Nova Scotia

Angry husband of murdered woman questions testimony during N.S. mass shooting hearing

The Mountie responsible for sharing information with families in the Nova Scotia mass shooting faced angry accusations from the husband of a victim today, forcing a brief adjournment of the public inquiry into the killings.

'I heard you say that to me .... You're under oath,' Nick Beaton yelled at testifying officer

Nick Beaton's pregnant wife Kristen, a continuing care assistant, was working the morning she was shot and killed in her vehicle in Debert, N.S. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

The Mountie responsible for sharing information with families in the Nova Scotia mass shooting faced angry accusations from the husband of a victim Tuesday, forcing a brief adjournment of the public inquiry into the killings.

During cross-examination of Const. Wayne Bent, Nick Beaton, the spouse of a pregnant woman killed on April 19, 2020, shouted at the officer as he was testifying about why Kristen Beaton's cellphone couldn't be returned 10 days after her murder.

Michael Scott, a lawyer for the majority of the 22 victims' families, was asking Bent whether he recalled telling Beaton the RCMP had to examine his wife's phone to rule out any prior relationship she might have had with the killer.

Bent testified he couldn't recall saying this, and when further questioned, said, "We would have told him [Beaton] 'We were looking at everything.' At that point in time, what was the relationship as to why [the killer] was and wasn't looking at certain people? ... We have to look at everything out there that's a possibility."

Beaton — who was attending the hearings in a Truro hotel — became distraught over Bent's answer and shouted, "I heard you say that to me .... You're under oath."

Commission chairman Michael MacDonald first asked Beaton to sit down, and then added, "That's enough," as others attending started to shout and criticize the proceedings. The chairman then ordered a break.

No manual on how to deal with grieving families

When Bent returned, he clarified that while he may have told Beaton that investigators had to rule out any prior relationship, he didn't mean to suggest any intimate relationship had existed.

During morning testimony, Bent spoke of how there was no policy manual to follow on how to deal with grieving families. He also said he had no formal training in this area before being appointed as the liaison officer but he did his best to help.

A summary of evidence released by the public inquiry noted that Bent contacted a local cleaning and restoration company to clean the residence of Greg and Jamie Blair, who were murdered in Portapique, N.S., after the crime scene was released on May 4, 2020.

It also says the constable worked alongside an exhibit custodian to clean the blood from the couples' jewlery before returning it to their family.

According to the summary, Bent also contacted Nick Beaton's car insurance company in April 2020 to raise concerns about the firm selling the car Kristen Beaton was murdered in at public auction. He received assurances it would be sold out of province.

Still, as time passed, some family members grew distrustful of the RCMP and its reluctance to share information, according to the summary released on Tuesday.

Twenty-two people died on April 18 and 19, 2020. Top row from left: Gina Goulet, Dawn Gulenchyn, Jolene Oliver, Frank Gulenchyn, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins. Second row: John Zahl, Lisa McCully, Joey Webber, Heidi Stevenson, Heather O'Brien and Jamie Blair. Third row from top: Kristen Beaton, Lillian Campbell, Joanne Thomas, Peter Bond, Tom Bagley and Greg Blair. Bottom row: Emily Tuck, Joy Bond, Corrie Ellison and Aaron Tuck. (CBC)

The document says that on June 26, 2020, Beaton attended a meeting at the detachment in Bible Hill for an update from the Mounties and "stated the meeting was unprofessional and he wished that he had brought his lawyer with him."

The daughter and son-in-law of Gina Goulet — who was killed near Shubenacadie, N.S., on April 19 — are quoted as saying "it was frustrating and upsetting," to find a bullet in Goulet's home on May 23, 2020, and the missed evidence, "made them lose their trust in the police."

Ryan and Jon Farrington, the sons of Dawn and Frank Gulenchyn — murdered on April 18 — told the inquiry that during a July 6, 2020 meeting with investigators they "did not receive the answers they were looking for."

During his testimony, Bent defended having just one officer to act as the RCMP go-between for the families of 21 victims in the months after the killings.

"To me it was very important the same message would go out to everybody," he testified. "I'm no expert in this. I learned as I went along. To me it just seemed reasonable to have it done that way."

Const. Heidi Stevenson's family had their own liaison officer assigned to them on April 19, and have praised the RCMP's support and communication after the mass shooting.