Nova Scotia

Estate of N.S. mass shooter in limbo as lawsuits continue 

More than two years after he went on a deadly rampage killing 22 people, the estate of Gabriel Wortman remains tied up in litigation and under the control of the public trustee.

Portapique property bought by province to ensure no development

A fire-destroyed property registered to Gabriel Wortman at 200 Portapique Beach Road in Portapique, N.S., is seen in a May 2020 file photo. It has been purchased by the provincial government for $120,000. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

More than two years after he went on a deadly rampage killing 22 people, the estate of Gabriel Wortman remains tied up in litigation and under the control of the public trustee.

An inventory filed in December 2020 valued the estate at more than $2.1 million. That included $120,000 that the province paid to purchase 200 Portapique Beach Rd., the former location of Wortman's cottage and other buildings where the rampage began. 

A spokesperson for the province said the purchase was made to ensure there would be no future development on the property.

Since that inventory, the gunman's Dartmouth property, which was both his home and the location of his denturist practice, has been sold to a Dartmouth-based company, PA Developments. 

The public trustee completed the sale in March of last year. Property records list the sale price at just over $1.5 million.

A Dartmouth, N.S.-based company named PA Developments bought the former location of Gabriel Wortman's denturist business for just over $1.5 million last year. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

In addition to property, the inventory of the estate lists more than $880,000 in other financial holdings, including bank accounts and credit cards. 

The vast majority of that money, $705,000, is cash RCMP recovered when they searched the Portapique properties. The money had been buried on the property and survived the fires that destroyed the buildings. The cash was turned over to the public trustee in June 2021.

Getting an accurate financial picture of the estate was complicated by the fact Wortman used deceptive financial practices.

During a search of Gabriel Wortman's Portapique cottage, the RCMP discovered this metal ammunition container hidden below ground under the deck, containing cash. The money was in bundles of $100 bills adding up to $705,000. (Mass Casualty Commission)

In his hand-written will, he named his longtime partner, Lisa Banfield, as both his sole beneficiary and the executor of his estate. Banfield relinquished her role as executor, which is why the public trustee is administering the estate.

However, she did not give up her claim to the estate itself. She has filed a civil lawsuit against the estate to try to secure a share of the money.

But Banfield is not alone. The families of some of the murder victims have launched a lawsuit against the estate. 

Lisa Banfield, the partner of the gunman who carried out the Nova Scotia mass shooting of April 2020, spoke in front of the Mass Casualty Commission on July 15. She is seeking a share of his estate. (CBC)

After starting the court action, that lawsuit was subsequently amended to name Banfield, her brother and her brother-in-law as respondents.

They were added to the lawsuit after they were charged with supplying ammunition to the gunman. The charges against all three were sent to restorative justice and formally withdrawn last month.

As for the estate, a statement from the provincial Justice Department said it remains in limbo because of the lawsuits.

"Until the claims are settled," the statement reads in part, "any debts or payments related to the estate can not move forward."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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