Winnipeg man guilty of mail-bomb at­tacks, judge rules

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Graeme hamil­ton

Af­ter his mar­riage dis­in­te­grated in 2004, Winnipeg me­chanic Guido Am­sel be­came con­vinced that the world had it in for him. His ex-wife had stolen mil­lions from their for­mer auto-body busi­ness, he be­lieved, and the po­lice and the le­gal com­mu­nity were con­spir­ing to pro­tect her.

In July 2015, the bit­ter dis­pute that been the sub­ject of le­gal pro­ceed­ings erupted in a let­ter-bomb campaign that maimed his for­mer wife’s lawyer and left Winnipeg “reel­ing,” in the words of the city’s mayor.

On Thurs­day, Man­i­toba pro­vin­cial court Judge Tracey Lord found Am­sel, 52, guilty of at­tempt­ing to mur­der his ex-wife and two Winnipeg lawyers.

Am­sel had tes­ti­fied in his own defence, of­fer­ing far-fetched the­o­ries for how his DNA ended up on items found at two of the crime scenes. The only part of Am­sel’s tes­ti­mony Lord found cred­i­ble was his be­lief that he had been con­spired against.

“I ac­cept that Mr. Am­sel firmly be­lieves his for­mer wife has stolen mil­lions of dol­lars from him,” the judge ruled. “I ac­cept that he be­lieves that oth­ers have con­spired to as­sist her in avoid­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the theft, in­clud­ing the RCMP and the lawyers in­volved on both sides of the lit­i­ga­tion ... I do not ac­cept that any of those things ac­tu­ally hap­pened, but I do ac­cept that Mr. Am­sel be­lieves they did.”

Am­sel was ar­rested the day af­ter a bomb hid­den in a voice recorder arrived at the of­fice of Maria Mi­tousis, the lawyer for his ex-wife Iris Am­sel. The court heard that the recorder came in a bub­ble-pack en­ve­lope with the re­turn ad­dress of her for­mer law firm. A note in­structed her to press play, say­ing the record­ing would help her with her case.

Mi­tousis tes­ti­fied that she thought that par­cel was “weird” and was go­ing to dis­cuss it with her firm’s man­ag­ing part­ner, but then de­cided she was over-re­act­ing. She re­turned to her of­fice and pressed play.

She said she re­mem­bers a loud pop. “I re­mem­ber feel­ing off bal­ance ... dizzy. I re­mem­ber feel­ing pain in my stom­ach and burn­ing,” she said. “I could feel that I had pieces of metal, pieces of plas­tic — sharp pieces — in my mouth.”

Her right hand had to be am­pu­tated, and she tes­ti­fied that she still has con­stant pain in her right arm. Her body is scarred from shrap­nel in­side the ex­plo­sive de­vice.

Af­ter the July 3 ex­plo­sion, in­ves­ti­ga­tors quickly drew a link to Am­sel. Two other par­cel bombs were found, un­ex­ploded, that had been sent to his ex-wife and to a law part­ner of his for­mer lawyer.

News of the bombs, with po­lice warn­ing that there could be more in the mail, prompted a wave of fear in Winnipeg. “Across our com­mu­nity, I think it’s safe to say, we’re reel­ing,” Mayor Brian Bow­man said at the time. “Winnipeg, our home, has al­ways seemed im­per­vi­ous to such ruth­less, venge­ful at­tacks.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors sub­se­quently tied Am­sel to a 2013 ex­plo­sion out­side his ex-wife’s house, iden­ti­fy­ing his DNA on a piece of string that they said had been used as a trip­wire. No­body was in­jured in that blast.

He was con­victed of at­tempt­ing to mur­der Iris Am­sel in 2013 and 2015, as well as Mi­tousis and lawyer Ge­orge Orle in 2015. He was found guilty of 11 ad­di­tional charges, in­clud­ing ag­gra­vated assault, mail­ing ex­plo­sives and mis­chief. He was ac­quit­ted of at­tempt­ing to mur­der Iris Am­sel’s boyfriend in the 2013 ex­plo­sion and of three charges of en­dan­ger­ing the lives of peo­ple at ad­dresses where he sent bombs.

Lord said ev­i­dence was con­clu­sive that the same per­son dis­patched all four bombs. She said DNA ev­i­dence tied Am­sel to two of the bombs, and let­ter-writ­ing anal­y­sis con­nected him to the oth­ers.

On top of that, she said, he had a mo­tive — his sim­mer­ing rage over what he con­sid­ered a wrong com­mit­ted against him.

“I do not ac­cept his tes­ti­mony that he was not an­gry about this sit­u­a­tion, and I do not ac­cept that he sim­ply de­cided to walk away from these firmly held be­liefs and go on with his life,” Lord said in a rul­ing that was streamed on­line. “It is to­tally in­con­sis­tent with his be­hav­iour over the course of the five years pre­ced­ing these in­ci­dents.”

Not­ing that his bombs were de­signed to spray shrap­nel, she con­cluded Am­sel had set out to “pun­ish” the targets of his campaign. “There is ex­pert ev­i­dence, which I ac­cept, that the de­vices in ques­tion were all ca­pa­ble of not only caus­ing bod­ily harm but were po­ten­tially lethal,” she said.

The court ad­journed until May 25 to set a date for sen­tenc­ing.

Guido Am­sel

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