HALIFAX: A spokesperson with the Nova Scotia Judiciary says the fatality inquiry looking into why retired Cpl. Lionel Desmond carried out a triple murder-suicide in the family’s Upper Big Tracadie home in 2017, is expected to resume in Port Hawkesbury in mid-February.
In a news release on November 27, Jennifer Stairs indicated that plans are proceeding, pending any delays with the technical setup or any significant changes to the province’s public health directives related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The inquiry will receive an update in January on the delivery and installation of equipment to replicate the setup that had been in place at the Guysborough Municipal Building, where the evidentiary hearings began,” Stairs said. “Following that update, the inquiry should be able to publicly confirm the precise dates when the inquiry will resume sitting.”
Once the second session of proceedings is underway, she said the inquiry is expecting to sit Tuesday to Friday, for a period of four weeks.
On January 3, 2017, Cpl. Desmond, an Afghanistan war veteran, used a high-calibre, semi-automatic rifle, which he purchased from a local hunting store just hours earlier to fatally shoot his 31-year-old wife Shanna, his 52-year-old mother Brenda, and his 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah – before turning the gun on himself.
The Desmond Fatality Inquiry, which began hearing evidence last January in Guysborough, was supposed to resume hearings in late-May, however, with the pandemic, provincial court Judge Warren Zimmer decided to delay the session and wait until he was confident the proceedings could continue safely and in compliance with public health directives.
“It soon became apparent the inquiry could not proceed in Guysborough and still respect physical distancing,” Stairs said. “Using the COVID-19 Court Recovery Plan as a guide, Judge Zimmer worked with the Nova Scotia Department of Justice – Court Services Division to review alternative sites.”
Following consultation with judges who preside in Port Hawkesbury, the courthouse was selected as the Desmond Fatality Inquiry’s new venue.
Inquiry counsel will continue their work interviewing and preparing witnesses, providing disclosure, and conducting any research required for the next stage of the proceedings, while the province of Nova Scotia works to prepare a venue.