the green roadsign to Portapique with a tartan sash tied around the post
The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a NS tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

In the days before the mass murders of April 18/19, 2020, the killer was harassing Lisa McCully, who lived in Portapique, driving in front of her home and “creeping her out,” according to an RCMP officer who knew her.

McCully was the killer’s third victim on Saturday night, April 18, when she left her two children in her house to investigate a fire across the road. She was shot dead next to the fence along her property line.

A history of abuse and intimidation

Reporting by the Halifax Examiner coupled with documents being released by the Mass Casualty Commission are painting a more detailed picture of the murderer as a controlling man obsessed with sex, who would intimidate and harass those who wouldn’t accede to his demands.

The killer, who the Halifax Examiner refers to as GW, physically abused Lisa Banfield, his common-law spouse, at least as early as 2005, Brenda Forbes told the Examiner in an interview with reporter Joan Baxter. Forbes and her husband had lived in Portapique when GW and Banfield moved into the community in 2004.

Forbes and her husband began socializing with GW and Banfield, but that relationship soured quickly.

GW “had put advances on Brenda and wanted to get into her pants,” another neighbour, Richard Ellison, told MCC investigators. “And when that didn’t happen, then things kind of fell apart.”

“They weren’t even in that house for a year when Lisa [Banfield] ran over to my house one day saying that Gabriel was beating her up and she was scared,” said Forbes. “She wanted to hide somewhere because he had blocked her car with his truck so she couldn’t get out. But she managed to get away from the house.”

Forbes said she told Banfield that she needed to get help, that there were “a lot of services” and “a lot of places” that would keep her safe, but Banfield said that there was no way she could flee the relationship, because if she had, he would have killed her.

Forbes told other people in the community that GW was abusive but wasn’t believed.

“About half of them said, ‘oh no, he’s such a nice guy, he would never do stuff like that,’ and just pshawed me, basically,” Forbes told Baxter.

After people in Portapique began talking about GW violently attacking Banfield — he had thrown her to the ground and choked her in front of his uncle and another man who lived in the community, but neither intervened — Forbes called the RCMP. She hadn’t seen the choking incident herself, but she knew about GW’s weapons. “He’s got a shit load of illegal weapons. I’ve seen them. My husband has seen them,” she said.

Forbes said she and her husband know what weapons Canadians are allowed to own with a Firearms Acquisition Certificate, and that they knew GW’s weapons were not legal. So she told the RCMP that, and then in their presence, she called GW’s relative and put him on speakerphone so the Mounties could hear him:

So I called [the relative] and I said… “would you be willing to talk to the RCMP about what happened with Lisa and the illegal weapons that Gabriel has?” And he said, “no way, because he’s already told me he’ll kill me, because he’s already told me that he’s killed people in the United States.”

And I said, “Okay …  just chill. Just relax. Don’t worry about it.” I hung up and the RCMP basically said, “the only way that we can actually get the information on this and prove it … like for her being beaten and strangled and stuff like that. She has to say it.”  And there’s no way that she would do that. Gabriel had her under his thumb. And I mean, literally. If her family came over, he would be right beside her. So she wouldn’t say anything to them about what happened at all.

Forbes said Banfield was often left to work in the Dartmouth denturist office and GW would come to Portapique and a string of women would come by the warehouse. Forbes told Banfield about this, and Banfield confronted GW.

And that’s when it “got scary,” said Forbes. “He dragged her back up to our house,” Forbes told Baxter. “He pounded on the door. [My husband] opens it. And Gabriel starts screaming.” Forbes told GW that she had merely told Banfield the truth, and then he “grabbed hold” of Banfield and “dragged her back out.”

Soon after, Forbes’ husband had to go abroad for work, leaving Forbes alone in the house. GW began harassing her. “He stopped his vehicle right in front of my house,” said Forbes. “He got out of the vehicle, stood there and stared at the house for a good half hour, scaring the shit out of me. And this happened about four days in a row.”

Forbes was so frightened by GW that she and her husband sold their house and moved out of the province entirely.

“If they had stayed there, they would have died,” said Richard Ellison of Forbes and her husband.

Forbes’ comments about women coming to the warehouse when Banfield wasn’t present is supported by other statements collected by the MCC.

Another woman who lived in Portapique, identified as EE in the MCC documents, said she was having a sexual relationship with GW, and the two had a signal for when EE could come by: “if the gates were open, the big red gates, so if the gates were open that was my sign that it was OK for me to go in, that she [Banfield] wasn’t around, and if they were closed it was meant like, ‘Stay home, mind your business, don’t come near me’… She [Banfield] would never come down until Friday evening and then she did her bingo on Saturday night and he would come see me while she was at bingo and then I wouldn’t see him until she left around Sunday morning.”

EE told MCC investigators that she would also arrange sexual encounters between GW and other women — including a younger woman who was living with EE in Portapique. As well, EE said GW would ask her opinion of women he was having sex with. “He always brought his girls back to me to give the OK, and I asked him, ‘How do you find all these girls?’ and he said, ‘They come in and sit in my [denturist] chair,’” said EE. Many of the women were clients of Social Services.

