UPPER BIG TRACADIE, N.S. – An Afghanistan war veteran and three females, including his wife, mother and 10-year-old daughter, have been found shot to death in a home in rural Nova Scotia.
RCMP found the bodies at about 6 p.m. Tuesday after being called to the home in Upper Big Tracadie, and said Wednesday it appeared a 33-year-old man shot himself, and that three females, aged 52, 31 and 10, also died of apparent gunshot wounds.
“The male’s gunshot wounds appear to be self-inflicted. There were no signs of forced entry into the residence,” police said in a release.
Two guns were found at the scene, police said.
A National Defence source identified the husband as retired corporal Lionel Desmond, 33, who served with the Second Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in CFB Gagetown, N.B.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing information not yet made public, said Desmond did one tour in Afghanistan in 2007, and was released in July 2015.
He had received treatment from the joint personnel support unit (JPSU) at Gagetown for a year prior to release, the source said. The JPSU is the unit that provides support to ill and injured soldiers, including mental injuries such as PTSD.
Catherine Hartling, a neighbour and aunt of the 31-year-old woman, said Desmond trained as a sniper and was diagnosed with PTSD after returning home from Afghanistan.
“He was bad then. They tried to get him help,” Hartling said.
“They sent him up to Montreal, and they sent him back and put him on medication.”
She said Desmond and her niece went to high school together at nearby Guysborough Academy, and he joined the military after graduating.
Hartling said she was convinced the post-traumatic stress disorder was behind the deaths.
“He seemed sometimes normal, but he could fly off and get upset, swear and go on and on,” she said.
He didn’t get the care he needed, Hartling said.
“It’s hard when you send someone home to live in a community after what they’ve seen and been through …. It has to stop. I hope they do an inquiry into this,” she said.
Hartling said her 31-year-old niece was a nurse at St. Martha’s Hospital in nearby Antigonish.
The young daughter had just turned 10 three days after Christmas, and had begun horseback riding. She wanted to be a veterinarian, Hartling said. Tuesday was the girl’s first day back in her Grade 5 class after the holidays.
The older woman was the 33-year-old man’s mother and was visiting for the holidays, she said. Desmond’s mother was “a very jolly and outgoing person. Always smiling and joking around. She loved to tease.”
Hartling said she got a call Tuesday that “someone was dead on the floor” in the house, which is directly across the street from her small home.
The man’s sister and her boyfriend were already there when she went over, she said.
“He came out and he said, ‘It’s not pretty in there’.” The boyfriend said he had called 911 and was told not to let anyone in.
“I said, ‘Does anyone have a pulse,’ and he said, ‘No,'” said Hartling.
Deputy warden Sheila Pelly of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough said the deaths have stunned the community, adding that she knew the people but did not want to comment.
“Everybody’s in shock,” she said. “They can’t believe it.”
Madonna Boucher, who lives down the road on Highway 16, said she heard police vehicles racing to the area Tuesday evening, but didn’t know what was happening.
“It’s sad, really sad,” she said. “It’s crazy — I’ve never experienced anything around here like that.”
Police said there was no risk to the public.
Several police vehicles surrounded the home as forensics investigators examined the scene.