Nova Scotia

N.S. gunman could get angry, violent when drinking, ex-wife told police

The gunman's ex-wife told RCMP in an interview that her former spouse could become aggressive and lash out violently when he drank.

Gunman's former spouse said her university sweetheart became a different person when he drank

The burned out remains of the gunman's home on Portapique Beach Road, N.S., taken May 13, 2020. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

The man who killed 22 people in rural Nova Scotia would become aggressive and could lash out violently when he drank, his ex-wife told RCMP in the days following the massacre.

RCMP tracked down Gabriel Wortman's former spouse and conducted an interview with her 10 days after the killings on April 18-19, 2020.

The interview is included in documents released by the commission investigating the mass shootings. It has redacted the woman's name from the transcript. Senior commission counsel Emily Hill said redactions may be required to protect private information, including information "that is potentially harmful to an individual's security and dignity."

During the interview, the woman told police that she and the gunman were university sweethearts in the early '90s, having met when they were both students at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

The pair got married in 1992, shortly before he completed a degree in psychology. She said he stayed at UNB to get a diploma in business while she completed her degree.

Showed a gun

She said while they were living together in Fredericton, he showed her a large gun that had the number 47 in the name. The police officers conducting the interview said that was likely a reference to an AK-47 assault rifle.

The woman said the gun scared her.

She said the gunman worked for a time with youth in a group home, but he quickly concluded he wouldn't make enough money in that field, so he switched to funeral directing.

The transcript of an interview two Mounties conducted with the gunman's ex-wife has been released by the Mass Casualty Commission. Her name has been redacted. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

They moved to Kentville, N.S., while he took a funeral directing course at the local community college.

From there, he landed a job at Walker's funeral home in Dartmouth. When they first moved to the city, the couple lived in an apartment above the funeral home.

After about two years as a funeral director, the woman said the gunman switched careers again and studied to become a denturist.

By this time, the couple owned a small apartment building in Dartmouth and bought a building on Portland Street that would become their home and the gunman's main denture clinic.

'Weepy,' 'angry' when drinking

The woman told RCMP that the gunman started drinking more, and when he drank, he was a different person.

"You know how some people drink and they're just not themselves," she said. "That's what he was like when he drank. Sometimes he would get weepy, cry, sometimes he would get angry, break things."

She described an incident where he became angry, seemingly over a dusty bookshelf that occupied one wall in their home.

"Threw every book off the shelf, destroyed all the Royal Doultons, just took a hammer to the shelves, and ah, I can remember being very fearful that day," she said.

The woman said she tried to escape by crawling out a window onto a roof and then down to a car. But he spotted her and came out to confront her and bring her back inside their home.

Relationship ended after affair

After about 10 years, their relationship came to an end when she discovered he was cheating on her.

They had taken in a roommate — a student denturist — to help defray costs. The woman said she discovered the gunman and the student kissing in one of his clinics. She speculated his increased drinking may have been caused by his guilt over the affair.

When she discovered a few weeks later that he was still in contact with the other woman, she ordered the gunman out of the home.

The woman said she got a do-it-yourself divorce kit, and their divorce was finalized a year later. The gunman kept the building that housed the clinic while she got the apartment building.

Twenty years after they separated, she struggled to come to terms with what her ex-husband had done.

"I could never have expected this would ever happen," she told the Mounties. "I can't fathom how anybody could do that. I can see him getting angry enough to hurt somebody, but I cannot see him doing anything like that. Not the person I knew that long ago."

Brother interviewed

Another person who offered insights into the gunman's behaviour was his brother, Jeff Samuelson, who had been given up for adoption in 1970. He was raised in the U.S., not knowing where he came from.

Until 2010, the gunman was unaware he had a brother.

RCMP interviewed Samuelson on April 27, 2020, two days before they sat down with the gunman's ex-wife and eight days after the rampage.

Samuelson described a lengthy phone conversation he had with his brother in which the gunman detailed a horrible childhood. Samuelson said his brother's upbringing was "dark."

He said their parents had the maturity of 13-year-olds. Their father, Paul Wortman, would sometimes wear a police uniform and use it to harass people, Samuelson told police.

He said the gunman hated their father and told Samuelson he wanted to kill their parents.

Samuelson also described a visit to Portapique where his brother showed off guns and revealed some of the spots he had concealed them around the property.