Winnipeg man guilty of mail-bomb attacks, judge rules
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.