N.S. KILLER PARANOID ABOUT PANDEMIC
Police document paints picture of disturbed man
Before engaging in his horrific killing spree, Gabriel Wortman was “paranoid about the pandemic” that shuttered his denture clinics, a friend told police. Yet four days before his rampage, he sent an email to another friend saying: “I am enjoying this prelude to retirement.”
A series of odd and often disturbing interactions with the perpetrator of the worst mass killing in Canada’s history are revealed in a new police document about the ongoing investigation.
The 40-page document, released Tuesday, is heavily redacted of details but still paints a dark picture of the horror faced by his victims, the gunman’s apparent mental state, alarming predilections and ready arsenal.
It also includes testimony from witnesses who watched the rampage unfold over a terrifying two days and a night last month.
The document was prepared April 24 by the RCMP to get a judge’s approval to search Wortman’s properties after his rampage. The document was ordered released as part of a larger request by media organizations.
A colleague who worked with Wortman, 51, at one of his denture clinics said he suffered “a mental breakdown,” the document says. The colleague said Wortman was abusive and described him as “disturbed,” “very smart,” “a psychopath,” and claimed he was “severely abused as a young boy,” a contention some who knew him dispute.
He “would dress up as a police officer and would roleplay,” the witness told police.
Another friend said Wortman, who previously worked at a funeral home, talked about “getting rid of bodies.” The witness said Wortman claimed to have lime and muriatic acid — substances which could dissolve bodies. He kept barrels of the stuff under his deck, police were told.
An acquaintance described him to police as “a sociopath, abusive.” Yet another said he was “controlling and paranoid.”
A friend, however, described him as “a person that people enjoy talking to,” the document says.
Two people told police he bought $800 worth of gasoline before his murder spree. One said he also bought “propane bottles.” (Police believe Wortman used gas to start fires at many of his crime scenes and to burn down his own property.)
And two witnesses, including Wortman’s common-law spouse, told police he had a relationship to someone in the RCMP — one said it was a retired RCMP member.
That is how he obtained parts of his uniform, the witnesses said.
For much of the chaos, Wortman masqueraded as a Mountie and drove a car identical to an RCMP cruiser. From the evening of April 18 to midday on April 19, he killed 22 people and injured others.
Much has been made of Wortman’s obsession with police and police memorabilia. His spouse told police, however, it was not an interest born of admiration.
“Gabriel Wortman wasn’t a police officer wannabe and didn’t like police officers and thought he was better than them,” the document says, summarizing an interview with the woman, whose name is redacted from the document.
Because the Crown has released only one of many documents requested, it is not known whether the information witnesses told police proved to be true or not. The RCMP has not responded to a request for comment.
Police detail the encounters various people had during the spree of shootings that stained several communities, starting at Wortman’s cottage in Portapique, about 135 kilometres north of Halifax.
The first was with his spouse.
During the evening of April 18, Wortman and the woman were at their property at 136 Orchard Beach Dr. in Portapique, the document says.
They were having drinks and Facetiming friends. She sent a text about 8 p.m. to someone, sharing a photo of her with Wortman.
“During the evening an argument ensued” and Wortman assaulted her, the document says.
What she said happened next is redacted, but she then told police he “poured gasoline all inside the cottage” and leading to the cottage, “so Gabriel could burn that.” He also poured gas onto the vehicles he was leaving behind.
She said she saw several firearms on the front seat of the fake police car. She said Wortman was related to someone in the RCMP and he “had one of his uniforms but it didn’t fit.”
He smashed her cellphone and didn’t have one himself, she said. More material is redacted until the document says the woman escaped and fled into the woods.
“She heard male voices, then heard gun shots and then it was silent,” the document says.
The next morning she emerged from hiding and went to a house to call 911. By then, police were getting calls of shootings throughout the area.
Early on, Wortman in his fake police cruiser pulled up alongside a vehicle that was drawn to the sight of Wortman’s buildings on fire. From two feet away he pulled a gun and the occupants ducked, likely saving their lives.
In a bizarre scene, as the driver waited for an ambulance, he felt something inside his coat. He pulled out a bullet that had nestled under his shirt.
Police also found Clinton Ellison, who had been hiding from the gunman. He told police he and his brother, Corrie, had been walking on the beach when Corrie was shot dead.
One witness vividly described Wortman’s encounter with RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson during the manhunt for the shooter.
The witness, whose name is redacted, heard a popping sound and thought the siding was coming off the house, because it was windy, but then realized it was gunfire.
The witness saw “two Mountie cars smashed together,” a reference to Wortman’s fake cruiser that collided head-on with Stevenson’s cruiser.
“The bald man was doing a lot of gunfire,” said the witness, who “thought the bald guy was a Mountie because you could see the shirt and you could see the white and green vest.
“But it seemed funny … that the bald man would be shooting at a Mountie.”
A grey SUV pulled up near the two disabled cruisers, the witness told police. The details of what happened next are redacted, but it ended with Joseph Webber being shot dead.
The “bald man” then opened the trunk of his fake police car and, seconds later, smoke spewed from the trunk. The gunman then pulled items out of both his car and Stevenson’s cruiser.
A fire engulfed both cars but by then, the gunman had climbed into Webber’s SUV, and left.
Others killed by Wortman included a teacher, nurses, prison guards, a fellow denturist, business owners, a family including a 17-yearold daughter, neighbours and others. He knew some of his victims and others were seemingly random, police said.
When Wortman was finally shot and killed by police, as he stopped for gas in Enfield, N.S., he had five guns within easy reach, the document reveals. The details of Wortman’s death are redacted from the document.
Police found five guns and ammunition in the SUV he had stolen from Webber.
Two semi-automatic rifles were ready to fire, one with a bullet in the chamber, the document says.
There were two handguns, also with a round in their chambers, and spent shell casings scattered around the SUV. One pistol’s hammer was cocked and its safety switch off, meaning it was ready to fire with just a trigger pull.
The last gun police found in the SUV was Stevenson’s Smith & Wesson 9-mm service pistol.
Boxes of ammunition and a metal ammunition can were on the front seat. Wortman has never had a firearms licence, the document says.
The media’s court challenge to access the documents on the investigation is to ensure transparency and public scrutiny amid growing calls for a public inquiry.
Only one document has so far been released.
(HE) DIDN’T LIKE POLICE OFFICERS AND THOUGHT HE WAS BETTER THAN THEM.
A fire-destroyed property registered to Gabriel Wortman on Portapique Beach Road is seen in Portapique, N.S. on May 8. Wortman is the gunman behind last month’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia.