The Mass Casualty Commission started Day 10 of proceedings with a witness who was able to provide evidence regarding an access road between Cobequid Court, at the lower end of the Portapique subdivision, and then there were two further presentations of Foundational Documents by Commission lawyer, Roger Burrill. These presentations covered the three killings on Hunter Road, and the death of Lillian Campbell in Wentworth.
The witness was Deborah Thibeault, who lived next to the access road. This road connects the lower part of Portapique to a blueberry field, where there is a road by which it was suspected the killer escaped the community. She was able to testify about a gate that covered the access road, and which she noticed had been knocked over when she returned to her property approximately a week after killings.
The essential evidence that Ms. Thibeault provided was fairly brief, though her examination lasted close to two hours. At times the questioning by Commission lawyer, Jamie VanWart, was painfully slow, and would lead me to presume that the witness had not been prepared. Such lack of preparation can be harmful for a witness in some circumstances, as it can appear that they have a poor memory, when in fact they are just not ready for certain questions.
Ms. Thibeault started one of her early answers by saying that you could see the blueberry field from anywhere in Cobequid Court, as though to imply that head the police been in that part of the community, they would have noticed the field, and the potential access to it. Ms. Thibeault indicated that the road was in very good shape, and she used it regularly instead of the main road into the community.
Most telling about Ms. Thibeault’s evidence was that she had to point out nearly a week later to the police that the gate had been knocked over, though there was a heavy police presence in that area, and one might presume they were trying to figure out how the killer had escaped and been looking for alternate exits. We have heard already that some witnesses had pointed out to the RCMP that there was this particular alternate route from the community. Perhaps we will hear from the officers were investigating the scene whether that was a new revelation, as Ms. Thibeault presented it to be.
After Ms. Thibeault’s evidence, there were the two Foundational Document presentations. Mr. Burrill did both presentations. The information in these presentations certainly drove home the point that had there been an emergency alert issued overnight or early in the morning of the 19th, that many lives would have been saved.
The first victims, Alanna Jenkins and Sean McLeod, were known to the killer, and both worked at the Springhill Institution. Certainly, one would presume that had an alert been issued, they would have taken some evasive action upon seeing an RCMP vehicle pulling into their yard.
The killer spent three hours at Jenkins/McLeod home, which may mean that he was searching the home for something specific. He left with Mr. McLeod’s wallet and his jacket from Springhill, though it is unclear what he may have been intending to do with either item.
Mr. Bagley, a volunteer firefighter himself, went over to the Jenkins/McLeod home when he saw the fire, and unfortunately encountered the killer and was himself shot and killed. Again, had there been an emergency alert issued, Mr. Bagley would almost certainly have taken other actions, and likely still be alive.
Neighbours of Ms. Jenkins and Mr. McLeod, the MacBurnies, had information which, had they known there was an active shooter disguised as an RCMP officer, would have been helpful in stopping him. The MacBurnies knew the Blairs, had been speaking with their son morning of the 19th, and so not only knew that they had been killed, but also the name of the killer. They also knew that the killer was acquainted with Jenkins/McLeod, and so attempted to reach Sean McLeod by text. When he did not respond, they called the RCMP and were told that there was nobody available or nearby. Very shortly thereafter, however, they saw the killer in his replica RCMP drive by. Had the public been alerted to the replica vehicle, the MacBurnies would have known how important and timely this observation had been.
The second Foundational Document presentation focused on Lillian Campbell, and how she was killed by Gabriel Wortman while out for her morning walk. The evidence suggests that the killer saw her walking, did a U-turn, and went to speak with her. He shot her from inside his replica RCMP vehicle. It would seem he was concerned he may have been known to be driving an RCMP replica, and so felt he needed to eliminate any witnesses.
Again, had there been an emergency alert issue, it is highly unlikely that Ms. Campbell would have taken her morning walk, and so she would still likely be alive today.
The Commission will resume hearings tomorrow with a further Foundational Document covering Highway 4, Glenholme, and Plains Road.