the bed of his truck, under the tonneau cover. “That doesn’t make any sense,” Doucette said dismissively. It is not known what happened to Wortman’s black Ford 150 Platinum.

A call from the Canadian Border Services Agency

About six weeks after Wortman had smuggled the Barrett sniper rifle into Canada, Doucette said he received a call out of the blue from a CBSA agent, whose name he didn’t recall. Doucette said he had no idea how the CBSA knew his name, phone number or details about Wortman’s smuggling run. “He asked me about the two guns (the Barrett and AR-15),” Doucette said. “I have no idea how they knew about them.”

The conversation didn’t go far, Doucette said, but it raises questions about what law enforcement knew about Wortman’s activities during that time period. In the earliest days after the massacres, Nova Scotia RCMP commanding officers Chris Leather and Darren Campbell indicated that Wortman was never on their radar for his criminal activities – at least not in Nova Scotia. 

However, it should be noted that in 2016 the RCMP’s J Division in New Brunswick initiated three major operations focused on the Hells Angels and its expansion into the Maritimes. Projects Trident, Thunder and Thunderstruck were joint forces operations involving, among others, the Fredericton and Halifax police departments as well as Border Security. The primary targets of the multi-agency investigation were Hells Angels Nomads Robin Moulton and Emery “Pit” Martin who were arrested and charged in 2017 and 2018 respectively, and imprisoned. Moulton resided near Woodstock, NB and when arrested was found to be carrying a 9mm Beretta handgun, a model that Wortman was known to have smuggled into Canada around that time.

Wortman’s cell phone

The RCMP and Lisa Banfield have insisted from the start that Wortman did not use a cell phone and that all calls to him were handled by Banfield. Robert Doucette says otherwise. He first brought up Wortman having a cell phone on April 19, 2020 at his first interview with police, which was conducted by Halifax Detective Constable Anthony McGrath. Doucette said the interview took place at RCMP headquarters at 80 Garland Avenue in Dartmouth.

In the 40-page transcript, Doucette is quoted as saying, “He can watch every one of his properties from his phone.” Although the time of the interview isn’t given, it’s clear we are very early in the proceeding, as Doucette at least isn’t even aware that Wortman’s rampage had come to an end. So only a few hours, at most, had elapsed since Lisa Banfield (allegedly!-ed.) emerged from the woods in Portapique and told Const. Terry Brown that Wortman didn’t have a cell phone of his own.

Four days later on April 23, Constable Dayle Burris and Corporal Kathryn MacLeod conducted a follow up 31-minute interview with Doucette. “Rob, every little detail is important,” Burris said at one point. “Don’t leave anything out.” But the meandering line of questioning didn’t include any attempt to find out more about the phone. Meanwhile, in his interview with us, Doucette said that over the years Wortman was disciplined about his secret phone, the number to which he never gave out, even to Doucette.

“He hid it in the door panel of the truck. It was always in silent mode,” Doucette said. 

“Lisa didn’t even know about it. I saw it. It was an Android phone like a Samsung. He never called me on it, and I didn’t know the number to it.”

Others who have since gone on the record as saying Wortman didn’t have a phone — statements happily parroted by police — include neighbours Dana Geddes and Cyndi Starrett, among others. Doucette said Wortman used to monitor his home, business and warehouse security cameras on the cell phone. The issue of whether Wortman had access to a cell phone has persisted since the massacres. At some points on Sunday April 19, it appears that someone was calling into the RCMP with information that was designed to throw off the Mounties.

For example, there was a call at around 10 a.m. about a dead woman in a car at the Hidden Hilltop Campground, just north of Masstown. It came just as the police thought they were closing in on Wortman on the Fisher family property just to the south of the campground. There has never been an explanation given for the dead woman in the car saga. Likewise, if Wortman had a phone, a call from him about the police car parked at the Onslow-Belmont firehall might explain the strange behaviour of the two Mounties who shot at one of their own members and an EMO worker that morning.

