PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — An inquiry in Nova Scotia is hearing testimony today from a social worker who has described the family life of a former soldier who later killed three family members and himself in 2017.
Kama Hamilton says that as Lionel Desmond was starting an 11-week treatment program to help him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, she received permission in June 2016 to speak with his wife, Shanna.
Hamilton told the inquiry that during an hour-long telephone conversation, Shanna Desmond said her husband was experiencing flashbacks about combat in Afghanistan, and she said he had recently described a gruesome nightmare.
Shanna Desmond said her husband told her that in the dream, he caught her sleeping with another man and he responded by “chopping her to pieces.”
The social worker told the inquiry that despite the violent nature of the nightmare, she was confident Shanna Desmond was not in any danger, mainly because Lionel Desmond’s recollection was not intended as a threat.
As well, Hamilton told the inquiry that Shanna Desmond had made it clear she and the couple’s nine-year-old daughter had never been subjected to physical violence, and she didn’t believe her husband would ever hurt them.
Hamilton said Shanna Desmond was deeply concerned about her husband’s welfare, noting that he had unpredictable, angry outbursts that resulted in him throwing furniture — but that was the most violence she had witnessed.
The social worker said Lionel Desmond’s behaviour was considered common for former combat soldiers dealing with PTSD, noting that he was also obsessive about small slights and impulsive about purchases.
Hamilton said she also learned that the former infantryman would sometimes resort to passive threats of suicide as a means of controlling his wife.
She said Shanna Desmond recalled one disturbing incident, when he texted her to say he would soon be watching his daughter “from above,” and when she returned home, she found him obsessively cleaning a rifle he owned.
During her testimony, Hamilton said she later came to the conclusion that Lionel Desmond had a constant fear of being abandoned, a condition she believed could be the result of a personality disorder.