Friends of the the B.C. couple accused of planning to detonate pressure cooker bombs during Canada Day celebrations in Victoria say they find it hard to believe John Nuttall and Amanda Korody could have organized such a plot.
A man who calls himself Nuttall's "best friend" told CBC News he was concerned about so-called "Muslim brothers" who he said seemed to be influencing Nuttall.
Another man who knew Korody when she was a high school student in St. Catharines, Ont. said Korody was an impressionable young woman who could have been led astray by Nuttall.
Nuttall, 38, and Korody, who is either 28 or 29, are alleged to have turned ordinary pressure cookers into improvised explosive devices filled with rusted nails, nuts, bolts and washers.
The RCMP claim the two were "inspired by al-Qaeda ideology," but said there was no evidence to indicate that the two "had the support or were acting at the direction of a terrorist group."
Met friends at Surrey mosque
Daryl Nelson said Nuttall was his best friend, but that Nuttall had recently dropped him as a paintball partner and opted to play with his so-called "Muslim brothers."
Nelson said three or four men from the mosque were constantly visiting Nuttal's apartment. One of the friends gave Nuttall a job, Nelson said.
"I don't know who these 'Muslim brothers' were," he said. "They were coming by his house every other day. One of them employed him at a furniture store apparently, got him delivering packages."
Nelson described Nuttall as a man with the mentality of a 16-year-old.
"He didn't have the money, didn't have the transportation. He didn't have the means. Where did he get the knowledge and the mentality to do this?"
Nuttall was kicked out of a Surrey mosque six months ago because of a disagreement over the interpretation of the Qur'an, Nelson said.
Just two days before July 1, Nelson said, he had an odd phone conversation with his friend.
"He said 'Oh I'm in the Okanagan, I'm in the Kelowna area.' Then he changed his story and said, 'Oh, I'm in Victoria.'"
Korody 'trying to find herself'
Jeffrey Rossetto, 36, said he considered Amanda Korody a close friend after meeting her in St. Catharines, Ont., more than 10 years ago, when she was just finishing high school.
"The Amanda that I knew and the Amanda that I met in St. Catharines back in 2000, 2001 is a bright, intelligent, creative, intuitive, gentle and kind young woman who had a really vast interest in art and film and culture and music," Rossetto told CBC News.
Rossetto, who is a musican and artist himself, said he remembers Korody as a young woman who tried desperately to fit in.
"She expressed about five years ago that she was kind of interested in converting to Islam. But I need to make something clear about that. Before she was doing that she was trying to be in a band," he said.
"And before that, she was trying to be like a fashion model. And before that, she was just basically always trying to find or trying to assume some type of identity that would give her some kind of feeling of a purpose or some kind of a place in the world. "
Rossetto said he lost touch with Korody about five years ago.
"I stopped talking to her because I found it difficult as a close, personal friend to be morally supportive of her. Because in a lot of ways she accepted moral support and in other ways, she rejected it."
Despite this, Rossetto said, he believes Korody was simply misguided and a "victim of circumstance."
"I believe that she is responsible for what she has tried to do, but I don’t think the motivations are sincerely her own in a way that she can coherently understand them," he said.
"I know her very well, and I'm not just the only one. There's about at least a dozen people who know her very well from St. Catharines. And they know her character to a point where it seems that she's been either led astray or that she's led herself astray as a result of being so impressionable."
Since the couple were arrested on Monday, friends and neighbours have painted incomplete and sometimes contradictory portraits of the pair.
Friend Randy Tetzlaff said Nuttall was an active paintball player who had plenty of money to buy gear and would take a $100 cab ride to the area in order to play.
But the couple's landlord said the two had limited means and questioned how they could finance the alleged bomb plot. CBC News reporter Steve Lus, who saw their basement suite, said the place was "a total pigsty" and that the couple lived in squalor.
One friend said both Nuttall and Korody were "really, really nice people," while a neighbour described overhearing Nuttall yelling into his cellphone and "talking about jihad."