Ottawa, April 25 The gunman behind Canada's bloodiest mass shooting that left at least 22 dead, began his rampage by first assaulting his girlfriend, who hid from him in the woods overnight, and has now become a key witness in the ensuing investigation, police said.
Police believe that the gunman Gabriel Wortman killed 22 people over a 12-hour time period between April 18-19 across the province of Nova Scotia, reports the BBC.
In an update provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Friday, Superintendent Darren Campbell said Wortman assaulting his girlfriend was significant, and "could very well have been a catalyst" for the subsequent murders, although he said it was also possible they were premeditated.
The crimes began in Portapique, Nova Scotia on April 18, and police arrived around 10.30 p.m. after receiving reports of gun shots.
They found several bodies strewn about a small neighbourhood, and multiple homes engulfed in flames.
The police also encountered a driver who had been shot by someone driving a police cruiser.
They searched for the suspect overnight. The following morning, Wortman's girlfriend emerged from the woods and told police that he had assaulted her, was armed and had several replica police vehicles.
Later that day, Wortman died in a shootout with police at a petrol station in Enfield, said the BBC report.
Wortman wore an authentic police uniform and was driving a convincing replica of a police vehicle for many hours during the crime spree, which added to the "confusion," said Supt Campbell on Driday.
Police have not determined a motive, nor do they know to what degree the killings were planned.
Among the dead were a teacher, a home care nurse working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, and a female RCMP officer.
A national virtual vigil will be held this week to honour the victims of the shooting, as the province has been on a lockdown due to the virus.
( With inputs from IANS )