Desmond inquiry: former soldier was never given two assessments considered essential

·2 min read

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — An inquiry investigating why Lionel Desmond killed three family members and himself in 2017 heard today from a health-care professional who said the former soldier required two assessments after he left a residential treatment program in 2016.

Occupational therapist Julie Beauchesne testified that Desmond needed a functional assessment and a neuropsychological assessment, but neither of those tests was conducted during the four months before the killings in rural Nova Scotia.

Beauchesne, who is based at Ste. Anne's hospital in Montreal, said the tests were essential to Desmond's continuity of care, given the fact that he was still suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression.

As well, Beauchesne confirmed she had determined through testing that Desmond was dealing with a mild cognitive impairment, though it was unclear what was causing that problem.

She said the functional assessment, which would have been conducted in Desmond's home, was to determine how he was coping as a spouse, father and friend.

As for the neuropsychological assessment, Beauchesne said it was needed to determine what was causing Desmond's cognitive problems, which included disorganization, a short attention span and a poor memory.

The provincial fatality inquiry, which started last year, has heard that the former corporal complained about three separate accidents that may have caused a possible traumatic brain injury.

The inquiry also heard that the team working with Desmond at Ste. Anne's hospital had determined something was interfering with his progress, which led to speculation about a possible brain injury.

The team recommended the two assessments to Veterans Affairs Canada and Desmond's external treatment team at the provincial Operational Stress Injury clinic in Fredericton.

But the inquiry has heard evidence that Desmond's case fell through the cracks over the next four months, as he completed a move from Oromocto, N.B., to a new home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press