Lisa Banfield speaks with a police investigator in Portapique in October 2020. Still from an RCMP video

This article contains graphic descriptions of intimate partner violence.

Lisa Banfield was an abused woman.

The abuse happened over nearly the entire 19 years she was with the man the Halifax Examiner refers to as GW — the man who murdered 22 people on April 18 and 19, 2020.

Dozens of people knew about the abuse. Her family knew about the abuse. The Wortman family knew about the abuse. Her friends knew about the abuse. Her work associates knew about the abuse. Her neighbours knew about the abuse.

Police were called to one scene one night she was abused, but don’t appear to have taken any action. They were called a second time years later by a concerned neighbour, but again took no action.

The documented pattern of abuse is detailed in an exhaustive document released by the Mass Casualty Commission today, entitled “Perpetrator’s Violence Towards Common-Law Spouse.” The document names 17 “key first responders,” mostly police, and it cites and quotes from police records, and police and commission interviews with 29 civilian witnesses, whose witnesses statements are now publicly available.

As well, Lisa Banfield conducted four interviews with police investigators in the immediate hours and days after the murders, and another five multi-hour interviews with commission investigators. The transcripts of all those interviews are also now publicly available. Additionally, in October 2020, Banfield went back to Portapique with police and explained on video what happened the night of April 18 and morning of April 19; that video is available here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

‘Just complementary and just sweet’

Lisa Banfield met GW at The Thirsty Duck on Spring Garden Road in Halifax in May of 2001. He asked her out; she said yes. (Years later, the couple couldn’t remember the date they met and settled on April 19, but Lisa looked it up in her diaries and saw it was in May.)

Lisa was married but separated, in the process of getting divorced. She had been living with her sister Maureen Banfield for about a year while working at a bank.

For the first date, GW “showed up in a convertible with two dozen long-stemmed roses and I don’t like that, it’s too showy for me, it doesn’t impress me,” said Lisa. “And when he came to the door, I thought, that’s not who I thought…”

They went to the Economy Shoe Shop. En route, by the Memorial Library on Spring Garden Road, GW was rear-ended by a woman driving a van.” And I thought, OK, now we’ll see what kind of guy he is… And he got out and he was just, ‘it’s OK, and he was just calm… and sweet.”

Lisa moved into the apartment above the Portland Street denturist office after about three months. About a year into the relationship, GW asked Lisa to sign a document which, as she understood it, was to protect GW’s property should they break up. Lisa thought it was an odd request — she had left her previous marriage without seeking any property or alimony — but she signed it anyway.

(This is reminiscent of the contract that GW asked AA to sign in about 2009. AA was a Fredericton woman GW was having a casual sexual relationship with, but he wanted her to move to Nova Scotia and be, in effect, a kept mistress as GW maintained his relationship with Lisa. AA declined.)

There were oddities to GW.

“When I first me him, he had a seeing-eye dog that was retired,” said Lisa. “His name was Bik, and he was a nice enough dog and everything. We had dogs growing up but if I touched a dog I’d have to wash my hands right away. Like, I wouldn’t let it kiss me — it just grossed me out, it wasn’t my thing, but that’s just me.”

“But for him,” Lisa continued, “he loved ani- he would go, ‘I could kill a person, but I couldn’t kill a dog.’ And I’m thinking, are you kidding me? I was shocked that he would even say that. [But] he was like, ‘Lisa, you have to think, like I was an embalmer, like it was just a bod-, like it was just a piece of meat, it’s nothing to me.’ And he’d want me, when he, you know, when he first met me, he wanted me to watch him embalm somebody, and I’m like no, I don’t want to see that at all.”

“He said if anything happened [to me] he would get a dog. He wouldn’t have another girlfriend or whatever… Yeah, he said, ‘I could never hurt an animal, but a person.’”

Still, Lisa remembered GW being “just complementary and just sweet to me for like, I don’t know, two and a half years.” After that, she said, he became increasingly controlling and began limiting her time with her family.

