An RCMP investigator inspects a house destroyed by fire at the residence of Alanna Jenkins and Sean McLeod, both corrections officers, in Wentworth Centre, N.S. on Monday, April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

An RCMP investigator inspects a house destroyed by fire at the residence of Alanna Jenkins and Sean McLeod, both corrections officers, in Wentworth Centre, N.S. on Monday, April 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Mass killing in Nova Scotia began with attack, binding of girlfriend: source

Friends to shooter says the Halifax man was sometimes openly controlling and jealous of his long-time girlfriend

A source close to the investigation says a killer’s murderous rampage across Nova Scotia began with him attacking and binding his girlfriend, and that she managed to escape and eventually give crucial details to police.

The woman was in a domestic dispute with Gabriel Wortman and was beaten and allegedly bound in some way Saturday night before she managed to get away from a residence in Portapique, N.S., the source said.

The source said the woman hid, but emerged early in the morning to provide police with the critical information that the 51-year-old denturist was driving a replica RCMP patrol vehicle and wearing a police uniform.

John Hudson, who had known Wortman’s for about 18 years, said the Halifax man was sometimes openly controlling and jealous of his long-time girlfriend.

“I didn’t see him hitting her or anything like that,” Hudson said in an interview. ”But I know they fought.”

Hudson recalled a bonfire party about 10 years ago when an argument between the two left the woman locked out of their home in rural Portapique, which is where Wortman started killing neighbours on Saturday night.

“I was with her, trying to get her stuff out of there,” Hudson said. “People had been drinking … and it was a crazy night … and he didn’t want her to leave — but he wouldn’t let her in the house.”

Hudson said at one point, Wortman removed the tires from the woman’s vehicle and threw them into the ditch to prevent her from leaving.

READ MORE: Police federation encouraging all to wear red today in honour of Nova Scotia victims

“So, I went to get (her clothes) and what he said to me was: ‘I don’t want anyone in my house. If you come in my house, I’m just telling you, I’ve got guns in here.’”

The details of the gunman’s assault on his girlfriend Saturday are the latest to emerge about the chaos that ensued as police sought the gunman as he went about rural Nova Scotia killing people in five communities and setting homes on fire.

The search for the suspect stretched from late Saturday night to Sunday morning, when the death toll rose to 22 as the gunman, wearing an authentic RCMP uniform, evaded police in his replica RCMP cruiser.

RCMP could not immediately be reached for comment on the reports but have said they will release a detailed account of the April 18-19 incidents Friday morning.

Police have also said he didn’t have a firearms licence for the guns he was using, though how Wortman obtained the weapons remains unclear.

Audio recordings of first responders communicating on two-way radios provide a glimpse of the frantic attempts to help the first victims found Saturday at 10:40 p.m. amid burning homes in the village of Portapique.

On one of the recordings, stored on the Broadcastify website, first responders dispatched to the scene along Highway 2 tell the dispatcher they can see something burning in the distance.

“I’m seeing huge flames and smoke from where we are,” says one, minutes before the dispatcher says police have discovered a gunshot victim on Portapique Beach Road.

Within the next 20 minutes, the extent of the carnage came into sharp focus as police called for more ambulances — twice.

It’s unclear exactly how many people were killed along Portapique Beach Road, which includes many seasonal and permanent homes along the picturesque north shore of Cobequid Bay.

Police confirmed Wednesday that the suspect managed to escape from a perimeter they had set up around the rural area, but they didn’t realize he was gone until some time between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday when his girlfriend — whom they have described as a “key witness” —revealed details about the fake police car.

Hudson said his neighbour had been purchasing used police vehicles at auctions, referring to one unmarked vehicle that was spotted behind Wortman’s denture clinic in Dartmouth after the killings. It has since been towed away.

“He picked the best one and brought it up here, had it in his garage and (added) decals to look just right,” Hudson said.

“He was very meticulous on everything he did … He also trained himself on electronics, so he’d know how to hook up the lighting and everything like that for the car.”

The vehicle, a late-model Ford Taurus, was kept in a garage at another property that Wortman owned on a neighbouring street, Hudson said.

He said the information the girlfriend provided to police was crucial to stopping the gunman.

“If it wasn’t for (her) giving that information, it would have been a lot worse,” said Hudson. “They wouldn’t have known to be looking for an RCMP car.”

Heavily armed RCMP officers fatally shot the gunman at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 90 kilometres south of Portapique at around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, by which time had commandeered another vehicle.

Police said the gunman acted alone during his violent rampage, but investigators said they are trying to determine whether anyone assisted him before the shooting began.

Michael Tutton and Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Nova Scotia

Just Posted

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News file)
One dead after fiery Okanagan Connector crash between two semis

DriveBC estimates road won’t be open until 5 p.m.

Fire near Highway 97 C close to Merritt. (Facebook)
Wildfire burning near Highway 97C

The fire is an estimated nine hectares in size

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

A Sycamore Road home in Kelowna has been cordoned as police conduct an investigation after a man was found dead at the residence at around 1:30 a.m. on June 17. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna RCMP investigate death at ‘house from hell’

RCMP said that the incident is isolated in nature

(Contributed)
Kelowna’s Uber hopes dashed by transportation board COVID-19 inquiry — for now

Passenger Transportation Board puts Uber’s application to expand on hold

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A Photo from Sept. 2020, when First Nations and wild salmon advocates took to the streets in Campbell River to protest against open-pen fish farms in B.C.’s waters. On Dec. 17, federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan announced her decision to phase out 19 fish farms from Discovery Islands. Cermaq’s application to extend leases and transfer smolts was denied. (Marc Kitteringham/Campbell River Mirror)
Feds deny B.C.’s Discovery Island fish farm application to restock

Transfer of 1.5 million juvenile salmon, licence extension denied as farms phased out

Salmon Arm’s Brook Kosick competes in the barrel racing event at a BC High School Rodeo Association rodeo in Quesnel, which was held from June 11-13, 2021. (Cassidy Dankochik - Black Press)
VIDEO: Shuswap rodeo athlete barrels through competition

Salmon Arm rider Brook Kosick thrilled to compete in provincial finals

Most Read