VANCOUVER — A British Columbia terrorism suspect was skeptical the provincial legislature was the best place to target with pressure-cooker bombs on Canada Day, but he appeared to change his mind after touring the area with an undercover RCMP officer, his trial heard Thursday.
The trial for John Nuttall and his wife Amanda Korody listened to an audio recording in which Nuttall worries there will be no one at the legislature to be killed if they detonated their homemade bombs at around 9 or 10 a.m. on July 1, 2013.
But Nuttall becomes more enthusiastic after the undercover officer shows him bushes where the bombs could be hidden and his wife assures him the attack will send a political message.
“That’s the capital building, that’s the legislature. OK?” says Nuttall. “You destroy that, it’s the same as destroying the White House. It’s the equivalent of Canada’s White House.”
The exchange took place on the evening of June 30 and was captured by a recording device worn by the officer, who was posing as an Arab businessman.
In the recording, the officer drives the couple around downtown Victoria as they check out potential targets, including banks and apartment buildings.
At one point, Nuttall suggests planting the bombs near an office building.
“At nine o’clock in the morning, everyone’ll be there for work,” he says. “Kind of like the World Trade Centre, you know? Everyone had just gotten to work.”
“Don’t forget, tomorrow there is no work,” the officer reminds him. “It’s Canada Day. That’s why you chose to do it on Canada Day.”
Frustrated, Nuttall says he wishes they could postpone by two days to spend more time check out locations. But the group pushes on, and eventually Nuttall suggests they drive toward the legislature lawn.
He says the couple’s original plan was to detonate bombs on the lawn at night, when he estimated tens of thousands of people would be gathered to watch the Canada Day fireworks.
But the pair had since abandoned that plan, instead scrawling a list of downtown Victoria locations on a notepad.
Nuttall and his wife had recently assembled the pressure-cooker bombs in a Vancouver-area motel room, before being introduced to another officer who said he had access to C-4 explosives.
The undercover officer posing as an Arab businessman had told the couple he stuffed the C-4 inside the bombs and arranged timers to go off a few hours after they are planted at 5 a.m. on July 1.
When Nuttall says no one will be outside the legislature in the morning, the officer notes there is a pancake breakfast scheduled.
“That’s like old senior citizens and stuff,” Nuttall complains. “Nobody goes to the pancake breakfast.”
The Mountie then shows Nuttall some bushes on the front lawn where the bombs could be hidden.
The Crown has previously said the bombs were rendered inert and would not have exploded.
Nuttall asks his wife what message they will send if they attack the legislature.
“That people want to destroy the government,” she replies.
He begins to embrace the idea, saying that people will talk about the attack “forever.”
“Books will be written about it. OK?” says Nuttall.
Nuttall later decides that he wants to place the bombs in bushes that are directly against the walls of the legislature, rather than the ones on the front lawn the Mountie had suggested.
After making a trip to Wal-Mart to buy dark-coloured hoodies, the group heads back to the legislature to check out the targets again.
Nuttall says his priority now is to destroy the building.
“If we were doing this at night time, then I would (place them on the lawn), because then I would get maximum kills,” he says. “But… people will be more sympathetic to the Muslim plight if we just attacked the government and not the people.”
Both Nuttall and Korody have pleaded not guilty to four terrorism-related charges.