TORONTO / OTTAWA:
The shooter in Canada's worst mass shootings ever started the killing spree at the weekend, which ultimately killed 22 people after his girlfriend escaped when he attacked her, a senior police officer said on Friday.
The police gave no details of the nature of the attack or how she escaped and fled to the forest. Local media said she was tied up. The woman's name was not specified. She is currently recovering from her injuries and working with the police.
"It was a major attack, and this single woman managed to escape, and that could have been the trigger for the chain of events to begin," said Nova Scotia's Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) superintendent, Darren Campbell, in a press conference.
"However, we are open to all possibilities and do not rule out that deliberate planning was also necessary," Campbell said in a press conference.
After escaping on Saturday evening, the woman hid in the dense forests surrounding the rural hamlet of Portapique in Nova Scotia, and did not show up until Sunday morning to call 911 at around 6:30 a.m.
Until then, the shooter, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, had killed 13 people in Portapique. Wortman was dressed in a police uniform and drove a fake police car. On Sunday morning, he killed nine more people.
The press conference on Friday provided the first detailed report of a killing spree lasting at least 13 hours. RCMP officers shot Wortman at a gas station approximately 90 km from Portapique, but not before Wortman wounded one RCMP officer and killed another.
On Sunday, he accidentally killed a woman who went for a walk on Sunday morning and used the fake police cruiser to stop and shoot and kill at least one person. He also stopped at a woman he knew, murdered her and took her car.
"I've been a police officer for almost 30 years now, and I can't imagine a more terrible situation if you're trying to find someone who looks like you," said Campbell, referring to Wortman's imitation of an RCMP officer.
The police were criticized this week for using social media rather than a provincial emergency warning system to inform the public that a gunman was at large and for sending only a tweet on Saturday night warning of a "firearm complaint" .
Some of the victims 'families said that better communication could have saved their relatives' lives.
Police believed the suspect was "locked in" around the police on Saturday night, Campbell said. But he said the families "have every right to be angry … we always try to do better".
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on Canadians at a daily press conference on Friday to join a virtual vigil at 6 p.m. ET.
"Let us come together to support those communities that have suffered an immense loss," said Trudeau.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)