Desmond inquiry: focus of hearings shifts to examination of domestic violence

A Nova Scotia inquiry investigating why a former soldier killed his family and himself in 2017 turned its attention today to the issue of domestic violence.

The executive director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Stephanie MacInnis-Langley, told the inquiry that those facing intimate partner violence are most at risk when they are about to leave an abusive relationship.

The inquiry has heard Lionel Desmond, who served in Afghanistan in 2007 and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011, fatally shot his wife, mother and 10-year-old daughter after his wife Shanna made it clear she wanted a divorce.

One of the key mandates of the provincial fatality inquiry, which started hearings in January 2020, is to determine if Desmond and his family had access to domestic violence prevention services.

MacInnis-Langley told the inquiry that victims of domestic violence tend to minimize the level of danger they are facing.

Only hours before Desmond killed his family, he placed a call to a therapist to say his wife had asked him for a divorce — and the inquiry also learned that around the same time, Shanna Desmond had called a community group that offers support to women and children facing domestic violence.

The inquiry heard that Shanna Desmond asked the group about how to obtain a peace bond, though she gave no indication she was at risk.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2021.

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