A Surrey couple planted homemade pressure-cooker bombs outside the B.C. legislature building in Victoria on Canada Day 2013 knowing they would kill and maim people, Crown prosectors allege.
Monday (Feb. 2) marked the first day of the trial for Surrey residents John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, who are charged with making or possessing an explosive device, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and knowingly facilitating terrorist activity.
The case is being heard by a 14-person jury in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
The Crown contends the RCMP investigation into Nuttall’s and Korody’s activities began in February 2013 and continued – with the involvement of undercover officers – until the pair’s arrest on July 1, 2013.
Prosecutor Peter Eccles alleged the couple, who had recently converted to the Muslim faith, planted explosives in two garden containers outside the legislature timed to go off at 10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. on a day when thousands of people were expected to be there to celebrate Canada’s birthday. The blast, said Eccles, would have sent shrapnel flying 150 metres (500 feet) and would have hurt and killed bystanders.
The bombs did not explode.
“The police made sure of that,” said Eccles. “If they (the accused) had their way, they would have gone off.”
Eccles said the police investigation included two undercover operatives: one posing as an Arab businessman sympathetic to extremist jihad and another who had access to weapons and explosives, to “test the resolve” of the accused.
The bombs, the jury heard, were planted at the legislature at 5 a.m. on July 1.
The Crown said the court will hear audio recordings and see video surveillance that will be central to the case.
In the audio recordings, said Eccles, Nuttall can be heard praising the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013, calling the accused in that incident martyrs. Nuttall allegedly says he wants something bigger than that event and plans to build similar pressure-cooker bombs filled with nails.
Eccles said surveillance of a conversation between Nuttall and Korody (pictured at left before their arrest) will be presented in which Nuttall talks about what will happen after their alleged plot takes place.
“Within 48 hours, we’re going to be listening to the news and hear the aftermath,” Nuttall allegedly tells his wife. “This is going to rock the world. Al-Qaeda Canada – that’s who we are.
“As of today we’re mujahid. We’re secret agents.”
Eccles said the Crown doesn’t contend the pair was a sleeper terrorist cell or that al-Qaeda even knew anything about them, but that they acted on their own.
In another conversation, the Crown says the two talk about the damage the nails in the exploding pressure cookers will do, with Korody suggesting that marbles could be used if they can’t find ball bearings.
The two allegedly built the bombs in a hotel in Delta days before the mission was to be executed in Victoria.
Two days before Canada Day, one of the undercover officers who could provide the explosives advised Nuttall and Korody to ensure they weren’t being pressured, that they’re “acting from the heart.”
They assure him, the Crown says, that they want to do jihad and want the mission to proceed.
In their opening statements, the defence lawyers for Nuttall and Korody told jurors intention and context will be key in the case.
Nuttall’s lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, quoted from a conversation between the accused, where Nuttall warns Korody they can’t “screw up” again or their affiliate (who’s actually an undercover agent) will “turn from a real nice guy to a monster.”
He suggests to Korody that perhaps there’s a contingency plan that involves them in “cement galoshes at the bottom of the ocean.” He tells her “We can’t f— up.”
Sandford told the jury to pay attention to her client’s relationship with the undercover operatives, as well as watching Nuttall’s demeanour.
Mark Jette, Korody’s lawyer, said jurors must listen to how his client became “ensnared” in the police investigation, and noted her health issues and use of Gravol and methadone for drug addiction would be touched upon as part of the evidence.
Nuttall’s mom, Maureen Smith, attended the trial start and spoke outside court to media. She said both her son and Korody have serious disabilities and are mentally incapable with conspiring to concoct such a crime.
“It’s all made up, it’s just horrendous,” she said, alleging it’s a government set-up. “The Canadian government wants… to say ‘oh look, we’re doing our job, look at these terrorists’.”
Smith said she still maintains Nuttall is “100 per cent innocent.”
Nuttall, clean cut and wearing a suit, appeared upbeat in court, smiling and waving to his mother and grandmother. Korody, wearing a green shawl on her head, appeared meek, not looking around until Nuttall prompted her to turn and smile at his mom in the court gallery.
Smith said when her son converted to Islam, he spoke with her about jihad.
“He said he could never kill an innocent person,” Smith said. “I know that in my heart… this proves to me it’s a joke.”
Nuttall and Korody pleaded not guilty last month.
The trial is scheduled for 18 weeks and is set to resume Feb. 10.