In­quiry into mur­der-sui­cide set to be­gin early next year

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC - BY MICHAEL MAC­DON­ALD

The long-awaited fa­tal­ity in­quiry into the death of an Afghan war vet­eran who killed his fam­ily and him­self in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia is ex­pected to be­gin early next year - more than two years af­ter the killings.

Ren­o­va­tions to a mu­nic­i­pal build­ing in Guys­bor­ough, N.S., are ex­pected to be com­pleted by the end of this month, said Jen­nifer Stairs, a spokes­woman for the ju­di­ciary.

“We un­der­stand this an ex­ten­sive and com­plex process,” she said in a state­ment. “How­ever, it is im­por­tant that we take the time to plan and pre­pare now, to en­sure the in­quiry pro­ceeds as smoothly as pos­si­ble once it starts hear­ing ev­i­dence.”

When pro­vin­cial court Judge War­ren Zim­mer was ap­pointed to lead the in­quiry in July, Stairs had said the hear­ings were ex­pected to start later in the year.

She said crews are still work­ing on the hear­ing room and hook­ing up record­ing equip­ment for video con­fer­enc­ing and livestream­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“Ren­o­va­tions were re­quired to en­sure the space meets the needs of the judge, coun­sel and oth­ers ex­pected to par­tic­i­pate,” she said, adding that the work didn’t get started un­til the fall be­cause the prov­ince had to ne­go­ti­ate a lease with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

As well, the pro­vin­cial Jus­tice Depart­ment didn’t is­sue a ten­der for live-stream­ing ser­vices un­til this week.

Lionel Desmond, 33, was di­ag­nosed with PTSD af­ter serv­ing two tours in Afghanistan in 2007.

On Jan. 3, 2017, he shot his wife Shanna, 31, their 10-year-daugh­ter Aaliyah and his 52-year-old mother Brenda be­fore turn­ing the gun on him­self in the fam­ily’s ru­ral home in Up­per Big Tra­cadie, N.S.

Among other things, the in­quiry will ex­am­ine whether Desmond had ac­cess to mental health and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ser­vices - and whether he should have been able to buy a gun.

It will also look at whether the health-care providers who in­ter­acted with him were trained to rec­og­nize oc­cu­pa­tional stress in­juries or do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment promised the in­quiry in De­cem­ber 2017, and its terms of ref­er­ence were later re­leased in May.

Mem­bers of Desmond’s im­me­di­ate fam­ily have long com­plained he did not get the help he needed from fed­eral and pro­vin­cial agen­cies.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS/HO-FACE­BOOK-TREV BUN­GAY

Lionel Desmond (front row, far right) was part of the 2nd bat­tal­ion, of the Royal Cana­dian Reg­i­ment, based at CFB Gage­town and shown in this 2007 hand­out photo taken in Pan­jwai dis­trict in be­tween patrol base Wil­son and Ma­sum Ghar in Afghanistan. The long-awaited pub­lic in­quiry into the death of an Afghan war vet­eran who killed his fam­ily and him­self in ru­ral Nova Sco­tia is ex­pected to be­gin early next year, more than two years af­ter the killings.

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