The RCMP has denied that Wortman had a phone, but its statements must be weighed against the fact that the force was destroying evidence in the case in the months afterward until it was finally ordered to stop doing so in the fall of 2020. Prior to the interviews with Doucette, two different police sources told Frank Magazine that they strongly believed that Wortman had a police-issued undercover cell phone.

Lisa Banfield – ammunition and guns

In December 2020 Lisa Banfield, her brother James and brother-in-law Brian Brewster were each charged with illegally supplying ammunition to Wortman, some of which he used in the 22 murders that were committed that weekend.

His finances exhausted by the legal battle, James Banfield eventually pleaded guilty to a charge. Earlier this year, as her case was set to go to trial, Banfield’s case was transferred to Restorative Justice, as was Brewster’s. This meant everything would be hidden away in a closed and odd process, considering the facts. Restorative justice means the two sides in a crime come together, talk things over and work out a resolution, as if it were a dispute that could ever be resolved. 

Doucette said he told the MCC investigators that Banfield had been purchasing ammunition for Wortman “since around 2010 or 2011. She wasn’t around Portapique all that much but when she did come up, I saw her bring ammunition. I don’t know if she had a PAL (Possession and Acquisition Licence). She got ammunition for everything except the Barrett. I don’t think it’s easy to get .50 calibres in Canada. I think Gabe brought a bunch of those in from the States.”

Doucette said he and Wortman used to shoot the guns, especially at the warehouse property with its long, cleared fields. He said Wortman liked shooting the Barrett but wasn’t a very good shot at first. Doucette said that after he coached Wortman “he could take the top off a beer bottle from 500 yards or so.” Doucette said he twice saw Banfield firing a Glock 40 pistol outside the cottage at 200 Portapique Beach Road. He said she was inexperienced at the time and that the gun was too much for it. “She almost lost the gun over her head … and she handed it to me and shook her head,” Doucette said.

The grenades 

Lost in the shuffle over the past two years of stalling and deflections by the RCMP and the Mass Casualty Commission was the story of Wortman and the grenades. Originally, the RCMP had blacked out mention of grenades in their Informations to Obtain a Search Warrant. Police sources told me the blacked-out word was grenades – possibly phosphorous grenades.

Eventually the word was unredacted in a mass release of information and lost in the deluge as stories considered sexier overwhelmed the news flow of the day. But Wortman and the grenades are likely vital to the underlying story – Wortman and his relationships with biker gangs and his possible role as a Confidential Informant or police agent.

Of all the secret compartments that Doucette built for Wortman, one was in his warehouse at 136 Orchard Beach Drive under a work bench. That’s where he stored grenades. Doucette said that Wortman had smuggled two cases of grenades across the border and that they came in a green U.S. military case with yellow lettering. They were not phosphorus grenades.

“He showed them to me and asked me exactly how they worked,” Doucette recalled. 

“They were nail grenades. They were about as thick as a pen refill. Double headed. No ends – 3 ¼ inches long. Each one holds between 75 and 100 of these nails. All you do is twist these grenades, a quarter of a turn, and throw it. It will land in a room, bounce and then it will wobble. It will stand up straight up and down like an egg and when they go there is nothing in this room that wouldn’t be hit.” 

While anything to do with Wortman’s activities with criminals is constantly being downplayed by officialdom, the existence of the grenades may well be the key to what was really going on in Wortman’s world. The police hunt for grenades featured largely in search warrants issued to Trident, Thunder and Thunderstruck investigators in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, according to court records and sources. In the underworld, shrapnel grenades are an exotic item most suited to the tastes of a select group outlaw motorcycle clubs, the only likely buyers. Wortman’s possession of the grenades raises obvious questions: Was he working with the bikers and supplying them with guns and grenades or was he working with the police to set those bikers up?

