This article contains accounts of intimate partner violence.
Brenda Forbes is categorical about the complaint she made to the RCMP in July 2013, and has been since she first told her story to police and media after a gunman – whom the Halifax Examiner refers to as GW – shot and killed 22 people on April 18 and 19, 2020 in Nova Scotia.
According to Forbes, she made the complaint after she learned from GW’s uncle Glynn Wortman that Glynn had witnessed another ugly incident in which GW assaulted his common-law spouse, Lisa Banfield.
In her statement to the Mass Casualty Commission (MCC) in August 2021, Forbes said GW had Banfield down on the ground and was “choking her” in the presence of three men, including Glynn Wortman. This is how Forbes recounted the story to the MCC investigators, as the Examiner reported here:
And the guys, the three guys, they were trying to get Gabriel to stop. And she piped up and said, “Don’t say anything else because it’ll only get worse.” Glynn told me this. So I said, “Oh, my God.” So I … I was at work and I said, “That’s it, I’m calling the RCMP.” So I called the RCMP. I was at the cadet camp in Debert and they came down, there were two of them … And I told them what Glynn had told me. And they said, Well, would he be willing to speak to us?” And I said, “Just give me a second.” …. I called Glynn, I said, “Glynn, would you be willing to tell the RCMP what happened with Lisa and all the illegal weapons and stuff that he has?” He said, “No, because he’s already told me he’s killed somebody in the United States, and if I say anything, he’ll kill me.” And the RCMP heard every word of that.
Testifying on July 12 to the MCC from her home in Alberta, Forbes – a retired veteran who served 30 years with the Canadian military – said Banfield had already come to Forbes during an assault years before this. But this time she decided she had to make a complaint to the RCMP because GW was “dangerous” and she thought Banfield “was going to get killed.”
Forbes told the MCC that two RCMP officers came to see her about her complaint in Debert, where she was working at the cadet camp. She couldn’t recall their names, but could say they were “fairly young” and in uniform.
Forbes said that the RCMP officers “didn’t even check up on” Banfield, even though she had told them GW had weapons.
“Nothing was ever done,” she said. “Zip.”
She said she didn’t hear anything more from the RCMP officers who took her statement, and the RCMP “also has no record of further contact” with Forbes, according to the MCC foundational document on GW’s violence towards Banfield.
In an interview on April 23, 2020, Forbes’ husband George, also a veteran who served 40 years in the military, told the RCMP that his wife had told him about involving the RCMP in GW’s domestic abuse at the time.
The MCC Foundational Document on “the perpetrator’s violent behaviour towards his common-law spouse” delves into the history of the Forbes complaint, and finds the RCMP record and version of events wanting.
The MCC notes that after GW went on a killing rampage in April 2020, and after Forbes told the media and the RCMP about her complaint to the police, the RCMP issued a “Task Action Report” on May 23, 2020, in which Constable Shawn Stanton stated that, “after exhaustive queries the occurrence from 2013 that Ms. Forbes discusses reporting has still not been located in any police data bank.”
Next, the RCMP requested the notes of all members working in the Bible Hill Detachment in June and July 2013.
Eventually, the RCMP turned up one page of handwritten notes from the officer who took Forbes’ report on July 6, 2013, Constable Troy Maxwell.
While the notes are hardly what one could call useful or detailed, they do contain a set of key names of people involved in the incident Forbes was reporting, including hers.
Maxwell had also written down the name and address of Glynn Wortman who witnessed the assault on Lisa Banfield and told Forbes about it, the name of Richard Ellison, whose brother also witnessed the assault, as well as the name and address of GW.
Maxwell also wrote the name “Lisa” on the left side of the page of scribbled notes, but as the MCC notes, “No other information is included in these notes.”
The plot then thickens and takes some odd turns.
In an RCMP “situation report” on June 5, 2020, Corporal Angela McKay wrote:
Colchester members working between June – August 2013 were asked to physically check their notebooks for contact with Brenda Forbes and the complaint she reported making to the RCMP. Cst. Troy Maxwell found minimal notes from July 6th, 2013 which are believed to be related to a complaint by Forbes. Cst. Maxwell remembers the Saturday morning complaint as Forbes describing [GW] acting aggressively in the neighbourhood and that she, and others, were afraid of him. Cst. Maxwell does not remember Forbes reporting a Domestic and recalls the complaint was about Forbes herself. Cst. Maxwell remembers Forbes did not outline actions that he felt constituted a criminal offence, that he made two attempts to talk to [GW] which were negative and concluded the file. There was a call that day at 1000 hrs of a Cause Disturbance.
Follow up is being conducted with a second member who accompanied Cst. Maxwell.
The MCC reports that:
Cpl. Mckay told the Mass Casualty Commission that Cst. Maxwell showed her his notes, and she had a “brief discussion” with him, and recalls that he told her that the fact that his notes were minimal “meant it wasn’t a significant event or he would have a lot more notes than he had.” During the discussion, Cst. Maxwell did not mention why Glynn Wortman or Richard Ellison’s names were in his notes.
Another RCMP report from June 3, 2020 states that Maxwell did in fact go to the Debert military base with Constable Karl MacIsaac on June 6, 2013, and that later that evening he went to GW’s residence in Portapique with Corporal Kenda Sutherland.
