Early Wentworth attracted United Empire Loyalists. The first frame home was constructed by Secord Beebee on the Wallace River in 1771, reportedly with 10 inch wood walls for protection against Indians. The Wallace, a salmon river enjoyed by fly fishers, comes down from the Cobequid Mountains and flows through the Wentworth Valley. The area was quite remote until the early 1950s, not yet having powerlines. Each farm with plough horses had to break the road open after each snow storm (History and Map).
Hunter Road, where Alana Jenkins and Sean McLeod lived, originates going in a northerly direction from Wentworth Collingwood Road crossing Hwy 4 at West Wentworth, about 5 km east of Wentworth Centre. From there, Hunter Road drifts in a north-easterly direction until it meets and continues along the Wallace River, ending after about 20 km at Howard’s Pool. Depending on whether one drives the highways or back roads, travel between Debert and somewhere along Hunter Road would take between a half hour and hour.
Springhill is about 30 minutes east of the intersection of Hunter Road and Hwy 4, and about an hour’s drive north Portapique. Notable for being the home of the Anne Murray Centre, marking her birth there, Springhill is also home to Springhill Institution, a 636 capacity medium security men’s prison managed by Correctional Services Canada. The institution is also the location of the Regional Reception Centre, which handles the intake of all offenders directly from the court system. According to an unconfirmed social media report, Wortman visited an aquaintance (unrelated to the prison) in Springhill on Friday, April 17.
At 6:29 Saturday morning, Wortman’s replica cruiser is seen on surveillance video driving down Hunter Road. Wortman went to the home of Alana Jenkins and Sean McLeod. A Hunter Road resident reported hearing gunshots at about 7AM (Halifax Examiner). Sean McLeod’s daughter said Wortman knew the couple, but exactly how is not yet known. He murdered them, and killed their two Labrador retrievers.
Sean and Alana worked in Corrections, and in recent years were managers in separate facilities. Planning his retirement, Sean worked at the Springhill Institution. He had basic training with the Emergency Response Team. He is said to have been a skilled crisis negotiator. Alana worked at Nova Institution for Women in Truro, a 70 bed maximum security penitentiary for women. Given their combined experience and skills, one wonders how Wortman successfully subdued them.
Sean and Alana were a happy, active, well-loved couple, who people said were perfectly matched. They loved to entertain their friends and family, and doted on their granddaughter. They leave behind children, a grandchild, parents, siblings, and many friends.
Police have said the couple were murdered soon after Wortman arrived at their home. However, he was there for nearly three hours. He set the house on fire. The first report of the house on fire went in around 8 AM. Once again, as the result of the active shooter warnings, fire brigades could not respond. The home and its contents were completely destroyed.
Tom Bagley lived nearby. He was a retired navy veteran and retired firefighter who had paramedic training. He was out for a morning walk, and had left his wife, Patsy, continuing a conversation on the phone with their daughter. Tom must have seen smoke coming from Sean and Alana’s home and apparently ran to help. Patsy, no longer on the phone, could see smoke and hear explosions from the fire. By this time, she was aware there was a dangerous man on the loose. She called her daughter back seemingly panicked.
Tom was found shot dead outside the home of Sean and Alana. He would have turned 71 three days after he died. He is remembered by friends and family as a happy, social person, a good man with a twinkle in his eye, and a hero (CBC article about Tom).
At 8:54 AM, the police tweet again:
51-year-old Gabriel Wortman is the suspect in our active shooter investigation in #Portapique. There are several victims. He is considered armed & dangerous. If you see him, call 911. DO NOT approach. He’s described as a white man, bald, 6’26’3 with green eyes. pic.twitter.com/Y2nJNULlkn
— RCMP, Nova Scotia (@RCMPNS) April 19, 2020
Surveillance spots the replica cruiser traveling south on Hwy 4 at 9:23 AM.
About twelve minutes south on Hwy 4 through Wentworth Provincial Park from Wentworth Centre, a jog to the right puts a driver on Valley Road. Heather Matthews usually walked down Valley Road in the mornings, and often encountered Lillian Campbell Hyslop. When they did meet, they waved a greeted eachother, or, as on the day before, stopped and chatted a little. Though they did not know her well, the Matthews thought Lillian was a friendly, happy person. On this Sunday morning, the Matthews decided to walk a path through the trees running between the road and a river instead of walking along Valley Road.
Meanwhile, Lillian had donned her safety vest and set out on her morning walk. Shortly after she left, a telephone tree caller for regular walkers reached her husband with a warning to stay off the roads.
So he went to go find her but got stopped by the police and asked what she was wearing… (The Chronicle Herald).
Partway into their walk, the the Matthews heard a loud sound somewhere in front of them. They thought it might be a shot of some sort. They continued their walk after that for another 45 minutes or so (CBC report). The Matthews later learned what they heard was probably the shot the killed Lillian.
Lillian and her husband retired to Nova Scotia from the Yukon in 2014. She left her son, her husband, extended family, friends, and neighbours.
She was courageous, generous, determined, quick-witted and gave the best hugs.