The Desmond Fatality Inquiry is being held at the Guysborough Municipal building in Guysborough, N.S., Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. The provincial inquiry, which resumed this week after an 11-month hiatus, is investigating why the mentally ill former corporal killed his mother, wife, daughter and himself in 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The Desmond Fatality Inquiry is being held at the Guysborough Municipal building in Guysborough, N.S., Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. The provincial inquiry, which resumed this week after an 11-month hiatus, is investigating why the mentally ill former corporal killed his mother, wife, daughter and himself in 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

‘He saw dead people.’ Inquiry learns about the mental decline of Lionel Desmond

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — Lionel Desmond experienced severe mental decline and horrible visions after he served as an infantryman in the Afghanistan war, a fatality inquiry in Nova Scotia learned Friday.

The provincial inquiry, which resumed this week after an 11-month hiatus, is investigating why the mentally ill former corporal killed his mother, wife and daughter before fatally shooting himself on Jan. 3, 2017.

Desmond was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011 and was medically released from the military in June 2015.

On Friday, the inquiry heard for the first time from the immediate family of his wife, Shanna Desmond, including her parents and younger brother.

The woman’s mother, Thelma Borden, submitted an affidavit saying Lionel Desmond was tormented by terrifying nightmares.

“When he came back from Afghanistan, he wasn’t the same,” Borden said in her statement.

“Shanna told me … Lionel would wake up in bed at night in sweats, and the whole bed would be soaked.”

Borden then described one particularly shocking incident that involved a nighttime flashback.

“One night, Shanna woke up in bed to Lionel choking her, and she had to holler at him and say, ‘Lionel, Lionel!’” Borden’s statement said. “He told her he was sorry because he didn’t know what he was doing because he thought he was back in Afghanistan.”

Borden also described how Lionel Desmond could hear “guns and bombs in his head,” and how he would become jealous of his wife and accuse her of sleeping with other men.

“Every time he closed his eyes he saw dead people and (he was) walking over dead people,” Borden said. “Many of his (Canadian Armed Forces) buddies in Afghanistan were killed alongside him. He had to pick up the bodies and the pieces after they were blown up.”

Shanna Desmond’s father, Ricky Borden, also submitted an affidavit, saying the former soldier had frequent outbursts and had not responded well to psychiatric treatment he received in 2016.

“Some days he used to go right off, and he went off quite a bit,” Ricky Borden said in his statement.

The hearing on Friday concluded with testimony from Shanna Desmond’s younger brother, Sheldon Borden, who told the inquiry that the couple often argued.

“You could tell he was fighting things within himself,” Sheldon Borden told the inquiry. “There were many times when he and Shanna would fight.”

As well, he said he felt guilty for not having the tools or the resources to help his brother-in-law. And he said Shanna once told him about the time her husband choked her.

Earlier this week, the inquiry heard from Lionel Desmond’s family, several of whom told similar stories about his struggles with mental illness.

The inquiry is set to resume next Tuesday, when doctors from the Canadian Armed Forces are scheduled to offer evidence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2021.

Desmond fatality inquiry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced updated health measures Monday which are now in place for retail, hotels and community halls, performance groups, and youth sports as part of Step 2 of Alberta’s reopening plan. (File photo by Government of Alberta)
COVID restrictions for retail, sports and performers further eased

Occupancy in stores and malls boosted to 25 per cent from 15 per cent

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Active COVID cases in Red Deer continue to decline

249 cases in Red Deer, down from 565 peak on Feb. 22

(File photo)
Five Olds College students semi-finalists in marketing pitch competition

Winner of Second Annual UFA Student Pitch Competition to be announced April 13

Nordegg residents, including retired fisheries biologist Vance Buchwald, are concerned this kind of coal mining could start up in the wilderness area. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File).
Biologist urges Clearwater County to take a stand against Nordegg coal mining

Vance Buchwald said there’s no future in coal, the county should back eco-tourism

Quentin Lee Strawberry Photo from RCMP
Updated: Bleeding man came to door frantically calling for 911 help, neighbour testifies in murder trial

Quentin Strawberry on trial for second-degree murder accused of killing Joseph Gallant in 2019

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) checks Ottawa Senators' Chris Tierney (71) during third-period NHL action in Edmonton on Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Oilers open three-game homestand against Senators with 3-2 victory

Oilers open three-game homestand against Senators with 3-2 victory

Dave Mercer poses in this undated handout photo. Fishing is Dave Mercer's passion. When he's not taping episodes for his fishing show, 'Dave Mercer's Facts of Fishing,' doing his podcast and weekly fishing tips, he can usually be found on the water. Mercer is also in his 11th year as an MC for the Bassmasters Classic and Elite Series and after watching Canadians Chris Johnston, of Peterborough, Ont., and Jeff Gustafson, of Kenora, Ont., capture tournament this in less than a year, Mercer is confident the third Canadian on the tour, Johnston's older brother, Cory, will win a circuit event either this year or next. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Dave Mercer Outdoors Inc.
Bassmasters Elite Series MC Dave Mercer enjoying Canadians’ success on circuit

Bassmasters Elite Series MC Dave Mercer enjoying Canadians’ success on circuit

Meghan McPeak, left, and Randy Urban do play-by-play for the Raptors 905 team in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday, January 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto Raptors using all-female broadcast crew for televised game later this month

Toronto Raptors using all-female broadcast crew for televised game later this month

Toronto Six get another crack at Isobel Cup women’s hockey championship

Toronto Six get another crack at Isobel Cup women’s hockey championship

Canada's Mikael Kingsbury celebrates after finishing first in the final of the World Cup men's dual moguls skiing competition, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in Deer Valley, Utah. Canadian moguls star Kingsbury captured a gold medal for the fifth time at the world championships today.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rick Bowmer
Mikael Kingsbury wins world men’s moguls championship

Mikael Kingsbury wins world men’s moguls championship

A Canadian Premier League soccer ball is shown on a podium in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Canadian Premier League/Chant Photography *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canadian Premier League offers first look at its bottom line

Canadian Premier League offers first look at its bottom line

Team Manitoba skip Jason Gunnlaugson directs his team as he plays Team Wild Card One at the Brier in Calgary, Alta., Monday, March 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta’s Bottcher hands Wild Card Three’s Middaugh his first loss at the Brier

Alberta’s Bottcher hands Wild Card Three’s Middaugh his first loss at the Brier

Rheal Cormier, left, receives his jacket from Ferguson Jenkins during his induction to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on June 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
Former Canadian major-leaguer Rheal Cormier dies after battle with cancer

Former Canadian major-leaguer Rheal Cormier dies after battle with cancer

Most Read