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N.S. to launch inquiry into former soldier Lionel Desmond’s triple murder-suicide

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WATCH: Nova Scotia's chief medical examiner, Dr. Matt Bowes, made the recommendation of an inquiry into the death of Lionel Desmond on Thursday and the Justice Department said it will release the inquiry's terms of reference in the new year. Global's Natasha Pace has more – Dec 28, 2017

Nova Scotia is launching an inquiry to look into the deaths of former soldier Lionel Desmond and his family.

The province’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Matt Bowes, made the recommendation on Thursday and the Justice Department said it will release the inquiry’s terms of reference in the new year.

The retired corporal shot his wife Shanna, 31, their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah and his 52-year-old mother Brenda, before turning the gun on himself on Jan. 3 in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

READ MORE: Answers coming soon in Lionel Desmond killings, N.S. officials say

Their family spoke out after the deaths, revealing Desmond had been diagnosed with PTSD and post-concussion disorder after completing two tours of Afghanistan in 2007.

“Whatever happened over there […] it changed him as a person, it changed him altogether. He literally was just not Lionel,” said Desmond’s sister, Cassandra Desmond, on Thursday.

“This tragedy just proved it wasn’t Lionel and that those monsters came back with him.”

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Shanna Desmond, 31, and 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah were two of the victims of the murder-suicide. The chief medical examiner’s decision to recommend a fatality inquiry was announced on the same day Aaliyah would have turned 11.
Shanna Desmond, 31, and 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah were two of the victims of the murder-suicide. The chief medical examiner’s decision to recommend a fatality inquiry was announced on the same day Aaliyah would have turned 11. Facebook

On Thursday, Bowes told journalists he is recommending an inquiry into the triple murder-suicide under the Fatality Investigations Act, after carefully reflecting on the case.

READ MORE: ‘I will fix it,’ Lionel Desmond said before Nova Scotia murder-suicides

“There were many agencies that touched on Mr. Desmond’s life and I would take the view that the interconnection between all of those may well have been better,” said Bowes.

“I am mindful of the fact that this is an important issue that this has a scale that reaches well beyond Nova Scotia’s borders and the scale of the response to the response of that issue does not seem satisfactory yet.”

Bowes admits he initially doubted whether a fatality inquiry would be able to touch on all the issues surrounding the deaths but says he believes the federal government will be cooperating, which would broaden the scope of the inquiry.

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“It’s my understanding that the federal government has indicated they will cooperate with us. I view that as a tremendously positive thing. As I mentioned before, many of these matters touch on federal of shared jurisdiction so I am optimistic that that will occur,” he said.

Cassandra Desmond is also hopeful the inquiry will offer some answers and bring about change.

“It’s not easy losing one family member, let alone losing four family members all under the same roof,” she said.

“Today is Aaliyah’s 11th birthday and so it is the best gift that anybody could have given my family and that little girl today, knowing that an inquiry is going to be held into her father’s and my brother’s death. And not only that, but hers as well.”

In the months after the deaths, Desmond’s family had called for an inquiry to look into the circumstances surrounding the triple murder-suicide. Premier Stephen McNeil has previously said he believed the responsibility for an inquiry rests with Ottawa.

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Veteran advocates, including former Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer, have said an inquest is long overdue. On Thursday, Stoffer told Global News he thought the inquiry was “good news” for the family and that he hopes it will be an open and inclusive process that will offer the family some answers.

“He was a sick man, which caused this tragedy to happen,” said Cassandra Desmond. “We have a broken system and now it’s time to fix it.”

According to the province, the terms of reference and the appointment of a judge to oversee the inquiry will be announced in the new year.

“Our thoughts continue to be with the family at this difficult time,” said Justice Minister and Attorney General Mark Furey in a news release.

“I thank Dr. Bowes for his review of this matter and will be acting on his recommendation in the new year.”

With files from Natasha Pace 

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