This article contains detailed accounts of violence.

The man who murdered 22 people in Nova Scotia on April 18/19, 2020 came from a Moncton-area family that experienced multi-generational violence. Parents beat their spouses and their children. Children in turned beat their father, one stabbing a father, nearly killing him. Neighbours and passersby were beaten senseless for perceived slights. Pets were tortured and murdered.

The Wortman family tree, recreated from a graphic produced by the Mass Casualty Commission / Brian Corbett

The Examiner refers to the killer as GW.

The violence in the Wortman family dates back to at least George Wortman, GW’s great-grandfather, “a tyrant who brutalized his family,” according to George’s grandson (and GW’s uncle) Neil Wortman. Neil Wortman’s interview with police investigators is one of dozens of new documents made public by the Mass Casualty Commission today.

George Wortman so traumatized his children that after he died, they refused to mention his name, said Neil. All of George’s children in turn became violent, treating their own spouses and children as George had treated his, and the violence was returned in kind. “Abused children often become abused parents,” said Neil.

One of George’s children was Stanley Wortman, GW’s grandfather. With his wife Doris, Stanley had five children, all boys: Neil, Paul, Glynn, Alan, and Chris.

According to Alan, Stanley did not physically abuse Doris, but he did beat the three oldest boys, Neil, Paul, and Glynn.

When Neil, the oldest child, was seven years old, he soiled his shorts. “He [Stanley] made me put the spoiled shorts on my head, inside out,” Neil told Global News. “And he told me to go knocking on the doors of neighbours to show them what I had done. Because I refused to go, he beat me instead.”

“Neil left home when he was young,” said Alan. “Paul ran away — he was into minor thefts and that. He went to Cleveland, and I don’t think he ever came back to live in our house.”

Alan said Stanley never beat him or Chris. “Maybe my father was burnt out by then, I don’t know.”

Neil seems to have kept his distance from his father, but Paul and Glynn returned the violence, said Alan.

Paul returned to the Moncton area, but not to the family home. Then a grown man, he became violent with his father. “Paul beat [Stanley] up, beat my father up, no problem,” said Alan.

“There was a stabbing in my house,” continued Alan. “I was in the backyard in the tent with my friend across the street. I was maybe 14. Mom and Glynn were out for drinks that night, and Glynn had a little too much to drink and my father started hounding on him.” Stanley went to bed. “And Glynn went and got a kitchen knife and went up to his bed and stabbed him.”

Alan’s statement to police is redacted, but a report written by the Mass Casualty Commission relates what was removed from the statement: “Alan ran inside when he heard the screaming. There was blood everywhere. An ambulance came… Alan believes Glynn intended to kill their father.”

Neil said Glynn was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, but was released after serving nine months.

Same factory, different assembly line

A man in a hard hat
Jeff Samuelson. Photo: A New Hope: Trailer 2013

When Paul was 19, he had a girlfriend, Evelyn, who became pregnant, and the couple married. The child was GW.

Paul and his younger brother Glynn left Moncton to work at the Stelco plant in Hamilton. One day, Glynn heard Evelyn screaming and walked into a bedroom, finding Paul was choking Evelyn. Paul told Glynn to “get the hell out,” to which Glynn responded “well, get the hell off Evelyn.”

Soon after that incident, there was a strike at the plant, and Glynn decided to return to Moncton, to live with his mother Doris, who had left Stanley and was operating a rooming house.

Glynn asked Paul and Evelyn if he could take two-year-old GW with him, and they agreed. Glynn himself was just 17 at the time, but by his account, he doted on the child, changing his diapers, walking him around the neighbourhood in a stroller.

But Glynn didn’t care for GW for long. With Evelyn newly pregnant, and work drying up at the steel plant, Paul decided to retrieve the child and move to Massachusetts to look for work.

Paul was dead set against having another child, so when Evelyn gave birth, the couple put the baby up for adoption. That child became Jeff Samuelson, now a master carpenter who has achieved some renown for the restoration of a copper-clad bell tower in his hometown of North Brookfield, Massachusetts.

In 2010, Samuelson was contacted by the adoption agency — Samuelson’s birth parents, Paul and Evelyn Wortman, wanted to meet the child they had given up for adoption 40 years before. This came as a complete surprise to Samuelson, who up to then had no idea who his birth parents were.

Paul and Evelyn travelled to the U.S. to meet Samuelson, and twice Samuelson and his wife Robin travelled to Canada to see Paul and Evelyn again, and meet his brother GW and some of his uncles.

Samuelson quickly disliked both his father and his brother.