“And then he says, ‘I invite them back to my house and I treat them like queens,’ because they don’t get that because they live on the streets or they’re very low income or whatever,” said EE. “He loves the street girls.”

One woman who EE brought to the warehouse is identified as II in the documents. II said that EE tried to talk her into performing oral sex on GW, but she refused. During the visit, she was sexually assaulted by GW, and police were called. But according to II, when police arrived, EE said II was simply drunk, and the responding officers didn’t investigate further.

Lisa McCully

Lisa McCully. Photo: Facebook

Lisa McCully lived on Orchard Beach Drive with her two children. The house was immediately across the road from GW’s large warehouse, where he stored his motorcycles, his weapons, and the fully mocked-up replica RCMP cruiser he was building. There was a bar and, upstairs, an apartment where he would have sex with the visiting women.

Leon Joudrey, another Portapique resident, told police investigators that he had dated McCully soon after he moved to the community in 2018.  They met at a community barbecue hosted by another neighbour. “Attractive girl,” said Joudrey.

“I had a couple of beer,” he continued. “There was a little bit of flirtation that went on. I kissed her and she goes ‘Whoah, you’re moving too fast.’ And that was the end of it.”

Joudrey and McCully each started dating other people, but both relationships ended by the summer of 2019. “Lisa [McCully] started talking to me and started showing more interest,” said Joudrey. “We met on the beach, going for a walk, and then one thing led to another. Just the way couples start.”

But, said Joudrey, he was uncertain how to proceed because he was still reeling emotionally from a divorce, which was also why he broke up with the woman he had been dating before McCully.

Besides, there was something odd about another neighbour, GW.

“I never had anything to do with Gabriel until I met Lisa [McCully],” said Joudrey. “Then Gabriel started talking about it, pulled into my yard a couple times. That’s freaking weird… He kept saying about Lisa being a good woman. I said, ‘oh yeah, we’re going out. We’ll see how things go. I’m still trying to go through a divorce.’”

GW kept repeating, “She’s a good woman, she’s a good woman.”

Joudrey understood that GW was jealous over McCully, so Joudrey asked McCully about it.

McCully told Joudrey that she had once slept with GW — many years previously, before she met Joudrey.

“I went and told him [GW] that we couldn’t be friends anymore because I’m dating you [Joudrey] now,” McCully told Joudrey, as Joudrey recalled the conversation.

“What did you do that for?” responded Joudrey. “You trying to poke the bear?”

Then GW was “a dick to me the last two or three times [I saw him],” said Joudrey. Joudrey broke up with McCully, but the two continued to text each other.

On the night of April 18, several people called 911 and said that the killer was driving a police car. In response, the RCMP tried to account for all their cars. One person remembered that Cst. Dave Lilly had a cottage somewhere in the area — could it be his car?

A phone call to Lilly quickly cleared up that confusion  — Lilly’s cottage wasn’t in Portapique, but rather in Wentworth, and the car was unmoved in front of the cottage.

But Lilly was then awake, so he logged onto the his computer and learned what he could about the ongoing active shooter situation in Portapique, including that the suspect was GW. Lilly had important information.

“I had a call from Dave Lilly and Dave Lilly as it turns out, had a lot of information about the suspect, about what may have transpired at the scene,” said Staff Sergeant Steve Halliday.

“He advised me that a lady by the name of Lisa McCully, who was a coworker of Dave’s wife — Dave’s wife was a teacher, Lisa McCully was a teacher,” continued Halliday. “So, once he [Dave Lilly] saw the address, he made the connection and indicated that the suspect, [GW], he believed he and her had been in some kind of a relationship. And in recent days or weeks, he had been acting very unusual towards her, driving back and down her residence, and as Dave said, and I quote him, ‘Creeping her out.’”

Soon after, police had checked GW’s vehicle registration, and saw that he owned a Mercedes, the same Mercedes Lisa Banfield had been driving when she was ticketed for speeding some years before.

“And that for me creates a little bit of confusion,” said Halliday. “I have a Lisa McCully who’s at the scene, and now I have a Lisa Banfield. Are these one and the same person? Do they use two separate names?”

But records checks soon showed the two Lisas were two different women.

Lisa McCully’s body was discovered next to the fence at about 10:30pm, her children hiding in the house behind.

Lisa Banfied emerged from hiding in the woods at sunrise, at about 6:30am. She went to the first house she saw — Leon Joudrey’s.

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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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1 Comment

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  1. The decision not to tell the public about the fake RCMP car was not rational. There were many murdered people inPortapique and no body of GW. How could they not view him and his car as a threat. I find the mindset of the in charge RCMP members all the way along weak, patronizing. A low vision of NS rural. Their conditioned mindset blinded any brave, risk taking decisions. Even Heidi Stephenson thought around 8 that there should be a public notice. This lack of strong response cost innocent lives.