The Nova Scotia mass killer had quarrelled with associates, business partners and family members in the years before going on a rampage that left 22 dead, the RCMP said on Tuesday.
At a press briefing, RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell said investigators were examining Gabriel Wortman’s long history of disputes to determine whether they played any role in the killings.
The attack began with an assault of his common-law spouse. Wortman then killed more than a dozen of his neighbours and drove to the homes of acquaintances and killed them, but he also took lives at random.
“I’ll agree and confirm with you that there was certainly a fairly sizeable amount of information that there were individuals who had had a number of disputes with the gunman over a certain period of time,” Campbell responded to a question from Global News.
“And it appears to be a lengthy period of time. That included everything from associates to business partners to family members.”
“Our investigators are trying to trace back to determine whether or not there was any motivation. It was a completely senseless series of very violent acts and we’re trying to understand that as best we can.”
While police said there was so far no evidence the gunman was deliberately targeting women, who accounted for 14 of the 25 killed or injured, he knew several of the victims.
One of Wortman’s disputes involved the home of Lisa McCully, who was among the first killed on the night of April 18. She lived directly across the road from Wortman’s home in Portapique, N.S.
The neighbourhood where the initial killings took place was once a farm with an orchard and gravel pit. More than three decades ago, Bill Mont was in the area looking for deals and heard it was for sale following the death of the owner.
“I liked what he saw,” he said.
With a sand and gravel beach on the Bay of Fundy, he thought it would be the perfect place for summer homes, so he subdivided it and sold off the lots.
“It was so beautiful,” Mont said.
Glynn Wortman bought one of the properties, at 135 Orchard Beach Rd., in 2010. He lived in Edmonton but intended to move to Nova Scotia, according to an affidavit he filed in court.
He needed bridge financing for the purchase until he could sell his Edmonton condo, so he turned to his nephew, Gabriel Wortman, who owned 136 Orchard Beach Rd.
The younger Wortman, a Dartmouth denturist, was listed as a joint tenant.
In 2011, the uncle repaid Wortman the $165,000 he owed but the denturist refused to take his name off the title, according to documents filed in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
Wortman “was claiming that it was my intention to provide the home to him as a gift, but I never had that intention,” the uncle wrote in his affidavit.
Because the uncle had an auto-immune disease, he gave his brother Neil Wortman power of attorney to sell the property. Neil Wortman signed a “quitclaim deed” surrendering any interest in the property for $1.
Wortman eventually said he would relinquish his interest in the property but never did, and a court order was needed before the sale could go ahead. The court authorized the sale in 2015 and McCully became its owner.
“Far too many people died but it doesn’t appear in terms of what we’ve seen that he was purposefully targeting women,” Campbell said.
“It appears as if he was just targeting individuals that either he knew or individuals, for whatever reason, that I don’t think any of us will ever understand or comprehend, that when he came across those individuals that he killed them.
“It’s completely senseless.”
Police said Wortman also killed and wounded several animals.