“The old man [Paul] is as dark as [GW],” Samuelson told police investigators after the murders. “The apples don’t fall far from the tree. Thank God this apple fell in a different country because this could have been me up there, you know, if I had grew [sic] up in an environment like [GW] did.”

GW “was produced by Paul,” said Samuelson. “It’s the carbon copy. Paul is just as dark, you know — wife beating, control, control, control, manipulate.”

“I look like the guy,” said Samuelson, referring to his brother, GW. “Some of our mannerisms are — our wiring would be the same. I always say we got wired at the same factory, but I went down a different assembly line.”

Back in 2011, Paul Wortman’t brother Neil wrote Samuelson a letter. It read:

Hello. I have been thinking about our first two or three conversations and how they tended to be negative in nature. My wife and I have very positive attitudes as I suspect that you and Robin do also. We are both very excited to have discovered a new nephew and hope to build a positive relationship with you, Robin and the rest of your family. This note is being written with the hope that it will help you to understand why the Wortman family is the way it is. Hopefully you will be able to accept us as we are and become our friends as you dwell on our positive attributes.

Your great grandfather, George Wortman, was a tyrant who brutalized his family. He managed to isolate himself from all members of his family to the point where none of his children ever spoke of him after his death. All of his children were seriously affected by the treatment that they received from him. Only one of them survives today. If you met him, or if you could have met any of the others, including your grandfather, Stanley Wortman, you would have quickly observed that they were seriously off center. All of them, to varying extents, treated their wives and children the only way they know how — like the father treated his family members. Abused children often become abused parents.

All five of us have worked hard to support our families and, with the exception of Alan, have kept our families together. Alan tried very hard, and for a long time, to make his marriage work but was unsuccessful largely because his wife was overbearing. Three of us worked in professions. All of us share a great sense of humor most of the time in spite of our common background. All but one of us is generous.

You will have to decide if it is worth meeting your new relatives with their faults and strengths. I personally find it easy to love all of them but I have a bias because I am one of them. I also think that my three children are exceptional for many reasons but, again, I have a natural bias.

My wife, Annette, daughter, Michelle, and I would like to visit you in Massachusetts but there is a risk on your part. You may not want us to visit you. Paul does not talk to me or his brother, Chris. He has threatened to not talk to his son. He may use the same threat with you and order Evelyn to not talk to you. You have to consider this possibility if you intend to build relationships with Paul or Evelyn. Think carefully about this and share your thoughts with me and my family. We will understand whatever you decide.

GW’s childhood

In about 1970, after giving up their second child for adoption, Paul and Evelyn Wortman returned to the Moncton area with their older child, GW, then about two years old.

GW was “brought up very, very tough,” said Alan, one of Paul’s brothers. Alan wasn’t close to Paul Wortman’s family, but did recall a Christmas dinner when he was about 16; Paul and Evelyn got in an argument, and Paul “struck her, knocked her onto the floor, and kicked her and kicked her and kicked her.”

Another brother, Glynn Wortman, related an incident when GW was “just a little boy”: Paul “held a gun to [GW’s] head, and then to Evelyn’s. But then Paul denied that story. But I didn’t make that up; I heard that from somebody, probably my mother. My mother knew horrible things that Paul did to Evelyn and [GW].” The eldest brother, Neil, also mentioned in his statement to police that Paul “pointed a gun at his wife’s head and threatened if she ever left her, he’d kill her.”

Jeff Samuelson said that soon after he met his birth father Paul Wortman, Paul told him about an incident involving GW, when GW was about three years old. “The old man volunteered that … the old man decided that the kid didn’t need a blanket any more, so he burnt the friggen thing in front of him.”

The youngest brother, Chris, related that when GW was about seven years old, Paul handed GW a loaded 22 and said “shoot!” Lisa Banfield said that GW told her about the same incident, but she recalled that GW was “10 or 14” at the time. GW had described being alone in the car with his father in a wooded area and fearing his father was about to kill him. “Paul gave him a gun and said, ‘Shoot me, I know you want to.’”

Banfield said that GW told her that he remembered that “Paul beat on Evelyn all the time. Paul would cheat on her, and he would go with Paul, wait in the car, while Paul is with some girl.”

Even as boy, GW never called his parents “mom” or “dad,” but rather by their names, Paul and Evelyn.

Neil recounted some of Paul’s violence that GW saw as a child. For instance, GW “was walking down Wheeler Boulevard one time with his mother and a fellow drove by really really fast and just narrowly clipped them. Paul was there with his car and saw it. He chased the car, pulled him over, and dragged him out of his car and beat him badly.”

Neil related a similar incident, but this time on Mountain Road. “Somebody beat their horn at him and he took offence, got out of his car, walked back, pulled the man out of his car, and beat him badly.”

