Was the man who murdered 22 people in April 2020 also a drug smuggler before he met Lisa Banfield? 

Questions about where the Dartmouth denturist obtained the money that allowed him to work only a few days a week and take several Caribbean vacations a year have surfaced again. This time with the release of new documents posted by the Mass Casualty Commission looking into the massacre that began in Portapique on April 18, 2020.

Many of the documents are summaries of graphic reports such as autopsies on victims; those documents have been mercifully edited for public consumption. Other documents are summaries of conversations the RCMP or MCC investigators had with witnesses to the tragic events, or with people who knew the killer. 

The Halifax Examiner refers to the killer as GW.

Joe Cartwright knew the killer 20 years ago, between 2002 and 2010. Cartwright was a young teenager who had been in foster care. He says a man in his 50s by the name of Tom Evans let him live in the apartment building Evans owned in return for doing carpentry and maintenance work. 

Cartwright was grateful to Evans but he did not like GW, Evans’ friend from Nova Scotia, whom Cartwright said he “feared” when RCMP investigators interviewed him after the murders in May 2020.

In the summary of his statement to police, Joe Cartwright said he:

 “…believed Tom Evans and [GW] were moving tobacco and cocaine on a pretty high level. He says he never saw it (the contraband), but he did see a lot of duffle bags being put on the back of trucks, in basements etc. He never questioned this because he was getting work from the perpetrator and Evans. Cartwright says he went to Nova Scotia 10-15 times with Evans and duffle bags were most often present. He further indicated he believed the perpetrator and Evans would do cocaine in bathrooms together because as they came out they were sniffing and ‘their eyeballs were bugged right out of the head.’

During an interview with Global News more than a year ago, Cartwright said his suspicions were further aroused when he personally saw Evans withdraw $250,000 from a bank in Fredericton. When he asked Evans where he got the money, he was told “those are the type of questions that will get you killed.”

Cartwright believes Evans protected him by not sharing information about his shady dealings. He told Global News that Evans had secret compartments built into the walls of his apartment in Fredericton where he stored money and that the relationship between Tom Evans and GW was like “father and son.” GW also hid guns in secret compartments at his Portapique summer home.

After Evans died suddenly in 2009, GW went to court to gain control of Evans’ two apartment buildings. A document presented to the court by GW said “Tom Evans and I have been friends since childhood.” GW’s uncle Glynn Wortman may have introduced the two when Glynn was sharing an apartment with Evans during their student days. Evans got a couple of degrees at the University of New Brunswick before graduating as a lawyer. Three other facts stand out from Evan’s past:

• in 1987, Evans was arrested and convicted for reckless shooting near a New Brunswick Bible Camp while he was in a boat intoxicated.

• in 1989, Evans defended a Colombian cartel member who was part of a group accused of orchestrating a prison break. The five had come to New Brunswick to try and free two others who had been jailed after crashing a plane filled with cocaine near a remote airstrip. At that time, police estimated the drugs had a street value of $250 million. Evan’s client got 10 years in jail.

• in 1990, Evans was charged (and convicted) of sexually assaulting an under-age male and plying him with liquor. He never worked as a lawyer again.

A wooden and stone structure with green trees behind
RCMP Cst. Gret Wiley visited the mass murderer’s Portapique cottage 15 or 16 times.

In the summary of Joe Cartwright’s interview with the RCMP, Cartwright described GW as a person who was “big, scary and someone you had to be careful around.” He described GW as someone “who was controlling in everything he did.” As an example, Cartwright said when he did some carpentry work laying a bathroom floor at GW’s Portapique summer home, the denturist made him scrub the floor with a toothbrush after he finished. 

Cartwright had reason to be afraid of GW. In addition to having witnessed GW take complete control of Evan’s Fredericton properties after he died — leaving nothing to Cartwright and others who expected to inherit — Cartwright had seen GW behave violently. 

Here’s what Cartwright told police according to the summary that has been posted by the Mass Casualty Commission.

Cartwright indicated he also watched the perpetrator ‘beat the living fuck out of some people’. He said he saw the perpetrator hit one guy for walking on his grass, knocking him out, then when he came to, he hit him again. He also saw the perpetrator back hand his wife, knocking her to the ground, once while he was visiting the Denture Clinic. He described the perpetrator’s wife as a black-haired Barbie. He said he believed they were arguing over something and he was watching through a glass door and saw the perpetrator strike her and then lean over as he if he was talking to her, until he stormed out.

Cartwright indicated the perpetrator did not want anyone looking at or speaking to his wife. He specifically stated he talked about her as if she was his property.

Finally Cartwright stated that he believed the perpetrator had snapped long ago and he would not be shocked if there were dead bodies at the Portapique property. He said this was one hundred percent suspicion but based on the type of person the perpetrator was, he did not see the mass casualty as the only incident. He said continuously he was scared of the perpetrator and would not touch anything in his house for fear he ‘would not make it out of here’.

Immediately following the murders, forensic investigators searched GW’s Portapique property looking for any evidence of human remains and reportedly found nothing. 

They did, however, find more than $700,000 in cash GW had buried in the ground. 

The interview Joe Cartwright did with RCMP detectives in May 2020 shows just how much Cartwright feared GW. Cartwright was also aware GW had inherited Tom Evan’s Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic gun. That gun was used in the shootings and was found in Gina Goulet’s car. 

a gun
The Ruger P-89 recovered from the car the murderer was driving when he was killed. Credit: Mass Casualty Commission

Cartwright said he had seen other guns on the wall at GW’s Portapique home and that Cartwright had helped build a hunting camp in New Brunswick where Evans and GW went occasionally to get drunk and hunt. This New Brunswick camp was not the same hunting camp as one of an earlier vintage owned by Sean Conlogue in Haynesville, Maine where Evans and GW often went to visit and party. Tom Evans introduced Sean Conlogue and GW more than 25 years ago in Conlogue’s hometown of Houlton. 

Conlogue became not only a skeet-shooting buddy and drinking companion of GW at the Elk’s Club in Houlton; the car salesman’s home address was used by GW as a conduit to ship motorcycles, police vehicle paraphernalia, and illegal weapons the killer bought in the United States and then smuggled across the border into Canada. 

GW never registered any of these weapons, which he used to kill 22 victims. 

Conlogue has never been charged with a criminal offence, claiming he was duped and manipulated by a man he thought was his friend. 

It’s worth noting that while GW’s common-law spouse Lisa Banfield and many of GW’s more recent associates described the killer as an alcoholic, none had ever seen or knew of any incidents involving drug use. 

The cocaine link remains a tantalizing, unproven loose end in a terrible story.

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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