Common-law spouse among 3 charged with giving N.S. shooter ammunition

The common-law spouse of the man responsible for killing 22 people in April’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia has been charged with providing the gunman with ammunition he used during the rampage, but police say she and two relatives who are also charged did not know how it would be used.  

Lisa Diana Banfield, 52, of Dartmouth is alleged to have unlawfully transferred .223-calibre Remington cartridges and .40-calibre Smith & Wesson cartridges between March 17 and April 18, 2020. 

James Blair Banfield, 64, of Beaver Bank, N.S., and Brian Brewster, 60, of Lucasville, N.S., are also facing the same charge under Section 101 of the Criminal Code.

RCMP would not comment on the relationship between Lisa Banfield and the two men. CBC News has learned the men are the older brother and brother-in-law of Lisa Banfield. 

RCMP said in a news release Friday that the three had “no prior knowledge of the gunman’s actions on April 18 and 19.” 

That weekend, Gabriel Wortman killed 22 neighbours, acquaintances and strangers in several communities in rural Nova Scotia while masquerading as an RCMP officer.

He torched his own cottage and garage, and three other homes over a 13-hour period before being shot dead by police at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., after a lengthy search.

The rampage unfolded over about 13 hours, before police shot and killed the gunman. (CBC)

RCMP say the ammunition was purchased in Nova Scotia.

On Friday, Lisa Banfield’s lawyer declined to comment on the charge. 

History of domestic violence

Banfield is suing Wortman’s estate, which was initially valued at more than $1.2 million. In her statement of claim, which was filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, she said she was the victim of an assault and battery, and she suffered physical, emotional and psychological injuries and trauma. In June, she also renounced her right to be the executor of his will.  

There is a separate proposed class-action lawsuit against the gunman’s estate that alleges it is liable to the families of the victims who lost their lives or those who were injured due to his actions.

Several people told investigators that the gunman had a history of violence and was abusive, according to search warrant documents. A woman who used to live in Portapique said in 2013 she reported to RCMP that the denturist had illegal weapons and had tried to strangle Banfield.

Brenda Forbes said she’s never heard what happened to her complaint. But she said RCMP officers told her at the time that since she didn’t have photos of the weapons and Banfield had not lodged a complaint, they were limited in what they could do. 

The day the rampage started, Wortman and Banfield were celebrating their anniversary, according to the court documents.  

The couple worked together and lived above Wortman’s denture clinic on Portland Street in Dartmouth and spent time at the cottage they shared in Portapique. 

Banfield has never spoken publicly about what happened in April.

RCMP have said the violence started when the gunman attacked and restrained her. She escaped and later told investigators she initially hid in a truck before spending hours in a wooded area in Portapique before knocking on a neighbour’s door around 6 a.m., according to a summary of interviews she gave RCMP.

All three accused are scheduled to be arraigned in Dartmouth provincial court on Jan. 27.

Illegal weapons used

Investigators have previously said they don’t believe the gunman had a firearms licence.

Police have never released the exact type of weapons Wortman used in the rampage but they’ve said he obtained pistols and rifles illegally. Three came from the U.S. and one came from the estate of someone he knew in Canada. Wortman also took the service pistol belonging to Const. Heidi Stevenson, who he killed in Shubenacadie. 

On Friday, RCMP declined to answer questions about the charges, the first laid in relation to the mass shootings.

“To ensure a fair trial for those who have been charged and with the public inquiry now ongoing, the most appropriate and unbiased opportunity to provide any additional information is to do so with our full participation in the inquiry,” said Supt. Darren Campbell in a statement.  

The final report from a public inquiry is expected in November 2022

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