Penticton mass shooting neighbourhood saw dozens of bylaw complaint calls: ex-city officials

WATCH: Complaints between neighbours may have led to Monday's shooting spree in Penticton, B.C., where four people were killed. However, police haven't commented on the theory of the disputes, other than saying the accused and the victims were known to each other.

An ex-bylaw enforcement official with the city of Penticton says the ex-wife of John Brittain, who was charged in connection with Monday’s shootings, had made dozens of complaints to city hall about her neighbours in recent years.

The former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Katherine Brittain’s complaints about residents on Cornwall Drive included a neighbour having a woodburning fireplace and drainage issues.

On Wednesday, Global News asked Ms. Brittain what her concerns with her neighbours were and whether they could have been related to the alleged crimes. Ms. Brittain declined to comment.

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Police haven’t commented on the theory of a neighbour dispute and said they are investigating a potential motive.

“Our preliminary investigation has determined that the accused and each of the victims were known to each other,” said Penticton RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager. “The question of motive remains under investigation.”

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A family member of one of Monday’s murder victims, Rudi Winter, said the street had been the scene of an ongoing dispute between neighbours. Jeff Schwarz confirmed his uncle was the target of multiple complaints.

Rudi Winter, 71, was gunned down while pruning a bush at a friend’s home near Heales Avenue and Lakeview Street in downtown Penticton around 10:30 a.m. on Monday.

The shooter is then alleged to have driven to Cornwall Drive, where three more people were shot and killed at their homes.

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John Brittain, who once lived on the street, later turned himself into police. He’s been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder.

Global News has confirmed the other deceased victims are Susan and Barry Wonch, and 75-year-old Darlene Knippelberg. All four victims are registered owners of properties on Cornwall Drive. Police said all of the victims are in their 60s and 70s and that the suspect and victims knew each other.

The former official said another complaint was made about a neighbour operating a home business without a proper licence. The allegation centred on wood furniture being refurbished in a homeowner’s garage.

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The former official confirmed the complaint was made against victims Barry and Susan Wonch.

Neighbour Pete Shaw said he didn’t know the Wonches well, but that Barry had a hobby of restoring antiques.

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“He was kind of quiet, stayed to himself and worked on his furniture,” Shaw told Global News.

Penticton’s bylaw department confirmed to Global News that it handled six complaint files about residences on Cornwall Drive over several years, including complaints related to woodburning smoke, landscaping and on-site drainage related matters and a home business operating without a licence.

The city confirmed that there were a number of calls around each file.

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The ex-official described the campaign against neighbours as relentless, with several complaints flooding into city hall in 2017. The source alleges when officials stopped returning calls, complaints were made under a different name.

Another former city official who spoke to Global News on the condition of anonymity said Ms. Brittain was concerned about her health due to poor air quality from her neighbour’s woodburning stove.

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The ex-official said Ms. Brittain didn’t believe the chimney was high enough and smoke would billow into her yard.

The ex-official also said accused shooter John Brittain defended his ex-wife’s allegations during his interactions with city hall. They added that John and Katherine didn’t appear to be estranged, and were often seen in attendance together at community events and election forums.

John Brittain, 68, worked for the City of Penticton as an engineer from 2011 to 2016. He was a current part-time civil engineer with private firm Ecora at the time of the shootings.

Sources said Brittain’s ex-wife still lives in a home on Cornwall Drive. Court files show the couple was divorced in 2013. The property remains registered to Katherine Brittain.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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