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

This article contains details of intimate partner violence.

New information about what happened on the night of April 18 in Portapique has been released.

The information is contained in search warrant documents related to the RCMP investigations of the mass murders that swept across Nova Scotia that Saturday night and the next Sunday morning. The documents have been sealed by the courts, but a media consortium that includes the Halifax Examiner has undertaken a months-long court application to have them unsealed. Yesterday, a new batch of the redacted documents was released to the consortium.

Much of the new information concerns an interview the killer’s commonlaw spouse, Lisa Banfield, had with RCMP Sgt. Greg Vardy on April 28, 10 days after the rampage.

Banfield had spoken with police in the early morning of April 19, as the murders were unfolding. The April 28 interview relates much of the same information but in more detail, as well as new information about her relationships with the victims.

What follows is Banfield’s account as related by Vardy and summarized by RMCP Sgt. Angela Hawryluk in her application to the court for a search warrant for Banfield’s bank account information — both for her personal accounts and for joint accounts she shared with the killer, who the Examiner refers to as GW. Police wanted that information to better understand how GW obtained his weapons; it appears that some of the information gathered as a result of the search may have resulted in the charge against Banfield for obtaining ammunition for GW that he used in the killings.

Banfield’s account has not been cross-examined in court. Some of the account involves victims who are now dead and therefore cannot confirm or contradict her account, or otherwise speak for themselves.

Hid a tree cavity

As the Examiner has previously reported, Banfield and GW had celebrated their 19th anniversary as a couple on Saturday, April 18 by going for a drive on back roads around the province.

They stopped at “a penitentiary,” presumably Spring Hill Penitentiary, where victim Sean McLeod worked as a correctional manager. GW told Banfield that his uncle had served time in the prison and “he could never go in there.”

The couple also stopped in Debert, near the Deifenbunker, where GW said he had contemplating buying a building for $70,000, but the building had asbestos so he ultimately declined. This appears to have been the welding shop where later that night GW would hide his lookalike RCMP cruiser after killing 13 people in Portapique and before continuing on his killing spree Sunday morning.

In a previous account, Banfield said the couple had also driven by victim Gina Goulet’s house, and GW pointed the house out to Banfield.

The couple returned to Portapique, where GW owned buildings referred to as a cottage and a warehouse. The couple went to the warehouse to have drinks. They called friends in the US, and Banfield told those friends that she and GW were planning a commitment party on their 20th anniversary. The woman in the US said “don’t do it,” which angered Banfield, as she considered the woman a friend, so she “ended the conversation.”

According to Banfield, this short conversation created a misunderstanding that soon exploded with violence.

GW “got mad and accused Lisa of ruining their anniversary,” reads the document. “Lisa left the warehouse and was headed to the cottage but got half way and went back to the warehouse to apologize. Lisa Banfield explained [to GW] that she was mad at [the woman in the US] and not [GW] but [GW] was getting mad so she left the warehouse again and went to the cottage and went to bed, naked.”

GW soon went to the cottage and assaulted Banfield, pulling her out of the bed, pulling her hair and kicking her while she was on the ground. GW then told her to get up and tied her hands together with what she thought was the belt of a bathrobe.

GW poured gasoline around the cottage and then dragged her into a spare room, where he picked up a gun he had stored there. She could feel the wetness of the gasoline on the floor, and GW told her “to be careful” as he marched her out of the cottage. He told her not to look back, and he lit the cottage on fire.

GW marched her back towards the warehouse, and Banfield started screaming and trying to kick him. GW told her they were going to go to Dartmouth, and she presumed he intended to burn down their Portland Street residence and business. He also said they were going to the house of a couple who lived in the Dartmouth area, and “she believed it was to kill [them].”

During the march back to the warehouse, Banfield managed to escape and run, but she tripped and fell. GW caught up with her and “took Lisa’s shoes and threw them in opposite directions and said, ‘now you can’t run, bitch.’”

Banfield told GW “it didn’t have to be this way and [GW] said it was too late and put a handcuff on one hand on Lisa and she dropped to the floor when he tried to put on the other handcuff. [GW] pulled Lisa’s hair to make her stand up and she heard a shot on one side of her and then another on the other side.” She placed her hands over her face, expecting she would be shot, but instead GW put her in the back of the replica police car, then went to collect more guns.

While GW was collecting the guns, Banfield managed to escape the car and run out into the woods. She found a truck and thought to hide in it, but when she opened the door the overhead light came on and she feared that GW would see it and learn where she was, so she kept running. “She believed that she had a puffy jacket on and threw it in the woods hoping that police would find it.”

The narrative continues: “Lisa Banfield heard shots and thought that [GW] might blow up the truck and she left that hiding spot [?] and eventually came across a tree with an exposed root system and hid inside the cavity.”

Banfield said she heard shots through the night and someone on a speaker calling “this is the police,” but feared it was GW. She stayed in the tree until daylight, and then went to Leon Jourdrey’s house.

“Guilty feelings”

The interview with Sgt. Vardy was 10 days after the killing spree, so by then Banfield was aware of the horrific magnitude of the murders.

The narrative in the document continues:

“Lisa Banfield has had guilty feelings and wonders if [GW] went to locations that Lisa might attend to get help and kill the people as he went along. Lisa questions whether people would have died if she didn’t run away.

“When asked to provide further details, Lisa Banfield said that she was in bed naked, heard [GW] come to the door and she pretended that she was asleep.

“Lisa Banfield said that [GW] flicked the light on and was in her face and that she was crying. She was trying to talk [GW] down and at one point [GW] said ‘I’m done, I’m done. It’s too late Lisa, I’m done.’”

How Banfield knew the victims

Vardy asked Banfield about each of the victims. Most she knew only in passing, or not at all. But there were a few exceptions.

Lisa knew Sean McLeod and Alanna Jenkins, the couple who were killed Sunday morning at their Hunter Road house, just north of Wentworth.

As we’ve previously reported, Banfield “said that the McLeods would come for drinks and knew that they had been married and divorced,” reads the court document. “She thought that GW got the handcuffs and corrections uniform from him. She said that GW seemed to like them both and there were never any arguments.”

On April 28, Banfield also spoke about Lisa McCully, the school teacher who lived nearby Banfield and GW in Portapique, and who was murdered Saturday night.

Banfield told Sgt. Vardy she “did not trust” Lisa McCully. Banfield said that one day she was throwing a party for GW, and Lisa McCully’s dogs came onto the property. Banfield called McCully to collect the dogs. Later that day McCully asked Banfield if she could come to the party and Banfield said no, it was only for family and friends.

“The next day Lisa McCully said that Lisa Banfield threatened her,” reads the document, which does not say what the nature of the alleged threat was, or how Banfield learned that she supposedly had threatened her neighbour.

“Lisa Banfield said that one time Lisa McCully came around the corner with beers and didn’t know that Lisa Banfield was there. Lisa Banfield said that [GW] had cheated on her many times and she didn’t trust Lisa McCully.”

Another victim that Banfield had become wary of was Gina Goulet, the denturist who was killed at her Shubenacadie home on Sunday.

Banfield said that she and Goulet had “connected” at one point. “She said that [GW] did not like Gina at first but seemed to like her after because she and Gina were friends.” But “Lisa Banfield said she wondered how [GW] knew where Gina lived” as GW had pointed out Gina’s house when they drove around earlier on Saturday.

Again, both McCully and Goulet are dead and so can neither confirm nor contradict Banfield’s accounts, and neither can they provide their own interpretations on events.

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

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