911 call came in as a former soldier’s suicide, but RCMP found 4 bodies, Mountie testifies

When the 911 call came in, officers believed they were responding to a suicide in progress — but as they approached the home in rural Nova Scotia where a former soldier shot himself and his family, they learned they might find as many as four bodies, an RCMP commander testified Tuesday. 

Staff Sgt. Addie MacCallum told the inquiry into the deaths of Lionel Desmond, his wife Shanna, his 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah and his mother Brenda, that they had been at the home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., before. 

MacCallum described Desmond as an “avid hunter, a man who had seen combat” and someone who was estranged from his wife in 2015 as he sought help for severe PTSD and worked on their relationship.

All of those things were at play in his mind as he responded to the 911 call on Jan. 3, 2017, he told the public inquiry. 

He said those factors created a huge risk for anyone inside that house if there were firearms involved. 

MacCallum is the first of several Mounties who attended the scene who was expected to testify Tuesday.

The province’s chief medical examiner testified Monday that he called for the inquiry after his investigation found that there were “systemic failures” that must be improved to prevent other domestic violence deaths and to support veterans returning home from war. 

Desmond had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) soon after returning home from an eight-month tour in Afghanistan in 2007. He received treatment while in the Canadian Forces in Montreal and in New Brunswick, and sought help in Nova Scotia as a veteran. 

The CBC’s Laura Fraser is liveblogging from Guysborough, N.S., where the fatality inquiry is taking place.

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