HALIFAX—A widening portrait of how a Nova Scotia mass killer acquired his weapons and stockpiled cash emerged Wednesday in the latest court-ordered release of documents.
An unidentified witness who knew Gabriel Wortman told police on May 20, “Gabriel must have thought about this for a long time.”
This statement to police came a month after the 13-hour rampage in which the 51-year-old denturist drove a replica RCMP vehicle, disguised himself as a Mountie, and killed 22 people before police shot him dead at a gas station in Enfield, N.S.
It is part of the latest release of witness statements obtained by police in order to seek search warrants as part of an investigation of the April 18-19 murders.
According to a police summary of the case, a search of Wortman’s home in Portapique, N.S., after the killings, “resulted in the seizure of $705,000.” In March, the killer had liquidated some of his investments and picked up $475,000 in $100 bills from a Brinks office in Halifax.
His common-law spouse Lisa Banfield, who managed to escape on the night of April 18 after being assaulted and handcuffed, told police in an interview that her partner was growing increasingly distressed about the pandemic.
She said he was “talking about death and said that he knew he was going to die.”
“It was like Gabriel Wortman was preparing for the end of the world and he even wanted to purchase a large quantity of rice and other food items,” she’s reported as telling police.
Meanwhile, the acquiring of the lethal arms stockpile appears to have occurred over a number of years.
One witness describes Wortman going to a gun show in April 2019 in Maine and asking a person whose name is redacted to “do him a favour and go get the AR rifle,” at a cost of US$1,250.
Prior releases have indicated that the killer had illegally acquired a Colt carbine rifle, which is a semi-automatic that is similar to an AR-15, in the United States, along with a Ruger Mini 14 rifle, which was obtained illegally in Canada.
Wortman also obtained over-capacity magazines capable of adding more rounds to his guns.
The killer didn’t have a licence to own firearms or ammunition, and over-capacity magazines are illegal in Canada.
A report on Wortman’s border crossing with Banfield indicates they entered Houlton, Maine on April 25, 2019 and returned to Canada five days later.
Investigators sourced the Ruger Mini-14 to a gun shop in Winnipeg, but added Wortman later acquired it illegally.
According to one witness, Wortman was friends with a man named Tom Evans, who died in 2009.
The documents say it’s unclear who had owned the Mini-14, “if it was Gabriel Wortman or Tom Evans,” and following Evans’ death, Wortman “asked for the Mini-14 back.” The witness said Wortman was the executor of Evans’ estate.
Wortman also managed to acquire a Glock 23 semi-automatic pistol with an over-capacity magazine, which one unidentified witness said was taken from his home in Maine.
The witness said “he asked Gabriel Wortman why he took the guns and Gabriel said that he needed them for protection.” He told police that he felt “he was set up and Gabriel was a monster.”
In addition, a Ruger 9 mm semi-automatic pistol was obtained in Maine, and a witness told the FBI “he had given Gabriel Wortman this Ruger handgun sometime within the last two to five years.”
According to the witness statement, Wortman had performed odd jobs around this person’s house in Houlton, Maine.
“Gabriel Wortman would not take money so [the witness] gave Gabriel Wortman the handgun as a sign of gratitude.”
Wortman’s cousin, a retired member of the RCMP, also spoke to police about the killer, saying growing up with him he found him to be “a strange little guy,” and added that later in life, he believed Wortman was involved in criminal activities and that he should keep his distance from him.
The cousin told officers Wortman “was capable of killing someone, maybe his parents or Lisa [Banfield], but he never thought that Gabriel would go on a rampage.”
By Michael Tutton