Doucette said he doesn’t know to whom Wortman was selling grenades, but conceded that it was at least his understanding that Wortman was selling guns and other paraphernalia to a number of Nova Scotia motorcycle club members over the years. These included the Darksiders and two Colchester County clubs – The Highlanders and the Mountain Men Rednecks. Police sources added that the Red Devils, a Hells Angels support club, were also likely Wortman customers.

A police source says that Wortman was a frequent visitor to the old Darksiders’ club house near his denturist clinic on Portland Street. “The door to the right was for members while the door to the left was for associates and friends of the club,” the policeman said. “I’ve been told that Wortman always went to the left.”

Doucette concurred, saying that Wortman was accepted by some of them as “a friend of the club” because he provided them with products they needed. Law enforcement sources and others interviewed by Frank Magazine say each of the above assertions by Doucette raises serious and concerning unanswered questions about Wortman, police operations and the approach being taken by the Mass Casualty Commission investigating Wortman and the RCMP response.

Doucette, himself, is skeptical about the Mass Casualty Commission: “From what I can see, they are not trying to get to the truth.”

tips@frankmagazine.ca

NEXT: The man who shot Wortman’s pet wild bear.

The Peter Fonda Movies

When the future mass killer shunned his friend Carpenter Rob for shooting his friend the bear -(2/3)

When the future mass killer shunned his friend Carpenter Rob for shooting his friend the bear; by Paul Palango – Frank Magazine

Meet Robert Arthur Mitchell Crowdog Taylor Doucette, otherwise known as Rob the Carpenter, Gabriel Wortman’s right-hand man for almost two decades. He wears his greying hair tied back into a tight, single braid, and has been described as “scary” by some who have come across him. He admits that’s true – but says he’s not as scary as he looks. He likes to wear a leather vest with patches on it, but the vest is a handed down family treasure that his great, great grandfather began wearing in 1897. Then there is a moose leather jacket that is 120 years old. 

“People think I am a biker when all I am is a fucking Indian,” he said at one point during a series of interviews. “I look like a pretty intimidating guy. I’ve looked this way since I was 16 years old. People see me coming and they cross the street but that’s not who I am. It’s just my protection. I’m totally the opposite. I go to work. I come home. I do crafts. I carve peace pipes. I do leather work.” 

Crowdog, as he likes to be called to acknowledge his proud Mi’kmaq heritage, was born and raised in the Yarmouth, N.S. area, spending much of his brutal childhood in the foster care system.

“I spent my first 14 years living in a wire dog cage,” he recalled. “By the time I was 10, I had spent more time in hospital than most people do in their entire lives. I didn’t learn to read as a child because I was always working. I finally taught myself to read when I was 26.”

He met his birth father when he was 15, who soon led him into the wider underbelly of the world, much of which Doucette refuses to discuss. He even has policing in his blood. He says his maternal grandfather was the notorious Verdun Mitchell, Halifax police chief in the ‘50s and ‘60s, who himself was a suspect in the still-unsolved 1955 murder of Halifax businessman Michael Leo Resk. Mitchell committed suicide in a washroom at Halifax police headquarters in 1968. Another relative was a police chief in Saskatchewan.

Doucette was working in 1999 or 2000 as a bouncer at the Ship Victory bar and restaurant in Dartmouth. He remembers the moment as if it were yesterday. It involved a member of the Rock Machine motorcycle club, the enemies of the Hells Angels in the Quebec biker war which was ongoing at the time.

“Somebody came in wearing a Rock Machine T-shirt,” Doucette recalled. 

“I told him to take it off. He wouldn’t take it off so I took him outside and took it off him. Gabriel praised me when I came back into the bar.”

“Are you a Hells Angel?” I asked.

“No, I am not a Hells Angel, but I do have acquaintances who are Hells Angels.”

