Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/12/2017 (853 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Traces of a "shake and bake" homemade explosive was found on everything the RCMP tested from the scenes of three explosions in Winnipeg in July 2015, court heard Monday, but some of it may have disappeared too quickly for forensic lab analysis.
As the attempted murder trial continues for 51-year-old Guido Amsel, who is accused of mailing bombs to his former lawyer, Amsel's ex-wife and her lawyer, an explosives expert testified about the presence of a dangerous and simple-to-make explosive substance called triacetone triperoxide (TATP).
During its investigation into an explosion that severely injured lawyer Maria Mitousis at her River Avenue law office on July 3, 2015, the Winnipeg Police Service seized items from the scene, including a zippered case that contained a digital voice recorder.
When Mitousis pressed a button on the recorder, following the instructions in a note that had been mailed to her, the recorder blew up in her hand. She lost her right hand and suffered burns and shrapnel cuts in the blast.
When the pouch was sent for testing, it reportedly first showed traces of TATP, but later came back negative for explosives – and it's been a focus of Amsel's defence team's questioning so far in the provincial court trial.
Nigel Hearns, who works for the RCMP forensics lab in Ottawa, testified about a possible reason initial tests came back positive for TATP while subsequent swab tests were negative. Court previously heard police used an ion scanner device to test items found at the explosion scenes for traces of explosive substances.
Though the initial scans said explosives were present, lab tests couldn't confirm those results. Swabs of Amsel's face and hands taken after his arrest were also negative for explosives.
"If the swab had been previously analyzed using another instrument and then was received at the laboratory and we re-analyzed the swab, I would not be surprised there was nothing left to find or anything was there," Hearns said.
He testified TATP is a "high vapour-pressure explosive" that quickly dissipates if only a small amount is left behind.
"In a post-blast scenario where TATP has been used and there's residue – milligrams or less, micrograms – they will rapidly disappear because of the vaporization effect of TATP. It is well-known and well-studied that TATP residues are transient. They do not adhere for a long time. They need to be trapped quickly... or preserved quickly, if they are to be found later."
Hearns described the process of making TATP as "shake and bake chemistry" that could be done by mixing three ingredients commonly used as cleaning products and found in automotive shops, hardware stores or pharmacies.
He compared the explosive device in this case, concealed in a digital voice recorder, to a military hand grenade designed to kill or injure a target by sending off shrapnel. Depending on how much explosive was used, the shrapnel could be sent flying at the speed of bullets, Hearns said.
He estimated it would have taken less than one gram of TATP to cause an explosion powerful enough to blow off someone's hand and break window panes.
Hearns faced questions from defence lawyer Jeremy Kostiuk about how quickly the TATP could vaporize and become undetectable, specifically if it had been left out in a garage.
"If there was residue present, I wouldn't expect to find it a day or two later," Hearns said.
The trial continues this week in front of provincial court Judge Tracey Lord.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.