GW bought the cottage in Portapique in 2002. GW began to spend weekends at the cottage, then three days a week, then four days. Lisa would come up on some weekends and operate the denturist clinic on weekdays that GW was in Portapique. Sometimes she’d stay with her sisters in town and skip the weekend visits.

Violence

Sutherland Lake. Photo: Elizabeth Ritchie

The first time GW physically abused Lisa was at a cottage at Sutherland Lake. Multiple witnesses recounted the incident, but they differed on the date; commission investigators believe it happened sometime shortly after 2002.

A woman who worked at the denturist clinic, Renee Karsten, invited GW and Lisa to a party at the cottage. Lisa wasn’t so excited about going, but she agreed, so long as GW wouldn’t drink so he could drive the Jeep back to Portapique from the party.

But GW drank at the party. He and Lisa were invited to spend the night, but Lisa said she’d drive back to Portapique and return in the morning to get GW. They argued.

Lisa recounted what happened next:

So I started driving and he jumped in and while I was driving he starts hitting me or whatever because he wanted to stay and I thought, I just watched Oprah, and you know how they say you always run, the next destination, you’re going to die, so I’m like, as he’s hitting me, I’m like, trying to drive and he’s whacking me in the head and stuff, and I can’t see and I’m crying, so I just stopped the car and I jumped out and I just ran through the woods, and then he was running after me and I was screaming my head off, and then he caught me and the he [inaudible] you know, I had blood all over me and he was dragging me back to the Jeep, and I guess guys on four-wheelers came, and he dropped me and I just ran through the woods and he goes, yeah, he got back in the Jeep and goes, yeah she, she was crazy Renee I don’t now what happened, she just went crazy and dah-dit, dah-dit, dah, as if I did something wrong kind of thing, and I just ran up in the woods and then Renee came and found me in the woods and brought me to the house, and the police came and drove Gabriel home.

A couple of hours later, Lisa drove the Jeep back to Portapique and parked a distance away from the cottage at the Portapique cemetery, with the intent of silently picking up her own car and going back to Dartmouth.

But just as she parked in the cemetery, a big truck being driven by Ellison Sutherland pulled up, and GW got out. He pulled Lisa out of the Jeep, got in, and drove away, back to the cottage.

Sutherland then drove Lisa to the cottage, and she asked him to help her get her things. Sutherland refused. GW was just then taking the tires off Lisa’s car, so she had no way to leave Portapique.

Lisa went back to Sutherland’s house, where she found a party. She continued:

They were having an outside fire pit party, and we were there before we actually went to that party, so they were still all partying at this little party, so they brought me back to there and they’re like, are you okay, like what happened? And I didn’t want to say what he did because I didn’t want them to get mad like, I, I don’t know, I was so messed up that I just didn’t want to say anything bad about him, ’cause we’re neighbours and anyway, I just wanted to go home, can somebody just give me a phone so I can call somebody to pick me up.

Lisa called her niece Stephanie Goulding, who was eight months pregnant. Goulding was initially angry about being called in the middle of the night to drive all the way to Portapique, but on the drive back to Dartmouth she looked over at Lisa. “She was full of scrapes and blood and her shirt was ripped, everything,” recalled Goulding.

Goulding wanted to take Lisa to the Truro Police, but Lisa wouldn’t let her. Lisa went to Goulding’s house. “She begged me and begged me and begged me not to call anybody, do anything,” said Goulding. Goulding didn’t call police, but she did call Lisa’s sister Maureen, who came and took photos of Lisa’s injuries. But Lisa still wouldn’t allow anyone to call police.

The next day, Lisa had a friend drive her back to Portapique to pick up her things. GW’s parents, Paul and Evelyn Wortman, were at the cottage. The tires were back on Lisa’s car. GW blamed Lisa for the violence of the night before: “You know Lisa, this is your fault, you made me do this.”

Lisa moved in with Maureen for a few weeks, but after GW expressed regret and promised to mend his ways, Lisa moved back to the apartment above the denturist shop.

