Desmond Inquiry to begin in May

Applications to participate due by April 29

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – It has been more than two years since the tragic shooting deaths of Shanna, Aaliyah, Brenda and Lionel Desmond in Upper Big Tracadie. Starting in May, Judge Warren Zimmer will lead a public inquiry in Guysborough to address unanswered questions surrounding the deaths.

The inquiry’s mandate is to determine the circumstances under which the deaths occurred, along with other issues including whether Lionel Desmond and his family had access to the appropriate mental health and domestic violence intervention services leading up to their deaths.

Anyone interested in participating in the inquiry must make an application by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 29, 2019. Hearings to determine who can participate will begin in Guysborough on Tuesday, May 21.

“Interested parties are encouraged to review the Terms of Reference for the inquiry and consult with a lawyer before applying,” says a March 27 Dept. of Justice release. Both the terms of reference and the application form are available on the inquiry website at

Applicants and their counsel, if they are represented, are expected to attend the participation hearings at the Guysborough Municipal Building to answer any questions that Judge Zimmer may have about their application. Applicants will also be permitted to briefly explain why they should be allowed to participate in the inquiry.

The inquiry expects to start hearing evidence in September on weekdays, generally starting at 9:30 a.m. until approximately 4:30 p.m.

On Jan. 3, 2017, the bodies of Lionel Desmond, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, his wife Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah, and Mr. Desmond’s mother Brenda, were found in a home in Upper Big Tracadie, Guysborough County. It is believed that Mr. Desmond took the lives of his family members, before he took his own life.

Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Matt Bowes, reviewed the circumstances of the deaths and recommended to the Minister of Justice that an inquiry be held under the province’s Fatality Investigations Act.

At the conclusion of the proceedings, Judge Zimmer will file a written report with the Provincial Court containing his findings and recommendations. His report will not contain any findings of legal responsibility. A copy of the report will be provided to the Minister of Justice and will be available to the public.