The report states that an “investigative team” was contacting all three officers to obtain notes about their involvement in the July 6 “occurrence.”
The MCC cites a June 9, 2020 RCMP report that says neither Sutherland nor MacIsaac could find any notes about the complaint, and neither had any “specific recollection” of it.
The RCMP then appear to have decided that the lack of notes is evidence that it was a “minor complaint” and that there was “some discrepancy” with Forbes’ memory of the call to police, and as the MCC notes, “concluded the investigation by accepting Cst. Maxwell’s version of events and deciding not to pursue the issue further.”
Corporal McKay sent an email to RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell on June 18, 2020 that stated Maxwell had, “provided his notes, which have been added to the file, and there is nothing to indicate that he neglected his duty in June 2013.”
Evolving versions of events
Maxwell’s version of events shifted over time.
Maxwell spoke with Mass Casualty Commission investigators in April 2022 and provided a new version of events that contradicted his previous account Forbes telling him that she and others were afraid of GW and his aggressive behaviour.
In his revised account, Maxwell said Forbes’ call was a “driving complaint.” He told the MCC:
I remember Forbes calling and stating that there was a gentleman in the neighbourhood driving around in an old, decommissioned police car. He was tearing around the neighbourhood in a fast manner or unsafe manner.
This doesn’t jibe with Forbes’ statement to the MCC on July 12, 2022, when she stated that she never saw GW with any old or decommissioned police cars while she lived in Portapique, from 2002 until 2014.
In fact, there is no record that GW purchased any decommissioned police cars until 2019 — the year he purchased decommissioned RCMP vehicles, including the car he turned into a fully decked out and decalled RCMP cruiser and used during the mass murders.
Surplus Canada records show that GW opened an account in 2009 and started bidding on a variety of surplus items — filing cabinets, dental chairs, various boats, and even a 1979 Sikorsky S76A helicopter (he bid $235,000 for the helicopter in January 2015).
He also bid on various vehicles, including Jeeps, vans, motorcycles, and a Mercedes.
In terms of anything that might be a decommissioned police car, in April 2012 he placed a bid on a Crown Vic that had been damaged in a traffic accident and he bid again on Crown Vics in April 2014 and September 2015. His first bid on a Ford Taurus was in January 2015. All of those bids failed, however.
It wasn’t until February 2019 that GW again began bidding on Ford Tauruses — he bid on 28 Ford Taurus (and one Intercepter and one Crown Vic) from February 2019 through March 11, 2020. He was successful with four of those bids, the cars he had in his possession in April 2020.
Maxwell told the MCC that he remembered Forbes’ being a veteran, as her being Air Force, because he went to speak to her at the Debert airfield.
He said he visited GW’s residence in Portapique at dusk, and saw three cars in the driveway, but he didn’t mention whether any of those were old RCMP vehicles. Wortman, however, wasn’t there. So, as Maxwell told the MCC:
I’m pretty sure I called Mr. Wortman [GW], he was in Dartmouth, to advise him of the complaint … I didn’t have any physical contact with Mr. Wortman except on the phone. And I remember going to see Ms. Forbes and advising her that her file was concluded.
Three minutes later in the MCC interview, Maxwell said something different:
That day we made the patrol, we didn’t locate Mr. Wortman. He wasn’t still driving around the neighbourhood … so we made the patrol to the location, we attended, we went to speak to him, he wasn’t there. I believe I spoke to him on the phone or left a message on his answering machine or something.
Asked about the names that he wrote in his notes in 2013, and why the names were there, Maxwell did not explain, telling the MCC that he didn’t know who Richard Ellison or Glynn Wortman were.
Then came this exchange:
Wayne Fowler (MCC): … there’s a note on the side in brackets, Lisa?
Troy Maxwell: Yes.
Wayne Fowler: Do you recall anything, what those names refer back to at all?
Troy Maxwell: If anything, I believe, and again, I don’t know this to be exact, but I believe she [Forbes] told me that [GW’s] wife or whatever was named Lisa, and I think that’s the reason why I wrote it down.
In the interview, the MCC investigators didn’t press Maxwell on the issue, or insist on an explanation for why he would write down Lisa Banfield’s, Glynn Wortman’s, and Richard Ellison’s names for a simple driving complaint about GW, or why he thinks Brenda Forbes would be giving him the names of witnesses to the assault on Lisa Banfield that had just occurred, if she wasn’t reporting it.
Despite the fact that he wrote Lisa Banfield’s name in his notes about Brenda Forbes’ complaint, Maxwell insisted to the MCC that Banfield “had no part to play in the file that I remember. I don’t … we never spoke to her, we didn’t try to speak to her, we didn’t you know try to locate her or anything like that.”
Troy Maxwell, who retired from the RCMP in 2021, is listed as an “anticipated witness” in upcoming MCC hearings.
The Halifax Examiner has reported here and here about how the RCMP detachment in Bible Hill mishandled complaints from Colchester County women fearful that their lives were endangered by an abusive man, as was the case of Susie Butlin, who was murdered by her neighbour in 2017.