Last February 12 began as a poor-weather day in Nova Scotia. The province was pretty well shut down because of an overnight snowstorm. Schools and public buildings were closed in Halifax and Truro. The temperature was hovering around the freezing mark. More snow was forecast. It was not the kind of day to be wandering around, one might think.
That day, a man the Halifax Examiner refers to as GW, a denturist with operations in Dartmouth and across the Angus L. Macdonald bridge in Halifax, was still 66 days away from the night of April 18 when he began a rampage that left 22 Nova Scotians dead and eventually him, too.
Now, four months after the massacre, looking back at the seemingly mundane things that took place on February 12 between GW and the police helps to fuel the growing conjecture about his suspected relationship with them.
“I was off that day when [GW] called,” said Frank magazine editor Andrew Douglas in an interview. “Cliff (Boutilier, an employee) took the call. Cliff said ‘yeah, yeah, we’re interested and took down the information, but he didn’t mention anything to me for 24 hours.”
Frank, the notorious Halifax satirical magazine, is the kind of publication in the pages of which most respectable people hope never to be found. To be “Franked” is not considered to be a good thing by most, yet GW insisted upon it.
The next day, February 13, GW called Frank again. He wanted to know what was happening with his story. GW promised photographs and the names of the Halifax policemen involved in the incident that GW wanted the world to know about.
He said a grey, unmarked police vehicle was illegally parked in the fenced lot beside his denture clinic on Portland Street. When two Halifax police officers, Detective Constable Duane Stanley and Constable Tracy Longpre, showed up, clutching coffees from the Tim Hortons down the street, GW confronted them about their illegally parked vehicle. He took down their names. He had strung a heavy chain across the driveway blocking the police officers from leaving. He even said he asked them for $20, which they refused to give him. He said the police called their office for bolt cutters and before long a small crowd had gathered and more police officers, including Staff-Sgt Tanya Chambers-Spriggs. All things were eventually resolved peacefully and GW allowed the police to take their car.
Numerous photos of the incident and all the details including the name of every Halifax officer at the scene were sent to Frank magazine by e-mail. It wasn’t GW’s e-mail, [email protected], however, but one belonging to his long-time companion.
“I didn’t realize until after the shootings that it might have been [the girlfriend] taking the pictures or that she was the one sending them to us,” Douglas said.
We don’t know who did what because the girlfriend has not said a word to anyone outside her immediately family and, maybe, police since April 19. We just don’t know anything about her, other than that she might have been the victim of domestic abuse, a story well propagated by both the police and activists against domestic violence.
When he called Boutilier the next day GW told him about something else that had happened to him, the cherry on the cake, as it were, proving the police were hounding him.
Around the time of the confrontation with Halifax police, the weather had cleared up to a degree. GW’s photos show it was mostly sunny, but the meteorologists said there was still a chance of more snow. Rural roads were snow covered with icy patches. It was a bit windy with gusts up to 50 kilometres, particularly around Truro.
In spite of the weather that Wednesday afternoon, GW hopped into one of his three white former police vehicles and took the one-hour long drive to his cottage on Portapique Beach Road, about 20 minutes past Truro. There he said he was stopped by an RCMP officer who gave him a speeding ticket.
On the surface, at least, it certainly appears that GW is truly unlucky or that the police had it in for him. Yet the question remains: what truly innocent person advertises their run-ins with the police? Who wants their name publicized and attached to a speeding ticket for all the world and insurance companies to see?
GW did. But why? Was there a method to his madness?
When GW told Frank Magazine and Cliff Boutilier his story on February 12 and 13*, the big question is: Why Frank? The magazine is deservedly infamous for skewering the powerful and dishing out the hidden secrets of just about anyone. In a perverse way, being Franked is a notorious badge of honour in that the “victim” is at least recognized as being someone worth writing about.
But if GW was hoping to get instant gratification from Frank, that didn’t happen. The magazine didn’t hit the web until February 17 in a rather long story, by Frank standards, with seven accompanying photos sent through GW’s girlfriend’s phone. The paper version of the magazine didn’t come out until Wednesday, March 4.
It all looks merely quirky and innocuous until one factors in the other side of the GW story – suspicions that he had a special relationship with the police – specifically the RCMP and perhaps even the Halifax Police. We don’t know if GW was a confidential informant, a police agent, or whether or not he had some other kind of special status. Policing sources have said they believe he had some kind of relationship, while the RCMP has said it could find no evidence of such a relationship. They didn’t say there was no relationship.
Halifax police have been all but mute about GW in spite of the fact that, as the Halifax Examiner reported months ago, that Chief Dan Kinsella curiously ordered his force not to kill GW but capture him on April 19. GW was shot by a RCMP canine officer just north of Halifax International Airport. The Halifax Police roadblock was set up just south of the airport.