In the ensuing years Doucette had a hand in building everything Wortman owned in Nova Scotia – his log cabin cottage and warehouse/man den in Portapique and his denturist office on Portland Street in Dartmouth. They drank and partied together. Doucette was on the inside of just about everything in Wortman’s life until they had a falling out in the fall of 2018. After the massacres, a photograph circulated of Wortman feeding Tostitos out of the bag to a full grown wild black bear off the deck of his cottage at 200 Portapique Beach Road.

“It was going after somebody else’s dog … so I killed the bear,” Doucette said. 

But before that falling out, Doucette accrued a thousand stories about Wortman, enough knowledge to compel him to call 911 on the morning of April 19, 2020. He had heard on the news that the police had named Wortman as the man who was dressed as a Mountie and driving a replica Mountie cruiser while killing people – eventually 22 in all.

It was 10:12:15 a.m. when he called 911.

“I’m just wondering if you guys are aware of what weapons he has,” he said, all but discombobulating the 911 operator.

“Ahm, can you ah, why, how you, how would you know sir, how many weapons he has?” the operator nervously asked.

“I know he has an AR-15, he has a Barrett 50 caliber sniper rifle. I know he’s got a Glock 40 and he’s got an assault 12-gauge shotgun.”

“Do you know if these are all legally obtained?” the operator asked.

“No, they’re all brought across the border. He’s been smuggling out of Maine for probably the last 20 years,” Doucette said, adding a few seconds later: “He also has two cases of nail grenades.”

Doucette also told the operator that Wortman had a stockpile of official decals from the RCMP, Halifax Police, fire chiefs and postal vans. “I was warning them to look out for the others,” Doucette said afterward. 

“(RCMP Constable) Heidi (Stevenson) was still alive when I called. I knew they were approaching (Wortman) with caution, but I was saying that they should be approaching with even more caution.”

Doucette said he called 911 because he was trying to save lives. That’s not the image of him stored in police data banks. On December 20th last year, Doucette was visiting a female friend who owned a vicious Serbian Rottweiler, a dog with a massive head and enormous biting power. Doucette said the dog attacked him and he had to fight it off. He still has puncture wounds on various parts of his anatomy. 

Halifax police showed up and the owner of the dog, fearing that the animal would be seized told the police that Doucette had attacked her and that the dog had intervened. The police charged Doucette with assault. His trial is scheduled for July 11.

But nothing in that matter is as it seems.

We met the woman in question a few weeks ago. She drove Doucette to a book signing event at Chapters in Dartmouth. She looked presentable and once had an impressive job, but something was not right about her. We soon learned that she had serious psychiatric issues, but the police didn’t want to hear that, apparently. The disclosure documents provided to Doucette’s lawyer described him as being “a police hater” and “an associate of Gabriel Wortman” and “violent.”

“I may look like a violent guy, but I’m a peacemaker,” Doucette said. 

“They call me an associate of Wortman’s. I was trying to save lives and they (the police) make it look like I was fucking involved. They call me a police hater, but one of my best friends is a cop in Toronto.”

Also in Toronto, his older brother David Doucette tragically died in a suicide-by-cop incident outside a Spadina Road rooming house in 2015. Back in Nova Scotia, it appears to be a police strategy to minimize, discredit and even make disappear anything that Doucette has tried to offer up about Wortman and his life. In many ways it is similar to what happened to Portapique resident Leon Joudrey. 

Joudrey took in Wortman’s common-law wife Lisa Banfield at 6:34 a.m. on April 19. Joudrey, a woodsman, didn’t believe Banfield’s story about being in the woods for more than eight hours on a freezing night. The RCMP not only ignored him but eventually had Joudrey charged and locked up in a psychiatric facility. Although he doesn’t hate the police, Doucette doesn’t trust them either. That’s one of the reasons that over the years he carried a mini recorder that he could switch on when times became interesting for him.

Over the years he enjoyed one of the clearest windows into Wortman’s wild world. Through a woman he was dating in 2000, Doucette met denturist Gina Goulet. “My company name was the Horseman’s Hammer. I built every horse barn between Windsor and Truro.”

