Explosion caught on video
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This article was published 6/7/2015 (2179 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At least three Winnipeg women were sent "sophisticated" bombs hidden inside recording devices as part of a targeted campaign of terror -- and police believe there may be other potential victims.
Investigators say the need for citizens to exercise caution remains high, despite the fact police had a man in custody. Guido Amsel, 49, faces 11 charges, including two counts of attempted murder.
"The events that started on Friday are harrowing. Across our community, I think it's safe to say we are reeling. Winnipeg, our home, has always seemed impervious to such ruthless, vengeful attacks," Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said Monday during a news conference at the Public Safety Building.
The known targets include lawyer Maria Mitousis, 38, who suffered serious injuries after opening a package addressed to her inside a River Avenue law office Friday morning; Amsel's ex-wife, who had a package addressed to her detonated by police Saturday evening inside a Washington Avenue business; and his former lawyer, who had a package detonated by police Sunday night inside her former law office on Stradbrook Avenue.
"We were fortunate to be able to intercept those (two other) packages before they went through," police Supt. Danny Smyth said Monday. He said there could be additional bombs that remain in transit through Canada Post.
Smyth said there's no evidence the accused had help from anyone else, but "we're not ruling anything out."
Police said the devices that were discovered have distinct packaging and lettering. Investigators urged people to be vigilant if they find suspicious mail. The suspicious packages were sent through Canada Post June 29 or June 30, and delivered July 2 or July 3.
Smyth said it's possible some items haven't been delivered yet because of the Canada Day statutory holiday.
"If we're going to see any more packages, they would probably emerge in the next day or so," Smyth said.
He didn't say whether Amsel has been co-operative with police. Officers have notified justice officials who've had previous dealings with Amsel, including those connected to his messy divorce case from 2004 to 2014, and a protracted civil lawsuit filed by his ex-wife in 2010.
The public warning triggered a heightened sense of alert, even paranoia. More than two dozen calls about suspicious packages have poured in since Friday, including one at city hall Monday morning just as the news conference was wrapping up across the street. Moments after police cleared that scene, bomb-squad members rushed to a nearby business on Donald Street for a similar call. There were also two calls to Canada Post locations in the city.
"The last few days have been difficult for our city, particularly so for Maria Mitousis, her loved ones, colleagues and friends," police Chief Devon Clunis said.
He said Mitousis has shown "incredible bravery" and he lauded the police officers who have been working tirelessly, particularly those in the bomb unit.
"I'm incredibly proud to serve with you," Clunis said.
Smyth said an extensive forensic investigation will be required to determine how the explosives were put together and triggered, but said there was a risk of accidental detonation by sending them through the mail.
"It's early on for the forensic investigation, but I'm told it's pretty sophisticated," he said.
Police will look at how they passed through Canada Post undetected.
"We've had contact with Canada Post, and that will form part of the investigation," he said.
The Free Press has learned the accused allegedly had a list of people he felt had wronged him. Sources say an around-the-clock police investigation likely prevented further violence.
Mitousis was rushed to hospital in critical condition after triggering the bomb Friday morning. She suffered extensive injuries to her throat and stomach. It's been reported she lost one of her hands in the blast.
She remained in hospital Monday recovering from multiple surgeries and is "looking forward to a speedy recovery," a family statement said.
Mitousis was interviewed by police on Saturday. Amsel was taken into custody later that day.
On Sunday, police executed search warrants at a business on Springfield Road linked to Amsel, along with his home on Pandora Avenue. Smyth wouldn't say Monday if any explosive devices were found at those locations.
Amsel is being held in custody without bail. The two counts of attempted murder relate to the attack on Mitousis and the attempted attack on his ex-wife. Additional and upgraded charges are expected.
Before Friday, Amsel had no criminal record. His next court appearance is set for today.
A neighbour of Amsel, who lived with his wife, said he seemed like a person who defied authority.
He was known to work with noisy equipment, sometimes until midnight. He would do such things as move hydro wires without permission to park heavy machinery such as a bobcat, and he was once stopped from completing home renovations by the city because they weren't up to safety codes.
The neighbour was shocked by the charges. "You hear about those things in the U.S. It's quite unsettling."
-- with files from Bill Redekop
Timeline of events
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.