HALIFAX — The common law spouse of the man responsible for killing 22 people in April 2020 in Nova Scotia is pleading not guilty to charges she illegally provided him ammunition.
Lisa Banfield, 52, is facing two counts of unlawfully providing the shooter with ammunition in the month leading up to the mass killings. Defence lawyer Jessica Zita entered the not guilty plea on Banfield's behalf by telephone Wednesday before a Dartmouth, N.S., provincial court judge.
During the hearing, Judge Theodore Tax set dates in late March and early April 2022 for a five-day, judge-only trial, and dates this summer for pre-trial conferences.
Crown prosecutor Shauna MacDonald said she expected part of those trial dates will be taken up with hearings to determine admissibility of evidence and witnesses.
The original plea hearing was adjourned in March after it was determined the defence's request for a private meeting with the judge and Crown before a plea wasn't appropriate.
The RCMP have said Banfield and two others facing charges "had no prior knowledge of the gunman's actions.''
The case is proceeding summarily, which indicates it is considered a less serious matter than an indictable offence. The process means a judge alone is presiding over the matter, potential fines are less than $5,000 and potential jail terms don't exceed two years less a day.
Banfield's brother, James Blair Banfield, 54, of Beaver Bank, N.S., and her brother-in-law, Brian Brewster, 61, of Lucasville, N.S., have also been accused of unlawfully providing the shooter, Gabriel Wortman, with .223-calibre Remington cartridges and .40-calibre Smith & Wesson cartridges prior to the shootings that started in Portapique, N.S.
Brewster entered a plea of not guilty on April 13, and his trial is scheduled for Jan. 11, 2022. James Banfield's case is scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 24, 2022.
Police have released witness statements — taken to obtain a search warrant — from Lisa Banfield, in which she stated the killer assaulted her at their seasonal home the night of April 18, 2020, in the village of Portapique prior to the start of his rampage.
Police have confirmed the killer, who disguised himself as a Mountie and drove a replica RCMP vehicle, was armed with two semi-automatic handguns and two semi-automatic rifles when he set fires to properties and killed 13 people in the village.
He killed another nine people the following day in several other communities in northern and central Nova Scotia before he was fatally shot by two RCMP officers at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 35 kilometres north of Halifax.
The victims included an RCMP officer, two nurses, two correctional officers, a family of three, a teacher and some of his neighbours in Portapique.
Investigators have said they determined the ammunition was purchased and trafficked in Nova Scotia.
The provincial and federal governments have established a joint public inquiry to investigate the killings and to produce recommendations aimed at preventing a similar tragedy.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press