Mass killer had hiding spaces for guns, but drug smuggling not verified: RCMP

Mass killer had hiding spaces for guns, but drug smuggling not verified: RCMP

HALIFAX — RCMP investigators confirmed Thursday that the gunman who went on a rampage in Nova Scotia in April had hidden compartments in buildings and had converted personal assets into ”a significant amount” of cash prior to his attacks.

However, a statement issued Thursday says one witness statement in court documents claiming Gabriel Wortman had committed prior murders and burned bodies was not corroborated by follow-up interviews and property searches.

Investigators say searches of the killer’s burned residence in Portapique haven’t turned up evidence to back the allegation of any murders before the April 18-19 killings of 22 people in central and northern Nova Scotia.

The Mounties were responding to the release earlier this week of previously blacked-out portions of witness allegations submitted by police to obtain search warrants.

Allegations included statements by a witness that the 51-year-old denturist smuggled drugs, but the RCMP say that to date the investigation hasn’t revealed evidence the gunman was involved in importing or selling illegal drugs, or that he was part of a criminal organization.

“Only this one witness has come forward with information that the gunman was actively and recently involved in the importation and trafficking of illegal drugs,” the RCMP statement says.

“No other persons out of the close to 700 interviewed, including those closest to the gunman, have provided similar information that proves the gunman was an illegal drug smuggler and/or drug trafficker.”

Investigators say they’ve corroborated witness statements saying the killer had hidden rooms or compartments in his Dartmouth, N.S., property, and they agree he likely had hiding places in his Portapique residence — which burned to the ground on the night of his rampage.

“Investigators have confirmed that the gunman had constructed areas in his Dartmouth residence which appear to be designed to hide items. Information also suggested that the purpose for constructing these spaces was to hide firearms,” the statement says.

“Given that, investigators have no reason to doubt the existence of hiding spaces constructed at both the Dartmouth and Portapique residences and believe that the purpose of constructing these spaces was for hiding illegal firearms.”

Police say the gunman’s emails reveal the withdrawal of personal funds from his investments and bank accounts.

“The purpose of those conversions and withdrawals was based on the gunman’s belief that his assets were safer in his possession as it related to the current pandemic,” the statement says.

“A significant amount of currency has been recovered from the gunman’s burned out property in Portapique, which supports the pre-April 18 withdrawal of funds previously disclosed.”

The RCMP repeated previous statements that Wortman had weapons smuggled in from the United States and had one gun illegally obtained in Canada.

“The gunman was involved in procuring firearms illegally …. Any transactions of firearms on the part of the gunman or anyone else remains part of the active investigation. As such, no further details in relation to this can or will be provided at this time,” police say.

The Mountie statement does say Wortman had relationships with Americans living in Maine and that he frequently visited these people.

The gunman was killed by police at a service station in Enfield, N.S., on April 19, 13 hours after his rampage began.

The documents that a media consortium, including The Canadian Press, went before a provincial court judge to obtain were heavily redacted, and Crown lawyers have only been releasing small portions — sometimes a single word or phrase — as the case progresses.

Previously blacked-out details from police applications for search warrants were unsealed Monday by Judge Laurel Halfpenny MacQuarrie.

A witness told police that neighbours spoke of concealed spaces on Wortman’s properties in Portapique, N.S., and in Dartmouth, N.S.

That included a “secret room” in his Dartmouth denturist clinic, a false wall at his property on Portland Street in Dartmouth and “secret hiding spots” at his warehouse property in Portapique.

Previously released documents have detailed warning signals of paranoid behaviour and unusual purchases of gasoline by the gunman before his killings.

Large portions of the documents remain blacked-out, and the judge wrote Monday that those redactions are necessary “because of the significant ongoing investigation.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2020.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Mass shootings

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Health Services' central zone jumped from 162 active COVID-19 cases to 178 on Friday. Five additional deaths were reported provincewide, bringing the toll to 323. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
622 new COVID-19 cases set another daily high Friday

Province confirmed 622 additional cases Friday

best
Heartland Stationer’s lands ‘Stettler’s Best Kept Secret’ award through the Stettler Board of Trade

Successful long-time business will be starting a new chapter with a name change and relocation

lights
Mark your calendars for the annual ‘Festival of Lights’ holiday events

Annual celebration raises funds in support of patient care at the Stettler Hospital

Larry
Reeve Larry Clarke reappointed for another one-year term, leading into elections in 2021

Clarke was acclaimed during council’s recent organizational meeting held Oct. 21st

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor presenting the AUMA Above & Beyond Award to John Maude and Susan Quinn. Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin County residents win the AUMA Above & Beyond Award

John Maude and Susan Quinn are being recognized for their role in Wetaskiwin’s sustainability.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

Most Read