a building
The Debert Days stage. Photo: Facebook/ Debert Days

AG, 13 years old, and AJ, 15, were just two kids hanging around.

On April 18, 2020, the province was locked down due to the coronavirus, and AG and AJ knew they weren’t supposed to be visiting with each other, but AJ walked over to AG’s house anyway, and then the pair walked over to the Debert Business Park, to the football field. There’s a stage there, a sort of shack, open on one side, that’s used for the annual Debert Days celebration, a typically hokey small town party that includes a blueberry supper, some local bands, and for the kids, a bouncy castle and pony rides. Crucially for AG and AJ, the stage has a power outlet that’s never turned off, so that Saturday night they could plug in their devices and listen to music.

It was just a normal night, with normal kids doing normal things.

But then, late at night, through an open door at the back of the stage, the boys saw a police car drive past them, down Ventura Drive.

a satellite photo of Debert, annotated
The Debert Business Park. Graphic from the Mass Casualty Commission / Brian Corbett

“And then he did a couple of laps,” AG said. “But there was like some things off, and he just wasn’t acting like a police officer… ’cause he was like, going on the side of the road, kind of pulling off like every like, couple metres, checking things out. And the we saw him go down, like in the base. I think he was just scoping out stuff.”

The boys were afraid they were about to get busted for violating the Public Health order to stay at home, so they made their way home. AG said they walked to his house; AJ said they ran.

Either way, AG saw the police car again. “I saw him do a couple more laps,” he said. “He went down that road almost lie to the bunker and then did, came back, and we saw him go over there at the base. We could see him doing loops Came back down from the base and went up Ventura Drive, like two more times. And then we was down there waiting for a little bit… he was driving really, really slow, so it was really weird.”

When the kids got to AG’s apartment building on Plains Road, AG went inside and AJ continued on to his own home nearby.

AG’s stepfather is Dave Brown, who was once a private investigator in Halifax. Brown was lying on his couch, watching TV, dozing off. When AG came in, Brown woke up. AG didn’t mention the police car.

“When I opened my eyes, I got up and I said, ‘well, I better get into bed,’ and I said, ‘I’ll have a smoke.’” said Brown. “I went out on my balcony out there, just opened up the door, and I was having my cigarette, and I sort of looked over, and I seen a, a, looked to me, a police car.”

“When you look out my deck,” continued Brown, “on the right-hand side of the parking lot, there’s a car park, there’s I believe it’s like four or five cars parked right on the right-hand side of the parking lot… This car that I seen was sitting right behind the last car and the second-last car to the edge of the road… That’s where he was sitting, too, on like, if these guys wanted to get out, they would almost have to go over the lawn to back up around, to get past him. He was close enough for that there.”

Brown noticed that the police car had “no lights, no nothing on,” but he didn’t think much of it — he’d see RCMP cars come around from time to time, loop through the business park across the way, and sometimes come into the apartment parking lot because “sometimes you get the odd person around there, right and then.” And besides, “if you see an officer comin’ here, you, you don’t think, you know, like, I wonder if that’s uh, someone with a mocked-up car.”

Brown went to bed.

The next morning, he woke up to the horrible unfolding news of the murders in Portapique. And then, that a friend of his wife was killed. And then, the news came that the killer was driving a mocked-up police car.

•          •          •

Brian MacDonald knew the killer. The man would come into MacDonald’s welding shop on Ventura Drive to buy steel to restore his motorcycles; MacDonald would make gear shifters for him, or weld holes in his mufflers. He had also made a stainless steel liquor cabinet/bar for the killer’s warehouse in Portapique, and built the large red metal gate in front of the warehouse.

MacDonald didn’t think of himself as friends with the killer, and had never been to parties at the warehouse. “I don’t drink, and I don’t go out socializing like that,” he said. MacDonald hadn’t seen the man for over a year before the murders.

“I feel very lucky on Sunday morning that he didn’t come to my place,” said MacDonald. “Cause I know him, and it seemed at the time that he had killed all, most of his friends, people that he knew quite well.”

MacDonald knew that two women were killed on Plains Road, not far from his shop, so on April 27, he took a walk behind his shop.

“I was looking for stuff,” he explained. “I had a feeling he was here. And there’s a spot out back where he, well, I found the, I noted a, a bullet case, plastic case that holds bullets… I walk there quite often so I never seen that before, and then I went a little closer. I saw the boot, and I noticed the gun holster over a little farther to the right there. Then I noted the other boot just down in the woods, or in the bushes.”

MacDonald went inside and called the cops.

One of the killer’s boots.

Over three searches in the brush behind MacDonald’s shop, police investigators found:
• empty white plastic ammunition packaging
• two slippers (right and left) — Nuknuuk brand, size eight
• a Sam Browne belt with pistol holder, magazine pouch, and handcuff pouch attached (empty)
• two metal brackets
• a “Ford restraint control module”
• “Municipal Electronics brand radar (head and dash unit) with TS2 written on both parts
• two RCMP High Brown boots (right and left) with “Wortman” inscribed inside
• a battery
• broken zip ties
• a bloody paper/cloth
• a Mountain Dew bottle
• a black hard rubber cylinder
• cigarette butts
• a white cotton glove

Together with accounts from witnesses who had seen the car on Station Road and video of a look-alike police car driving along Plains Road towards the Debert business park captured by businesses along the road on Saturday night, and then video of the car travelling in the reverse direction on Plains Road Sunday morning, investigators believe the killer escaped Portapique and hid overnight behind MacDonald’s welding shop.

Along the way, he passed the two boys hanging out together.

“All I know,” said AJ, the 15-year-old, “is that it was pretty scary knowing that…  me and [AG] possibly could have died.”

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

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