If GW was working with the police, in all likelihood it would have been in an undercover capacity targeting outlaw bikers, in particular, the Hell’s Angels and their support and puppet clubs such as the Red Devils.
If so, we don’t know how and when he was recruited, but it is worth noting that the RCMP in 2018 was virtually advertising for operatives in the legitimate business community, people just like GW, because it was having trouble turning bikers. That well had pretty much run dry.
In July 2018, Global News reporter Natasha Pace reported that RCMP Sgt. Michael Sims was asking for help from the public. “It is tough for us to infiltrate, it is tough for us to get intelligence within these groups but we know there are people out there that can do that and that do that regularly, and we certainly need them to call us and work with us,” Sims told Global News.
The financial opportunities for such an arrangement were potentially spectacular. Biker informants in the past, such as Dany Kane and Sylvain Boulanger, were promised between $2 million and $3 million by the RCMP for successful prosecutions of outlaw biker targets.
GW brought much to the table. Although he had a long, seemingly hidden history of smuggling cigarettes and guns across the border from Maine into New Brunswick, he appeared to be a legitimate, upstanding citizen. He had ready access to the very things that bikers want and need for their illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking operations. Bikers need hydraulic presses and molds to make pills and pack drugs. GW could get them under the radar. They needed drugs to cut with their drugs. GW had access to drugs. They liked nitrous oxide for personal use. No problem for GW.
From GW’s point of view, there was all that money for what looked to be easy work. He was a money pig. He worshipped money. Much of his business, even as a denturist, was in cash, say customers like Dartmouth real estate broker Ed Powers, who had numerous dealings with him. His net worth was in multiples of millions, far more than he had declared as the $1.2 million value of his estate. Whatever downturn in the economy the COVID-19 lockdown might bring, he could easily withstand it. He had cash to burn, literally and figuratively.
By the fall of 2019 things were ratcheting up. Inside the RCMP, Assistant Commissioner Larry Tremblay, the commander of the New Brunswick RCMP, had managed to win an internal battle and took control of all anti-biker operations in the Maritimes. Sources say there was both bad blood inside the force and concern about what was going on, particularly with RCMP informants. The suspicion was that the force was behaving as if one of its key informant’s cover had been blown.
On February 12, the day of GW’s two known and public run-ins with the police, the RCMP was in the process of making arrests of more Hell’s Angels and their associates in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
The first arrest of an unnamed biker was made on Feb. 17 in New Brunswick, the same day the Frank article was published about GW’s problems with the police. The arrests continued for the next seven weeks, a highlight being a raid on the Red Devil’s compound on Alma Crescent in the Halifax neighbourhood of Fairview. Not much is known about the details of that raid to date, which is unusual. If GW or anyone associated with him was suspected of being the rat, then under the Hell’s Angels code his life expectancy was automatically shortened significantly.
Among the items the police and Crown focused on were the presses they found. Were the bikers getting suspicious? Attempts to find out whether GW had contacted those bikers were rebuffed by the lawyer acting for the Hell’s Angels.
The conjecture in policing circles is that GW’s cover as an operative was blown and that his life was likely in danger.
If that were true, was he trying to buy back his life? On March 30, as reported in Maclean’s magazine, GW mysteriously picked up $475,000 in $100 bills at the Brink’s facility at 19 Illsley Avenue in Dartmouth. The money had been routed there through CIBC Intria, which normally stocks ATM machines and provides bulk currency for other transactions. The RCMP has said it was GW’s money, perhaps as part of an inheritance from an old friend, but the provenance of the money is unknown. Police sources say that if GW actually were a police informant or agent, the money could have been given to him by the police and, technically, at the end of the day it was in his name. The police have provided no clarity.
The final arrests in the Hell’s Angels case in New Brunswick were announced by the RCMP on April 10, eight days before GW’s rampage began.
But let’s return to February 12 and the second run-in with the police that GW advertised through Frank magazine.
As described earlier it was not the best of days. Public buildings were closed and the roads were icy in spots, especially in rural areas like Portapique Beach Road. The gravel road runs from Highway 2 down to the Bay of Fundy. It’s just wide enough for two cars. It is winding in spots and residences say that with the world-record tides rushing in and out twice a day there is plenty of mist and fog and during the winter, especially in February, the road can be treacherous.
Nevertheless, GW was given a speeding ticket that day on Portapique Beach Road by RCMP member Nicholas Andrew Dorrington, who issued it at 5:59 p.m. GW was charged with driving 1-15 kilometres over the speed limit. The fine was $237.50. If he wished to plead not guilty, a court date was set for April 17, 2020 at the Truro courthouse on Prince Street. Accompanying documents show that GW intended to plead not guilty to the charge. Here’s the information about the ticket as relayed to the court:
On its face, the Summary Offence Ticket (SOT) looks normal, but upon closer inspection there are a number of odd things about the ticket. The Examiner provided copies of the court document that details the ticket to a number of current and former police officers as well as other members of the law enforcement community for their analysis.