There were many witnesses to these events — all the party-goers at Sutherland Lake, the people at the smaller party in Portapique, Renee Karsten (who quit her job as a result), Goulding, and Maureen Banfield. The rest of the Banfield clan soon learned of the beating as well. After the mass murders, many of these witnesses provided statements to the police and/or the Mass Casualty Commission about the Sutherland Lake incident.

And what of the police who drove GW from the Sutherland Lake Party back to Portapique? There are no police records related to the incident.

The most recent commission report documents that GW’s violence against Lisa was repeated many times through the years, with the same basic pattern: unpredictable violence, followed by Lisa moving out but refusing to contact police, GW initially blaming Lisa for his attacks on her, but then expressions of regret and promises of reform, followed by eventual reconciliation. There are more witnesses, but Lisa urges them not to intervene, and the two times when police seem aware of the violence, they take no action.

Other controlling behaviour

The killer’s property in Dartmouth in 2019. The teeth were removed from the building days after the mass shootings, and the building has since been razed. — Google Maps

One issue explored by the Mass Casualty Commission is GW’s financial control of Lisa.

After Lisa moved into the apartment above the denturist, GW began urging her to quit her job at the bank and come to work for him. She eventually did, and by 2005 she was working full-time at the clinic, as receptionist, lab worker, denture cleaner, and janitor. She was responsible for everything besides fitting and placing the dentures in a patient’s mouth. When she was out of the office, she’d have the office phone forwarded to her personal cell.

Lisa started at a pay of $18/hour, and she thought that by 2020 she was making $25/hour — she occasionally asked for raises, as she learned that the other “girls” working at the clinic were getting paid more than her.

But the pay was under the table, and seemingly arbitrary — GW would give her either cash or cheques at odd and unpredictable times for unpredictable amounts, which she would deposit either in her own bank account or an account she shared with GW. Sometimes her pay was for lesser amounts, with GW explaining that some of her pay had been reserved “for retirement.” There was no clear accounting, but Lisa had faith in GW: “he was good with his money, so I just trusted whatever he did,” she said.

It’s not that Lisa lived in poverty. The couple travelled together to resorts in the Dominican Republic and Cuba. She went to spas. There was a lovely weekend cottage in Portapique. She drove a Mercedes. But she had no financial independence — she was entirely reliant on GW for money, and lived and worked with him as well. Everything was in GW’s name — the cars, the business, the property. GW even compiled Lisa’s tax returns, and just had her sign them.

“She had no options to leave,” commented Maureen. Where would she go? Especially since GW directly threatened that if Lisa left, her family was at risk.

Lisa’s work responsibilities reflected her responsibilities at home. She was solely responsible for cooking, cleaning, shopping, and otherwise maintaining the apartment.

“The way I was brought up,” explained Lisa, “is my mom waited on my dad hand in foot and I did that with whoever I was with, but it wasn’t because I felt that I had to, I wanted to and I didn’t have a problem with it.”

Through the years, GW had sexual encounters with lots of other women. Some, Lisa didn’t know about — AA in Fredericton; EE, DD, and the multiple other women GW brought to the cottage in Portapique while Lisa was in Dartmouth.

Lisa became aware of other liaisons. For instance, GW had a two-year sexual relationship with a patient at the Halifax denturist clinic referred to as YY. Lisa never met YY, and knew nothing about her, but when GW and Lisa went to the Dominican Republic, YY would sometimes stay at the same resort, and GW would “go off” with her. Once, GW and YY went to the resort together, without Lisa. And YY would join GW in Portapique, when Lisa was in Dartmouth. Lisa only found out about YY when YY called the office phone in the middle of the night, and it went to Lisa’s cell.

Lisa also discovered that GW had sex with various women who lived in the “crack houses” next door to the denturist clinic, and she learned about GW’s relationship with a “tomboyish” woman who lived in Eastern Passage.

Each time she discovered an infidelity, Lisa left the relationship temporarily, but always came back.

In her phone’s Notes app, Lisa wrote down various inspirational messages, listed her relatives’ birthdays, marked appointments at the spa and such, and noted a couple of what she thought were GW’s infidelities.

