The former wife of a B.C. mass shooter who killed four people last year said she had no idea her ex-husband would go on a murderous rampage.
On Friday, Katherine Brittain released a public statement through a lawyer.
The one-page document said she had never made a public statement before, but with John Brittain, 69, having been sentenced on Friday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years, it’s now “an appropriate time for her to speak.”
This week in Kelowna court, John Brittain pled guilty to killing four of his ex-wife’s neighbours in Penticton. All four victims in the quadruple homicide — Rudi Winter, Barry and Susan Wonch, and Darlene Knippelberg — were in their 70s.
During sentencing hearings, court heard that all four were killed by gunfire, on April 15, 2019, with John Brittain turning himself over to police shortly thereafter.
John Brittain said his former wife had nothing to do with the killings, adding he snapped, with workplace burnout and depression leading to a deteriorating state of mental health.
The statement from Katherine Brittain said she remains shocked and saddened by her former husband’s actions, adding she divorced him in January 2014.
“Despite groundless rumours, she wishes the community to know that she never wished any harm to any of the deceased victims,” said the statement.
“She had no prior knowledge that Mr. Brittain intended to kill anyone, and never suggested that he do so. She was and remains devastated and appalled by these killings.”
After John Brittain pled guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder, court heard that Katherine Brittain was said to be in ongoing disputes with the victims.
Crown counsel said that Katherine talked to Brittain about those issues, alleging bullying from her neighbours.
Court also heard the gunman later told police that he realized he had the means to stop the harassment.
Katherine Brittain’s statement touched on that topic.
“The problems she had reported to the City of Penticton of two neighbours violating city bylaws were ones she was dealing with through proper channels with the city,” said the statement.
“She never wanted Mr. Brittain to be involved, and never imagined he could act as he did. Mr. Brittain’s actions destroyed the lives of the families of the victims, and Ms. Brittain’s own life. She cannot fathom how he could ever believe that, in taking these lives, he was somehow helping her.”
It continued, stating “that he did so, thinking he was acting on her behalf, is a burden she will carry her whole life. The judge at his sentencing hearing this week stated she accepted as fact that no one, which includes Ms. Brittain, had any idea that Mr. Brittain would do what he did.
“As was acknowledged by Mr. Brittain in court, my client is also a victim of his actions. She has been terrorized, and her property has been significantly vandalized as a result of blame for his actions being baselessly attached to her.”
The statement ended, saying “she only hopes that with Mr. Brittain taking proper responsibility for his actions, and the court sentencing him appropriately, the Penticton community can begin to heal and that people, particularly the families of the victims with whom she deeply sympathizes, will accept that she had no part in his horrific actions.”
Below is Katherine Brittain’s statement in its entirety.