Catharine Mansley, a former Mountie who worked in Halifax County, said this: “I used to do 250 tickets a month,” Mansley said. “This one was issued for 1-15 over the limit on a rural road at night. First off, 15 over is usually let go. Anything over 15 and you’re playing Russian roulette. Charging someone for 1-15 is typically a reduction from a higher number, but there are no officer’s notes. We don’t know the basis for the charge. We are not told what the speed limit was and how fast he was going. Was the officer using LIDAR (a laser based Light Detection and Radar) or conventional Radar? And the location is kind of suspicious: no Mountie I’ve ever known would be set up on a rural road in the dark enforcing speed. It just doesn’t sound right to me.”
Mansley’s observations were echoed by others who asked not to be named. The general consensus was that the time of the ticket, the location and the lack of supporting information were suspicious. As one put it: “Six o’clock is usually shift change in a rural detachment. Nobody would be doing radar on a dirt road 30 minutes away from the detachment at that time. It just doesn’t happen.”
“If this was a real ticket and was knocked down from a higher speed, why would he be pleading not guilty and fighting it,” one officer said. “Presumably, the issuing officer has notes about what really happened. It doesn’t make sense.”
A former Crown Attorney for Nova Scotia (whom I’ll describe as male) not only examined the ticket but drove to Portapique Road and conducted his own examination of the site.
“It was a Wednesday. Sunset in Portapique on February 12, 2020 was 5:37 p.m. It was about zero degrees,” he said. “The ticket is not clear where the alleged offence occurred. The offence ticket states ‘at or near Portapique Beach, Bible Hill. Portapique Beach and Bible Hill are many kilometres apart. The wording makes no sense. The second point, I assume, refers to Portapique Road but that is not specified in the ticket. Does Portapique Beach refer to Portapique Beach Road or some other road in the Portapique Beach area?”
The former crown attorney said that in three places the ticket should have been signed. There are no signatures, just the name, Dorrington, Nicholas Andrew, and what he called “an informal ID” number 000257715. That number is neither a badge nor regimental number, which in the most police forces is typically required in issuing tickets.
“Also in the SOT in the administrative part is a place for a signature of the officer who purports have delivered the SOT to the defendant,” he noted. “Again there is no signature. Instead again is the number 000257715.”
The former crown attorney also took issue with the court records that are attached to the copy of the ticket obtained by the Examiner. He, too, cited the lack of disclosure.
“I’ve prosecuted more than 1,000 traffic offences over the years,” he said in an interview. “Before it even goes to court, I would have reviewed all the tickets before me and weeded out the ones that were problematic. This one was clearly problematic.”
Later, in writing, he added this: “My thoughts on this ticket are that it is an unusual time of day and in an unusual location. It is poorly written and leaves open a lot of questions.”
“I would have saved the court’s time and thrown this out without even bothering to hear it.”
All of which brings us to the officer who purportedly wrote the ticket: Nicholas Andrew Dorrington.
Trying to get any information out of the RCMP has always been an exercise in futility, but nowadays it has become almost comical. For example, recently I sent the RCMP spokesperson in Nova Scotia, Corporal Jennifer Clarke, an email requesting information about the number on the fake police car that GW was driving during the rampage. The number was 28B11.
Here’s what I wrote: “Jennifer: I have one question only. Is there a detachment in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick that uses the detachment number 28 on its patrol vehicles? If so, which ones might they be?”
She replied: “I assume you are inquiring in relation to the gunman’s vehicle. The car unit number used by the gunman on the mock RCMP vehicle is fictitious, 28B11, has never been displayed on any Nova Scotia RCMP vehicle. Thank you, Jen Clarke.”
I retorted: “That’s not my question. Where is 28 is my question, if such a detachment exists.”
Clarke replied: “That is the only response I can provide.”
The question of who wrote GW’s speeding ticket is important because of the context of the times and the situation. There is legitimate speculation that GW had some kind of special relationship with the police. He was allowed to build a replica police car with a criminal’s help and the RCMP said nothing about it. Numerous complaints were made about him for various things from domestic abuse to threatening behaviour, gun possession and a variety of criminal behaviours and the RCMP did nothing about it. There are curious multiple coincidences including the aforementioned anti-biker raids and arrests who were caught using the various pieces of equipment, such as hydraulic presses, that someone like GW could provide.
