HALIFAX — The repeated threats and isolation a Nova Scotia mass shooter allegedly used against his spouse show why such cruelty should be a criminal offence in Canada, experts on domestic violence say.
Acquaintances and former neighbours have described the 51-year-old killer as a clever and manipulative millionaire who would threaten harm to his spouse’s family, control her money or cut off her means of escape by removing the tires from her car or blocking the driveway.
Carmen Gill, a professor at the University of New Brunswick, says if there’s a public inquiry into the shooting, she expects it will demonstrate how a law similar to the United Kingdom’s 2015 “coercive control” offence may help prevent other abusers from escaping detection.
“Coercive control is a horrible form of violence because it’s a way of controlling people and depriving them of their basic rights,” the sociologist said in a telephone interview.
Wortman’s killings were preceded by a domestic assault against his spouse on the night of April 18 at one of his properties in Portapique, N.S. After the woman escaped, the 51-year-old denturist killed 22 victims before police shot and killed him at a service station on April 19.
The woman has spoken to the police about her partner’s use of a replica police vehicle and his guns, but requests by The Canadian Press to speak to her directly have been declined by a family member.
However, neighbours and multiple police witnesses have said there were many forms of intimate partner abuse before the night of the rampage.
In court documents released last week, acquaintances told police they’d witnessed “abusive,” “controlling” and “manipulative” behaviour by Wortman in the past, though details are blacked out.
In an April 20 interview with The Canadian Press, Portapique neighbour John Hudson, who knew Wortman for 18 years, described one of the gunman’s methods of isolating her.
He witnessed Wortman locking his partner out of their home to prevent her…