Four shot dead in apparent murder-suicide by Canadian veteran

(Reuters) - A 10-year-old girl, her parents and grandmother were found shot dead in their rural home in the eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia in what a relative described Wednesday as a murder-suicide by an Afghanistan war veteran who suffered from PTSD.

Family member Catherine Hartling identified the gunman as 33-year-old Canadian Forces veteran Lionel Desmond and said she believed he had shot his daughter, his wife and his mother before killing himself on Tuesday.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said the girl’s father appeared to have shot himself. RCMP said in a statement on Wednesday that all four victims died of gunshot wounds, but did not say who killed the women and girl. RCMP said officers found two guns on the scene.

In a telephone interview, Hartling said Desmond had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his military service in Afghanistan and should have been offered more help.

“They didn’t do too much for him. Put him on a medication, take him off, put him on another one, take him off,” Hartling said.

“Canada has to step up and do more for their people when they bring them home from overseas.”

Hartling said her niece Shanna Desmond, 31, was among the four killed, along with Shanna Desmond’s 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah and Lionel Desmond’s mother Brenda Desmond.

Police said they were called on Tuesday evening to the home in Upper Big Tracadie in Nova Scotia and there was no indication of an intruder.

The Canadian Forces said in an email that Lionel Desmond was an infantryman deployed to Afghanistan from January to August 2007 and was released from the military in July 2015. They declined to comment on his health care but said Desmond spent a year posted to a unit that provides care for veterans with health conditions that prevent them from returning to their normal duties.

Canada’s military has been publicly criticized for not adequately helping service members suffering from PTSD. The government does not track suicides of veterans once they are released from the military.

Reporting by Anna Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Grant McCool