The Queen has sent a message of condolence to the people of Nova Scotia following the deadliest mass shooting in Canada’s history.
The head of state, who is also Queen of Canada, said her thoughts and prayers were with everyone affected by the “appalling” attacks.
A rampage by a gunman disguised as a police officer left at least 18 dead and homes in smouldering ruins in rural communities across Nova Scotia.
“Prince Philip and I have been deeply saddened by the appalling events in Nova Scotia, and we send our condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those who have lost their lives,” the Queen said.
The Queen's message to the people of Nova Scotia: pic.twitter.com/sucHkZM0FC— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 21, 2020
“I also pay tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other police services who selflessly responded to these devastating attacks, and to the emergency services who are supporting those who have been injured and affected.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nova Scotia and all Canadians at this tragic time.”
The message sent in both French and English was signed “Elizabeth R”.
The 12-hour attack began late on Saturday in the rural town of Portapique, about 60 miles north of Halifax, where police warned residents to lock their doors and stay in their basements as the shooting unfolded.
The town, like all of Canada, had been adhering to government advice to remain at home because of the coronavirus pandemic and most of the victims were inside when the attack began.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police chief superintendent Chris Leather said officers expect to find more victims when they comb through all the crime scenes, some of which were houses set ablaze.
Mr Leather said police teams were spread out at 16 locations across central and northern Nova Scotia.
To the children who lost a grandparent, the parents who lost a child, and the neighbour who lost a friend, weâre standing with you. Weâre mourning these tragic losses with you. And weâre keeping all of you in our thoughts. pic.twitter.com/Nq67jekDYn— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) April 20, 2020
Among the dead was Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable Heidi Stevenson, a mother of two and a 23-year veteran of the force.
Two healthcare workers at local nursing homes were also killed, according to Von Canada, a long-term healthcare company, which identified them as Kristen Beaton, a continuing care assistant, and Heather O’Brien, a licensed practical nurse.
Officials said the suspect, identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, died in the weekend attack.
Authorities did not provide a motive for the killings, and some of the victims knew Wortman and some did not.
Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau wrote: “To the children who lost a grandparent, the parents who lost a child, and the neighbour who lost a friend, we’re standing with you. We’re mourning these tragic losses with you. And we’re keeping all of you in our thoughts.”
A message of condolence from HRH The Prince of Wales to the people of Canada. pic.twitter.com/KeKr8iMAy9— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) April 21, 2020
The Prince of Wales also sent his condolences to those affected by the “brutal, senseless attack”.
Charles wrote: “Both my wife and I were profoundly shocked to hear about the devastating mass shooting in Nova Scotia.
“We wanted you to know that our hearts go out to the families and friends of all those who have so tragically lost their lives in such a brutal, senseless attack, and to those who have been so cruelly injured.”
He expressed his admiration for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, first responders and officials who went to the aid and support of the communities, which was “made all the more challenging with the ongoing hardships of the Covid-19 crisis and the loss of one of the R.C.M.P.’s own officers”.
“Our special thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, the people of Nova Scotia and all Canadians at this most heart-breaking of times,” the prince added.