‘I just feel so bad for him,’ Banfield said before she knew her spouse was NS mass killer

HALIFAX, NS — When she walked out of the woods on the second day of the Nova Scotia mass murders, a shivering Lisa Banfield was battered and bruised by the killer, but she had not lost all sympathy for her common-law spouse.

It was just before 7 am on April 19, 2020, when Mounties interviewed Banfield, then 51, as she was being treated by paramedics at an RCMP command post.

“I just feel so bad for him,” Banfield says of Gabriel Wortman.

“’Cause he had a good side to him but yet.”

Const. Terry Brown asks Banfield if this type of thing had happened before.

“He was abusive to me in the past but I … never did anything, I never told on him or anything.”

Spouse didn’t know about the murders

Banfield didn’t know at the time that the Dartmouth denturist had already murdered 13 people in Portapique the night before. Around the same time she was being interviewed, Wortman was arriving in West Wentworth, where he would kill three others. In all, he murdered 22 people before a Mountie dog handler shot him dead at the Enfield Big Stop.

Banfield had heard explosions and gunshots in the night after she escaped her common-law husband.

“Like, did he… hurt anybody else?” she asks her interviewers.

Banfield also asks an RCMP officer if the Mounties would kill her common-law spouse.

“As police officers, I’m sure you can imagine, we deal with whatever’s presented in front of us,” Brown replies. “So, if someone tried to shoot us then, then we would … return fire, but if … it’s a matter of we can arrest somebody without using force, that’s our preferred method, right?”

Banfield responds with “um hm,” as she does through much of the interview now part of the evidence in front of the Mass Casualty Commission.

Apologizes for blackened feet

She apologizes to the police and paramedics for the state of her feet.

“I’m sorry, my feet are black ’cause I had no shoes,” she says.

While she is being treated for her injuries, Banfield repeatedly mentions how cold she is from spending the night hiding in the woods. Police crank up the heat and paramedics supply her with blankets to try to warm her up, along with drugs to “take the edge off” her pain.

Banfield tells paramedics she did not lose consciousness the night before when Wortman attacked her.

Banfield’s back, hip and knee were hurting from the beating.

When paramedics ask for Banfield for her health card, she doesn’t have it on her.

“My purse got burnt in the fire because he didn’t want me taking it,” she responds.

The man who killed 22 people during a shooting rampage that began April 18 in Portapique also burned a number of structures, including his own cottage on Portapique Beach Road.  - Harry Sullivan
The man who killed 22 people during a shooting rampage that began April 18 in Portapique also burned a number of structures, including his own cottage on Portapique Beach Road. – Harry Sullivan

Banfield relays how she and Wortman were celebrating their 19th anniversary together on the night of April 18, 2020 in the warehouse near their cottage. They had a FaceTime get-together with a couple of friends from Houlton, Maine — Angel Patterson and Sean Conlogue — and were talking about holding a commitment ceremony for their 20th anniversary when Patterson said, “don’t do it,” upsetting Banfield.

“I got pissed off that she said that,” Banfield tells police.

“So, I said I’m leaving, and he got pissed off ’cause I was leaving. And then I got halfway over to our cottage, and I felt bad, so I turned around and came back and said I’m sorry. But, at that point, (Wortman) was already pissed so I said fine, I’m just going home.”

Banfield told police she got into bed, but her partner “came in and ripped the blankets off and just started hitting me and pulling my hair. Then he kicked me.”

Banfield says she wound up on her back. “He told me to get dressed ’cause he said it’s done. And then he started pouring gasoline all inside the cottage.”

Wortman then grabbed a gun from inside their cottage, she says. Then, after he torched the cottage, they started walking back to the warehouse “so he could burn that,” Banfield says in the interview with police.

‘He picked me up by the hair’

She tried to walk behind him, with plans to run, but he insisted she stay in front. “Then he ripped the sneakers off my feet, so I had bare feet and I was digging them into the ground to try to stop.”

She got loose and tried to run, but then she tripped and fell, and he found her again with a flashlight.

“He picked me up by the hair and … started pulling me.”

At the warehouse, he told Banfield he was going to put handcuffs on her.

She told police he got cuffs on one of her wrists, but not the other.

“He told me to put the other hand out and I wouldn’t, and I just covered my face and he started shooting down at the ground … in the warehouse and it was so close. And I said, please don’t kill me. Like, I said just please don’t and then he shot again. And then he picked me up and he threw me in the back of the police car and, as you know, you can’t get those open.”

‘I just ran’

Wortman went back inside and Banfield told police she managed to escape his replica RCMP car by crawling through the divider separating the front and back seats.

“And then I just, I just ran. And I didn’t even know where I was going, I was just going in the woods as far as I could go.”

She tells police Wortman had loaded several guns into the front of his fake police car. She thought about grabbing one of the guns when she escaped, but then decided against it. “I don’t like guns”

Banfield told police she hid underneath a tree trunk until it was daylight. Even then, she debated staying put. “And then, I thought, I’ve got to get out of here ’cause I was freezing… and my back was killing me.”

She tells police her common-law spouse smashed her mobile phone and that he did not carry one of his own.

‘His family is totally wackadoodles’

When investigators asked her where he might have gone, she tells them Wortman was not close to his family, noting he had disowned them after finding out that he had a full brother living in the US “His family is totally wackadoodles.”

Banfield asks police if they’ve checked their home in Dartmouth. She also inquires about her sister, Maureen. “She’s safe,” another Mountie tells her.

Banfield tells the RCMP that Wortman would throw a fluorescent jacket on the front seat of his fake patrol car “to make it look like he’s a cop.”

Brown asks if the killer is a “want-to-be.” She responds that he doesn’t even like police officers. “He thinks he’s better than them.”

She tells police Wortman poured gas over a truck, Jeep and two unmarked surplus patrol cruisers he had at their place in Portapique. She also tells them she believes he left in the only Ford Taurus he owned that was decked out in what looked like RCMP decals.

Fake police car had a radio

At one point, Brown tells her he’s “really concerned about that marked Taurus.”

“I know,” she says.

The fake police car even had a CB radio, Banfield says.

Brown says real RCMP radios are encrypted, so Wortman wouldn’t be able to use it. “I don’t know. It looked identical to … what you guys have,” Banfield responds.

Brown asks Banfield if Wortman ever drove the fake police car around. She says no, that it wasn’t licensed or registered, and that he just had it for show.

‘Nobody would bother us’

“But he said, you know, with the Corona(virus) thing, if it ever got really bad we could jump in that and get out of town quick because nobody would … bother us ’cause … it’s a police car kind of thing. ”

RCMP announced in December 2020 that Banfield and two other people had been charged with unlawfully transferring ammunition to the shooter between March 17 and April 18, 2020.

The ammunition consisted of .223-caliber Remington cartridges and .40-calibre Smith and Wesson cartridges and was purchased and trafficked in Nova Scotia, RCMP said.

Police have said the three individuals had no prior knowledge of the gunman’s plans.

Banfield’s lawyer said last month that his client is willing to tell her story to the Mass Casualty Commission now that her charges have been referred to the criminal province’s restorative justice program.

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