Two of the brothers — Neil and Glynn — related that Paul was once annoyed by a neighbour’s dog barking, so he “kidnapped” the dog and drove it out to the country to release it. Somehow the dog made its way back home, and Paul was charged and convicted of a crime.

Another dog was less fortunate. GW, then a pre-teen, was given a dog, and made some child-like mistake — possibly not cleaning up after it or missing a meal. So Paul forced GW to shoot the dog dead. (Neil, Glynn, Jeff Samuelson, and Lisa Banfield all had some version of this story.)

A terrible role model

Paul’s brothers and Jeff Samuelson agreed that Paul modelled a life that warped GW.

Neil remembered that Paul was always breaking rules — like sneaking Evelyn into the drive-in movie theatre in the trunk of the car, or sewing pockets to the inside of a coat so he could shoplift meat at the grocery store, and getting back at perceived wrongs done to him with vandalism.

Paul taught GW that “committing the crime is really not so bad, it’s getting caught,” said Neil.

Chris said that Paul stole landscaping equipment and lumber from garden centres. “Just steal stuff, and so that’s what [GW] saw… that’s how his life continued… [GW] took it up a notch… Just brazen… I know he put himself through university smuggling tobacco and alcohol across the border.”

“I remember as a little boy [GW] would trade with younger children and cheat them,” said Neil. “And he did that I think to boost his ego… [He’d also] draw attention to himself [by] making explosives as a little boy. He would take the heads of matches, bind them with an elastic, and throw them on the sidewalk, and watch them explode. And as time went by and he got older, they became more sophisticated, right up to the point where he could make a pipe bomb. I heard… that he actually blew the window out of his mother’s car.”

Glynn said that “Paul made [GW’s] life miserable…. He turned him into a greedy, overbearing, little bastard.”

Paul “never treated him like a little boy,” said Glynn. “He treated him like an animal.”

A few weeks after the mass murders, on May 8, 2020, Paul was visited at his home by two RCMP investigators. Evelyn was upstairs, crying. Through the interview, Paul was alternately defensive and aggressive, and denied ever physically assaulting GW when he was a boy. “I have nothing to offer,” Paul said a couple of times, and only reluctantly agreed to speak of GW, whom he characterized as entrepreneurial and kind. As Evelyn continued to cry out for Paul, the investigators asked if they could come back another time. “I can’t see any benefit,” said Paul. “I’m sorry, but no, the answer is no… I’m not going to talk any more about this.” Paul abruptly ended the interview.

Police “wannabe”

After the mass murders, police investigators found this RCMP boot with the inscription “Wortman” near the welding shop in Debert where GW had stayed overnight.

Jeff Samuelson and his wife Robin travelled to Portapique twice, staying with Glynn, who had a house near to GW’s (this was the same house that Lisa McCully later purchased, and will be discussed in tomorrow’s article).

Besides Glynn, Jeff additionally met or spoke on the phone with several of Paul’s brothers, and one of Evelyn’s siblings. In those meetings, and through intermittent conversations since, he learned a great deal about his newfound family, and he didn’t like what he learned.

After the second visit, Jeff ended his contact with GW, although his wife maintained some online communication with Lisa Banfield. Jeff was so distressed about his brother’s behaviour, which he attributed to their father Paul, that Jeff and Robin vowed never to have children of their own, lest the children inherit the same traits.

Jeff was interviewed on the phone by RCMP Cst. Colin Shaw on April 27, 2020, eight days after the murders.

In the interview, Jeff expressed his outright hatred of Paul, and spoke at length about Paul’s evilness, and GW’s “horrendous upbringing.”

One aspect of the interview is especially interesting: Jeff said that Paul, who he referred to as “the old man,” had worn police uniforms.

GW’s two youngest uncles, Alan and Chris, both became RCMP officers, and are now retired. In April, the Mass Casualty Commission published a document titled “Police Paraphernalia,” which explored whether GW obtained RCMP uniforms — and especially boots — from either Alan or Chris. But Jeff Samuelson’s interview raises another possibility: Did GW obtain RCMP uniforms or boots from his father Paul?

“The old man had a fetish about wearing a police uniforms, as I understand it,” said Jeff. “The old man used to put on a police uniform and go harass people. To my knowledge, he never owned a cruiser, but he did own a police uniform… He [GW] had a horrendous upbringing. A father that had fetish for police, you know, wannabe.”

Shaw asked Jeff how he knew that Paul Wortman wore a police uniform.