I have written in the past about how former and current police officers thought the ticket looked like a typical tactic used to surreptitiously connect with an undercover operator or agent for the purpose either of passing on a message or helping them to embellish or fortify their cover. In this case, they argue, GW may have needed help showing he and the police were at loggerheads and not working together. That might explain two curious run-ins, an hour’s drive apart, on a snowy windy afternoon in February.
A casual observer might think that the best way to deal with this is just find Dorrington and ask him the question about what happened. But that isn’t going to work. One needs to be prepared for all eventualities in matters such as these.
A search of the Internet found no reference to Dorrington as an active RCMP officer. But on the website RCMP Graves a name search pulled up this information for an apparently dead RCMP member named Nicholas Andrew Dorrington. His badge or regimental number was 61881. There is very little information about him other than he spent a little more than five months at Depot, the RCMP training centre in Regina, and was assigned to the “E” Division — British Columbia — on August 31, 2015. We don’t know when he was born or when and how he died. He seems to have a marked grave somewhere. The site says the information about Dorrington’s death came from The Quarterly, the official magazine of the RCMP Veterans’ Association. The Examiner can find no other obituary or death notice for Nicholas Andrew Dorrington.
“This is weird,” said a serving Mountie. “When you are sent to British Columbia, you stay in British Columbia. It’s impossible to get out until your later years, if ever. They need everyone and don’t let go of anyone. If this was the same guy, how did he get to Nova Scotia so fast? And is he really dead? As I said, it’s weird.”
Another source who has been extremely helpful in this case said that a person named Dorrington appeared to be working in the RCMP’s Internal Affairs Unit or ‘Watchdog Unit.’
Others were somewhat flummoxed by that suggestion because it seemed unlikely that such a unit or units would exit in a smaller detachment such as Bible Hill. A Watchdog Unit would certainly be an anti-corruption squad and it seems inconceivable that such a unit would be handing out speeding tickets on a dark, winter night in rural Nova Scotia.
Recently Stephen Maher of Maclean’s magazine and I dropped by the Bible Hill detachment late one afternoon, seeing if we could find Dorrington. I saw the Ford Taurus vehicle he was said to be driving the day the ticket was issued. Its number was 5B11. As we walked across the parking lot in search of a door into the fortress, I meant to take a photo of it. As our backs were turned, it was driven off the lot and disappeared. We asked a Mountie where we could find Dorrington and he told us to go to the front door and use the phone. But at the front door, the sign said the office was closed and was not accepting calls. We were going to give Dorrington a note with the RCMP Graves citation in it. Was the dead Dorrington with the same name his son, a relative or just another unfortunate coincidence? There was nowhere to deliver the letter, so we dropped that idea.
Some would say that the easy thing to do was call the RCMP and ask for Dorrington. As obvious as that might seem, it is vividly logical that if Dorrington did answer our call he would likely not answer any questions about the ticket and what he was doing that night.
Another person gave me what they said was his home phone number. I didn’t call it because I know from experience what happens next. In the past I’ve called police officers at home in controversial situations and later been accused of stalking and harassing police officers. I wasn’t going to let the RCMP have the upper hand there.
So, I did the diplomatic thing and contacted Jennifer Clarke at headquarters and asked her what I believed was a reasonable question in the circumstance.
“Jennifer: Can you confirm the status and the placements of Nicholas Andrew Dorrington on February 12 and now, please. I have two numbers attached to that name: 000257715 and a regimental number – 61881. Are they the same member?”
“I will not be confirming the locations of any members,” Clarke snapped back.
Halifax Examiner editor Tim Bousquet tells me Nicholas Andrew Dorrington and his spouse started a business in Rusagonis, NB in 2000, but appear to have moved to BC at some later point, before moving to the Truro area in later 2018 or early 2019. Nicholas Andrew Dorrington is very much alive.
So why won’t Dorrington say publicly what the Feb. 12 ticket was all about? How is it Dorrington was issuing a traffic ticket on an obscure gravel road in an off-the-beaten path part of the province just at shift change on a crappy, snowy day? And if it really was just a routine traffic ticket, why not tell us that? Even just telling us what he remembers about GW’s demeanour and attitude might be useful. But by saying nothing about the ticket, Dorrington and the RCMP are simply feeding speculation and engendering distrust.
And that’s where we stand. The federal and provincial governments have promised a public inquiry into the Nova Scotia massacres. There are countless questions about what the RCMP did and didn’t do before, during and after the incidents. In the interim three months it and the various governments involved seem to have done everything they can do to obstruct the progress of those trying to dig for answers.
The task is in an onerous one, indeed. The force is unwilling to answer the simplest of questions. Just imagine how well covered the difficult ones are.
* An earlier version of this story misstated GW’s interactions with Frank Magazine.
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