In one note, she mentioned she found the name and number of a woman living in Truro in GW’s truck.

Angel Patterson. Photo: Facebook

In another note, written on November 11, 2018, Lisa wrote (ellipses in original):

We are leaving Houlton Maine and I am devastated by what I witnessed with Gabriel and Angel.

She was putting salt on the steps outside and Gabriel went out to help her…. I had a feeling in my gut to check it out and I heard her say I can’t…. along with Gabriel grabbing her!!!

She said she did nothing wrong….. but then later I heard the three of them out in the kitchen…. she was by Gabriel … joking around and when he was leaving to supposedly go to bed they hugged and he grabbed her ass!!

I’m sick to the stomach the thought he would hurt me again!!!!!

I really thought our relationship had changed for the better and we were on the same page!!! Clearly I was wrong!”

Angel is Angel Patterson.

COVID

When COVID came to Nova Scotia in March 2020, the denturist clinic was closed and Lisa and GW went to isolate in Portapique. They were there together for five weeks before the murders.

GW became increasingly withdrawn.

“He got so consumed with this COVID thing and he would just listen to Donald Trump and he couldn’t stand Justin Trudeau, but he liked Donald Trump,” said Lisa. “And I said, ‘he’s an asshole!’ I don’t even want to talk about Donald Trump because we’re just on two different pages here and it would be an argument. He’s like, ‘no, but he’s right.’”

“So he would talk to Leonard, the denturist down in Cape Breton,” continued Lisa. “The two of them would talk all the time and Leonard was a Debbie-downer so the two of them just fed off their negativity all the time.”

Previously, explained Lisa, when they were in Portapique GW would eat breakfast and then go tinker with his bikes and other toys in the warehouse for a few hours, but during COVID he seemed morose.

“The whole time we were there, most of the time, he didn’t get out of bed. He’d be laying in bed, he’d get up, I’d feed us breakfast, he’d sit at the table with me, and we’d have a game of cards or whatever. And then he’d to back in his room on the internet and just listen to the news and COVID and, it’s just hours after hours… he’d go to listening to the news and all the crap and he would just obsess about it.”

He also lost all interest in sex. Normally, if GW wasn’t interested in sex, Lisa suspected he was having an affair, but they were alone together, with no one else around. Maybe he was having a mid-life crisis, thought Lisa.

During this period, GW began preparing for the worst. He stocked up on rice and prepared foods, bought hundreds of gallons of gasoline, asked friends and relatives to buy him ammo, withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. He had Lisa count the cash, and he divvied it up into various amounts and hid these in tins around the cottage. Most of the cash went into a fireproof bag; with Lisa at his side, he buried the bag so only the two of them knew where it was.

Most of what happened on April 18 has already been reported. Lisa took her usual morning walk, and then the two went for a drive in the country in the Jeep. They drove by the Springhill prison. For the first time since the violent attack many years before, they went to Sutherland Lake. GW stopped and spoke with fellow denturist Rick Laurie; the two spoke for about an hour in the driveway, with Lisa staying in the Jeep. They drove around the Debert Industrial Park, where GW had talked about buying an old airplane hangar. They stopped and bought frozen pizzas and beer, even though there was “lots and lots of beer” at the warehouse. Then they headed back to Portapique, arriving at around suppertime.

Lisa went to the cottage to get some food, and when she returned to the warehouse she found GW cleaning the mud off the Jeep. They had a couple of drinks and listened to music. They took some selfies, celebrating their 19th anniversary.

Their friend in Maine, Sean Conlogue, called at 6:26pm, and they spoke for around 20 minutes. After that call, Lisa made a FaceTime call to Angel Patterson, and GW and Lisa explained how they were celebrating their 19th anniversary, and how next year, on their 20th, they were going to have a commitment ceremony.

GW took the phone into the bathroom with him, but Lisa could hear Angel speaking. “Don’t do it,” said Angel, referring to the commitment ceremony.

“It just set me off,” said Lisa. “I thought she was my friend and why would she say ‘don’t do it?’”

Lisa left the warehouse and went back to the cottage.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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