“Glynn?” guessed Jeff. “I remember finding out about it. I don’t know the frequency that he used it. I don’t know if it was 20 years ago or 30 or 40 years ago.”

“That is just the ultimate dark perversion,” continued Jeff. “To put on a uniform and go harass people like that I can’t even imagine, but [GW] took it one step further than his father. I can tell you that maybe the old man did it once, maybe he did it several times, I have no clue… but the fact you do it once, you are friggen warped and distorted and you may as well have done it a thousand times, to me.”

Jeff told Shaw that Paul had a friend named Bruce Estabrooks, who was a former RCMP officer. “I’ve never heard of him,” said Shaw.

“As I understand it, this guy is friggen corrupted,” explained Jeff. “I don’t know if Paul acquired something from his friend or not. I’m just saying it’s an avenue for the acquisition of something. I don’t know if Paul has anything currently. I don’t know how long ago he had this police uniform and harassed people. I don’t know where he was when he did it. But when you hear something like that, you don’t forget it.”

Jeff went on to relate an incident involving Estabrooks. When Jeff was restoring the bell tower, in 2013 or so, Paul, Evelyn, and Bruce arrived in town unannounced.

“This Saturday when they were here, I was getting ready to install this piece so I was extremely busy and I didn’t have time to be socializing with anybody,” said Jeff. “I had this acetylene tank for melting copper, welding it. It was near my project. And I ran home for a second, around the corner, a three-minute drive. I come back, the friggen thing is stolen… I’ve never in my life had something stolen in this town. I’ve lived here for practically 50 years.”

The tank wasn’t valuable, worth less than 100 bucks, but Jeff immediately suspected either Paul or Bruce of the theft, in order to get a brass plate that was on it. “Paul is that type of guy,” said Jeff.

After he spoke on the phone with Jeff — the same day— Shaw located Bruce Estabrooks and gave him a call.

Estabrooks said as a child he grew up next door to the house with the five Wortman brothers. As a child, GW often visited his grandmother Doris, and Estabrooks considered him something like a little brother.

Shaw asked Estabrooks if he knew if Paul ever had police uniforms. “Paul has never had, you know, shirts, pants, boots or anything from the RCMP in his house, that I can never (sic) recall,” responded Estabrooks. He said that when he retired from the RCMP, he destroyed all patches and the like, and Paul never asked for them.

Estabrooks spoke at length about Paul’s temper — “if [GW] has an anger management problem, he’s come by it honestly because Paul is a little off-the-cuff,” he said — and related that Paul had seen a psychiatrist about it, but quit going to his appointments.

“I go back when I had him as a ride-along,” offered Estabrooks. “I’m pretty calm most of the time, and he gets so worked up, he says, ‘I would’ve done this, I would’ve done that.’ I said, ‘That’s probably why you’re not a frickin’ cop. You would have been fired the first god damn day. You dragged someone out of the car and pound on him. You can’t do that. You give them a ticket or you talk to them.’”

Shaw asked Estabrooks how many times he had Paul for a ride-along. “Maybe two or three,” answered Estabrooks.

In his May 8 interview with police investigators, Paul Wortman was asked if he recalled GW obtaining police paraphernalia.

“He had none of that all his life, so far as I know,” responded Paul. “I’ll tell you, I have RCMP High Browns (boots). Actually, I don’t have them anymore, but you could buy them in Fredericton, at a place that made them. That’s the only paraphernalia that I ever knew about that you could access; I used to ride them on my motorcycle. They’re long worn out, and they were black.”

“There’s a whole bunch of RCMP officers that are retired in this city,” said Paul. “They all have Harleys, and I ride with them. I know more about police than most people would think. I know how they think.”

“These particular individuals have post-traumatic stress syndrome,” he continued. “They used to gather at a restaurant — there’d be seven or eight of them, coaching the others, I’m going to use the word ‘milk’ the federal government to get different perks and so on because of their alleged illness…. they all ultimately were getting access to marijuana… I know an RCMP officer right now that has — and I’m not exaggerating because I made it very clear with him. I thought initially he said he had a shopping bag that you get at Sobeys full of marijuana. He can’t even smoke a fraction of what he gets every week. Or every two weeks. And he said no, he said garbage bag full, and he’s selling it. Highly respected police man.”

Glynn Wortman is in declining health. He was interviewed by police, and a transcript of that interview has been shared with reporters, but because of Glynn’s health issues, the transcript cannot be quoted from — Mass Casualty Commission staff are preparing a summary of that interview, which will become public in coming days.

However, in the interview, Glynn corroborated much of what Jeff Samuelson said, and shared similar opinions about the bad character of Paul Wortman.

Tomorrow: GW’s violence towards other.

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

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