British Columbia

Ex-wife of B.C. man who killed 4 in Penticton 'shocked and saddened,' had no idea he would kill

In a statement from her lawyer, Katherine Brittain expressed sympathy for the victims and said despite "unfounded rumours" she had no knowledge her ex-husband would kill her neighbours.

John Brittain pleaded guilty, sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years

John Brittain walks into provincial court in Penticton, B.C., in 2019. His ex-wife issued a statement Friday saying she had no prior knowledge he would kill and expressing sympathy for his victims. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Katherine Brittain, whose ex-husband shot and killed four people in Penticton, B.C., remains "shocked and saddened" by the crimes and had no idea he would resort to murder, a statement from her lawyer said.

John Brittain pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder Wednesday for the April 2019 shootings. On Thursday, he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. 

B.C. Supreme Court heard that John believed his victims — Rudi Winter, Darlene Knippelberg and Susan and Barry Wonch — had been harassing his estranged wife for years.

Katherine's lawyer, Michael Welsh, released a statement on her behalf saying despite unfounded rumours, she had no knowledge John would take the lives of the four neighbours, never suggested he kill them and never wished harm upon them.

"She was and remains devastated and appalled by these killings," the statement read.

"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. 

One of the crime scenes at a home near Cornwall Drive and Murray Drive in Penticton. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"That he did so, thinking he was acting on her behalf, is a burden she will carry her whole life."

John and Katherine Brittain divorced in 2014, the statement said.

The statement noted Katherine had bylaw disputes with two neighbours but they were being handled through the proper channels.

The statement said she was "terrorized" and her property was vandalized following the shootings.

She is speaking out now, the statement said, because court proceedings are complete.

Read the statement:

Ms. Brittain remains shocked and saddened by the actions of John Brittain, whom she divorced in January 2014. Despite groundless rumours, she wishes the community to know that she never wished any harm to any of the deceased victims. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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