The Registry of Joint Stocks says the Horseman’s Hammer General Contracting, a sole proprietorship, operated out of Nine Mile River for several years beginning in 2004. Doucette said his girlfriend had him build fences for Goulet. 

“Gabriel went with me to do the estimate. I had the impression that (Wortman and Goulet) knew each other. They didn’t say that but I thought that.” Goulet would become the 22nd and last of Wortman’s victims. He said Wortman was on a never-ending hunt for sex. 

“Gabriel would chase everything from 18 to 80,” he said. 

“He was a pig that way. He would just go up to women and say: “I would like to fuck you.”

He described attending hot tub parties in the Portapique area, including those at Brenda Forbes’s house on Portapique Beach Road. “He’d just go with a bunch of booze, strip off and climb in the hot tub. Everybody else would just shoo …. and get out of the hot tub. Gabriel was built like a donkey. Wasn’t a whole lot of women who wanted that near them,” he said, indicating with a chop of his hand that Wortman’s penis hung halfway down to his knee. 

Doucette said that Lisa Banfield didn’t like him hanging around, but that he wasn’t all that fond of her either. “To my mind she was the controlling one,” Doucette said, echoing comments made by others, as reported previously. 

“She didn’t like anyone hanging around that Gabe liked. One time Gabe, me and some guys were sitting around having a beer and Lisa marched in and said to Gabe: ‘You, come with me, right now.’ He jumped up and went with her.”

Doucette said that he witnessed moments of friction between the two but didn’t ever witness Wortman hitting or abusing Banfield. He did see him jack up her Mercedes, remove all the wheels and throw them into the river in one fit of pique. Another time he heard Lisa say through a closed door: “Don’t you ever put a gun to my head, again.” On the other hand, the day after one row between the couple, Doucette said that it was Wortman who was sporting a black eye.

From Doucette’s vantage point, Wortman was a complicated character, driven by money, sex and his love of his Portapique property. He wanted to own the entire area. The people he liked he liked a lot, almost to the point of taking ownership of them. He would give dentures away to people who needed them but if he thought a customer could afford to pay, Wortman wanted every last cent owing to him.

“One time we were in his office in Dartmouth, near where Lisa usually sat, and Gabe saw a customer go by who owed him $20 for a $3200 set of dentures,” Doucette remembered. “Gabe rushed out the door and took the teeth right out of the guy’s mouth.”

Yet Doucette described Wortman’s affection for an elderly couple who lived across the road from his cottage. In the last stages of the man’s life, the Victorian Order of Nurses would tend to him. Wortman would often be there overseeing what was going on. When the man died at age 93 or so, Wortman irrationally blamed the VON nurses for killing him. Ironically, it seems, Wortman’s 18th and 19th victims were VON nurses Kristin Beaton and Heather O’Brien.

Everything about Wortman was confounding, Doucette says. He was addicted to criminal behaviour. His warehouse was filled with stolen goods. He was at one and the same time dodging the police and pretending to be them – or was he pretending?

“That’s a good question,” Doucette said. “I really wonder.”

tips@frankmagazine.ca

The Eagle’s Nest – Part 1

THE LOCKYER FACTOR

by Paul Palango – Frank Magazine

If you haven’t already noticed, something truly strange happened on the road to finding the truth about what actually happened before, during and after the Nova Scotia massacres of April 18 and 19, 2020. Lisa Banfield and her $1,200-an-hour lawyer, James Lockyer, appear to have been controlling the show from the very beginning. The Lockyer factor as a not-so-hidden influencer on the news is important to address.

On April 19, 2020, just hours after Lisa Banfield arrived at the door of Leon Joudrey, she contacted lawyer Kevin von Bargen in Toronto to seek advice and help. The lawyer, a friend of Wortman and Banfield, put her onto James Lockyer.

