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From 'punks' to terror suspects

Friends wonder how it happened

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A photographer takes pictures inside the apartment of terror suspects John Nuttall and Amanda Korody in Surrey, B.C. Wednesday.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

A photographer takes pictures inside the apartment of terror suspects John Nuttall and Amanda Korody in Surrey, B.C. Wednesday.

VANCOUVER -- To people who knew them, the couple accused of planning to bomb a crowded Canada Day celebration at the British Columbia legislature were Johnny and Anna -- a pair of "street punks" who struggled with addiction and poverty but seemed to be getting their lives back together.

But at some point, the RCMP allege, John Nuttall and Amanda Korody drifted off that recovery path, converting to Islam and becoming Canada's latest home-grown terror suspects. They are now accused of hatching an al-Qaida-inspired plan to kill their fellow citizens.

They were arrested on Canada Day -- the day the terrorism plot was allegedly set to unfold -- leaving friends and acquaintances baffled to explain how the quiet, "kind-hearted" couple could become the suspected masterminds of a destructive terrorism plot.

"They're really, really nice people, really caring," said Ashley Volpatti, who lived near Nuttall and Korody in Surrey, B.C., and has known them for about two years.

"Everybody just wants to know why. Knowing them, I just don't think they could have done this on their own."

Nuttall and Korody arrived in Vancouver more than three years ago to get away from the Victoria drug scene, said Volpatti. Nuttall had racked up a list of criminal convictions in Victoria for assaults and drug charges.

Neither worked, relying on social assistance and borrowing money to pay their rent and make ends meet, their landlady said.

Nuttall first moved to Vancouver Island in his teens to live with his grandmother after bouncing back and forth between his parents' home and foster homes, said Stefano Pasta, who played with him in the band The Lust Boys.

Pasta remembers a young man with fierce loyalty, who was "a simple character ... not the sharpest tool in the shed."

"He definitely kept his friends very close, because he didn't have a lot of friends and I guess any social circle that would actually accept him, he was very protective of," he said. "He was a bit of a social outcast."

Much of Korody's past remains a mystery. She was originally from Ontario and went to high school in St. Catharines, south of Toronto, a former classmate confirmed.

Nuttall's lawyer, Tom Morino, said the last time he heard from Nuttall before this week was about five years ago, and Korody was with him then.

Korody was described as a quiet and shy young woman. Her landlord said she had seen Korody wearing a burqa, the head-to-toe covering common in Arab countries.

Volpatti said she first met the couple about two years ago when Korody was working at a nearby convenience store.

Volpatti had seen them around before -- "they were just street kids, street punks," she said -- and eventually she and her boyfriend struck up a friendship with them.

Volpatti knew Nuttall and Korody had converted to Islam, but there was no indication they could be turning radical.

Something changed six months ago, said Volpatti, when Nuttall and Korody abruptly cut off contact.

Nuttall and Korody lived in a two-bedroom apartment in a residential area of Surrey.

Investigators searched the house on Monday and Tuesday.

Both Nuttall and Korody were on social assistance, the landlord said, and Nuttall had asked to borrow money in the past, which he promptly paid back.

Police say Nuttall and Korody had no links to any outside groups, but the landlord said she does not know how the poverty-stricken couple could have afforded to finance the alleged plot.

"Where did they get the pressure cookers? It costs money. Explosives? It costs money. How can they go to Victoria? With the pressure cookers in their hands? They don't have even a bike," she said. "I cannot understand."

Nuttall and Korody remain in custody and are scheduled for a bail hearing on July 9. They are each charged with knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity, making or possessing an explosive device and conspiracy to place an explosive device with the intent to cause death or injury.

When asked whether the couple has any response to the allegations against them Morino, the lawyer, replied: "It's too early for that."


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2013 A9

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