From that moment forward, her every word has been treated as gospel. By the RCMP, by the Mass Casualty Commission, and by the compliant media. Even those who believe her to have been a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Gabriel Wortman (and she clearly was), but also believe she might know more than she’s letting on — and that what she knows might be important to the inquiry’s purported fact-finding mission — have been dismissed as cranks and conspiracists. 

According to financial documents released by the inquiry after Lisa Banfield’s dramatic “testimony” on July 15, Banfield reported earnings of $15,288 one recent year. That would cover a day, plus HST, of Lockyer’s valuable time. He has been on the clock for 27 months or so, his fees covered by taxpayers through the Mass Casualty Commission. Banfield’s finances, such as they are, would have been a juicy subject for any curious lawyer, but she wasn’t allowed to be cross examined. Too traumatic, remember.

Questions abound.

Why did Banfield hire an esteemed criminal lawyer? Did no one let her in on her status as a victim?

Lockyer seems like an exotic choice. He made his name from the early ‘90s onward representing men wrongly convicted of murder, such as Stephen Truscott, David Milgaard, Robert Baltovich and Guy Paul Morin. Morin was falsely accused of killing 9-year-old Christine Jessop in Queensville, Ontario, near Toronto. 

I was the city editor at the Globe and Mail then. I was intimately involved in the story which was being covered by one of our reporters, Kirk Makin. I even at one point had a meeting with Makin and Morin’s mother, who protested his innocence. At the time I was wrongly unmoved and skeptical of her story, but Makin persisted in digging into it and worked closely with Lockyer. Morin was eventually exonerated. Kudos to all. I hope I got smarter after that.

Lockyer, who lived a block away from me in Toronto, went on to become a champion of the wrongly convicted and started the Innocence Project to work on their behalf. Among his many clients was Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, the former boxer who was wrongly convicted of three murders in Paterson, NJ and was the inspiration for the 1976 Bob Dylan epic Hurricane.

In recent years, Lockyer and his Innocence Project became involved in the case of Nova Scotia’s Glenn Assoun, who was wrongly convicted in 1999 of murdering Brenda Way in Dartmouth four years earlier.

Lockyer worked along with lawyers Sean MacDonald and Phil Campbell to have Assoun’s conviction overturned after he had spent 17 years in prison. In the final years of that campaign an activist reporter named Tim Bousquet took on the Assoun case and wrote about it extensively for years, channeling and publicizing what the lawyers and their investigators had uncovered. To his credit Bousquet uncovered some things on his own.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in the Assoun case was that the RCMP had destroyed evidence and had mislead the courts about Assoun. Bousquet joined with the CBC in 2020 and produced a radio series, Dead Wrong, about the case. As Canadians should know well by now, both the federal and Nova Scotia governments ignored what the Mounties were caught doing.

Fast forward to the Nova Scotia massacres and the news coverage of it. As I wrote in my recent book, 22 Murders: Investigating the Massacres, Cover-up and Obstacles to Justice In Nova Scotia, I had a brief fling with Bousquet and his on-line newspaper, The Halifax Examiner, in 2020. After publishing an opening salvo in Maclean’s magazine in May 2020, I couldn’t find anyone else interested in my reporting, which challenged the official narrative. Maclean’s writer Stephen Maher introduced me to Bousquet. I knew nothing about either him or the Halifax Examiner. 

Over the next several weeks, Bousquet published five of my pieces and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Examiner punched well above its weight. Its stories were being picked up and read across the country. Although I had never met the gruff and the usually difficult-to-reach Bousquet, I thought we had a mutual interest in keeping the story alive as the mainstream media was losing interest in it and were moving on. At first blush, Bousquet seemed like a true, objective journalist determined to find the truth. Hell, I was even prepared to work for nothing, just to get the story out. “I have to pay you, man,” he insisted in one phone call. 

I felt badly taking money from him. I had no idea what his company’s financial situation might be, and I didn’t want to break the bank. He said he could pay me $300 or so per story and asked me to submit an invoice, which I did. Soon afterward, a cheque for $1500 arrived. I cashed it and then my wife Sharon and I sent him $500 each in after tax money as a donation. Like I said, I didn’t want to be a drag on the Examiner. Once we made the donations, Bousquet all but ghosted me. He was always too busy to take my calls or field my pitches. I couldn’t tell if I was being cancelled or had been conned.

I began to replay events in my head and the one thing that leapt out to me was Bousquet’s defensive and even dismissive reaction to two threads I thought were important and newsworthy which I wanted to write about. One was the politically sensitive issue of writing objectively about all the women in the story. There were female victims who had slept with Wortman, which I though was contextually important in understanding the larger story. Bousquet had made it clear that he wasn’t eager for me to write about that. (Be trauma informed!-ed.)

There was also the fact that female police officers were at the intersection of almost every major event that terrible weekend. The commanding officer was Leona (Lee) Bergerman. Chief Superintendent Janis Gray was in charge of the RCMP in Halifax County. Inspector Dustine Rodier ran the communications centre. It was a long list that will continue to grow. I believe in equal pay for work of equal value but that comes with equal accountability for all. I am gender neutral when evaluating performance. 

But it didn’t take psychic powers to detect that gender politics was a big issue with Bousquet – his target market, as it were. I really wanted to write about Banfield. My preliminary research strongly suggested to me her story was riddled with weakness and inconsistency, but nobody in the mainstream media would tackle it. Hell, for months her name wasn’t even published anywhere outside the pages of Frank magazine. Bousquet’s position was that Banfield was a victim of domestic violence and that her story, via vague, second-hand and untested RCMP statements, was to be believed. No questions asked. “You’re going to need something really big to convince me otherwise,” Bousquet said in one of our brief conversations.

Afterward, I did have one face-to-face meeting with him in Halifax. He actually sat in the back seat of our car because Sharon was in the front. We met up because I wanted to tell him about sensitive leads I had which, if pursued, would show that the RCMP had the ability to manipulate its records and destroy evidence in its PROs reporting system. Considering his involvement in the Assoun case, where that very issue was at the heart of Assoun’s exoneration, I thought Bousquet would be eager to pursue the story.

As I looked at him in the rearview mirror, I could sense his discomfort and lack of interest. So could Sharon who was sitting beside me. “That was weird,” she said. Bousquet got out of the car, walked away and disappeared me for good. It was all so inexplicable. If this was the new journalism that I was experiencing, there was something terribly wrong with it. I couldn’t believe that a journalist like Bousquet who aspired to be a truthteller felt compelled to distill every word or nuance through a political filter first or even something more nefarious.

Later, while writing for Frank Magazine, I broke story after story about the case. Incontrovertible documents showing that the RCMP was destroying evidence in the Wortman case. The Pictou County Public Safety channel recordings showing for the first time what the RCMP was doing on the ground during the early morning hours of April 19. The 911 tapes. The Enfield Big Stop videos. That Lisa Banfield lied in small claims court on two different occasions. Bousquet either ignored or ridiculed most of those stories in the Halifax Examiner or on his Twitter feed, as if I were making the stories up. 

For the most part throughout 2021, the Halifax Examiner didn’t even bother covering the larger story. There was no discernible legwork or energy being expended on it. And regarding the stories he did publish, I began to see a pattern. Naïve readers might have thought that he was digging for new stories when in fact the Examiner was merely mining court documents and uncritically reporting what resided therein. It was all stenography, straight from the mouths of the RCMP and the MCC. 

Time and time again, “new” stories would be published which were essentially no different from previous ones but all with the same theme: as Ray Davies of the Kinks put it in his masterpiece Sunny Afternoon: “Tales of drunkenness and cruelty.” The Monster and the Maiden stories, as I called them, reinforced in readers’ minds that Banfield was a helpless victim controlled by a demonic Wortman, a narrative that, upon reflection, seemed to perfectly suit Lockyer’s strategy. 

For 27 months the RCMP and the Mass Casualty Commission played along, sheltering Banfield as part of their “trauma-informed” mandate, even though there was plenty to be skeptical about her story. Banfield was beside Wortman for 19 years during which he committed crime after crime. She was reportedly the last person to be with Wortman and her incredible, hoary tale of escape should have been enough to raise suspicions about her. 

From the moment she knocked on Leon Joudrey’s door she has been treated as a victim, which to this day astounds law enforcement experts and others who have monitored the case. Many observers, including but not limited to lawyers representing the families of the victims, have serious questions about how Banfield spent the overnight hours of April 18/19. Not helping matters is that she doesn’t appear to have been subjected to any level of normal criminal investigation or evidence gathering. Her clothing wasn’t tested. There were no gunshot residue tests. She wasn’t subjected to a polygraph or any other credible investigative procedure. Enter James Lockyer of the Innocence Project.

The puppetification of Tim Bousquet

As we moved closer to July 15, the day that Banfield would be “testifying” at the MCC, it is also important to consider what Bousquet and his minions were doing at the Halifax Examiner. In the weeks and days leading up to Banfield’s appearance, the Examiner’s reporting and Bousquet’s Twitter commentary began to take on an illogical, more contemptuous and even hostile approach to anyone who refused to buy into the RCMP and Banfield’s official version of events.

In a series of hilariously one-sided diatribes, Bousquet lashed out at Banfield’s critics whom he wouldn’t name. Some (likely us) were “bad-faith actors.” He decried the “witchification” of Banfield. He tweeted: “And just to repeat for the 1000th time: I’ve read transcripts of interviews with dozens of people. I’ve read three years’ of emails between Banfield and GW. I’ve read her Notes app. There is ZERO evidence that she had any prior knowledge (of) GW’s intent to kill people…. The notion that she is ‘complicit’ is pulled out of people’s diarrhetic asses and plain old-fashioned misogyny.”

Oh, misogyny, that old woke slimeball to be hurled at any male who dare be critical of any female. One can’t help but sense the deft hand of a clever and experienced defence lawyer running up the back of Bousquet’s shirt. That makes sense. Look at what has transpired on Lockyer’s watch. Since April 2020, the RCMP and the federal and provincial governments have wrapped themselves in a single, vague and inappropriate platitude – trauma informed.

The original selling point was that this approach would prevent the surviving family members from being further traumatized by the ongoing “investigation” into the massacres. What actually happened is much more sinister. Lisa Banfield was coddled and protected the entire time not only by the authorities but also by Lockyer’s friends in the mass media. The wily old fox had the opportunity to mainline his thoughts into the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the CBC, CTV and Global News who unquestioningly lapped it up. 

At the MCC, Banfield wasn’t allowed to be cross examined because, as Mr. Lockyer so eloquently explained, cross examination would just lead to more conspiracy theories. That’s rich. The search for the truth will only confuse matters — it’s better for everyone that Banfield spin a much-rehearsed tale without challenge. That’s clearly a $1,200-an-hour lawyer speaking.

The whole world has gone topsy-turvy. The Mass Casualty Commission, the federal and provincial governments, the RCMP and Lisa Banfield are now aligned on one side of the argument. Meanwhile, the re-traumatized families find themselves agreeing with this magazine and other skeptics and critics. The final irony is that the Halifax Examiner bills itself as being “independent” and “adversarial.” It seems to be neither these days. In the end, Tim Bousquet’s approach to covering the Nova Scotia Massacres is, to use his words: “Dead Wrong.”

paulpalango@protonmail.com 

Paul Palango is author of the best selling book 22 Murders: Investigating the massacres, cover-up and obstacles to justice in Nova Scotia (Random House).

Andrew Douglas
Frank Magazine
phone: (902) 420-1668
fax: (902) 423-0281
cell: (902) 221-0386
andrew@frankmagazine.ca
www.frankmagazine.ca

Paul Palango is a Nova Scotian

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