Accused letter bomber alleges conspiracy and 'fabricated' evidence, blames ex-wife for explosions
Iris Amsel has denied ex-husband Guido Amsel's allegations; a bomb was sent to her in 2015
Accused mail bomber Guido Amsel testified in his own defence in court Wednesday and denied any involvement with bombs delivered to his ex-wife and two lawyers in July 2015, claiming he was the victim of a frame-up and conspiracy.
"No, I did not send any explosives to anybody at anytime," Amsel testified.
"The evidence is fabricated," he said.
He also denied connection to a 2013 explosion outside his ex-wife's home in the rural Manitoba municipality of St. Clements.
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Amsel, 51, has pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder, one count of aggravated assault and several explosives-related offences.
Court has heard Amsel's DNA was found on a piece of string seized from the scene of the St. Clements explosion and on a plastic pouch found at a 2015 explosion that seriously injured Maria Mitousis, at the time the lawyer for his ex-wife, Iris Amsel.
Crown attorney Chris Vanderhooft questioned Amsel about letters he sent to the provincial justice minister while in custody in August 2017, alleging his then lawyer conspired with Vanderhooft, police and the RCMP forensics lab to plant DNA evidence implicating him in the bombings.
"It's not a belief — it's a fact," Amsel said of the allegations.
Amsel claimed his then lawyer notified him on a Sunday that his DNA had been found on the plastic pouch — one day before an RCMP lab test reached the same conclusion. The lawyer "knew about the match when there was no lab result in existence at the time," Amsel said.
Amsel said a photo of the pouch taken by an RCMP lab technician showing a smudge that allegedly included his DNA differed from a photo taken shortly after the explosion. That photo, he said, showed no smudge at all.
The accused suggested that Iris Amsel was responsible for the bombs, one of which was sent to her address.
"I have the assumption that Iris Amsel is behind it, yes," Amsel said under cross-examination.
"You're assuming that, sir, because you have no evidence," replied Crown attorney Chris Vanderhooft.
"Maybe she hired someone. I have no idea," Amsel said later.
Last month, Amsel's lawyer, Saheel Zaman, also suggested Iris was behind the letter bombs during her testimony.
"No, that is not correct," she said, and has not been charged.
Amsel told court their marriage had been deteriorating for a few years when he initiated divorce proceedings in 2004.
"She was very upset," he testified. "She asked a few times if we could work it out, I said there was no point."
Amsel said he and Iris continued to work together at his autobody shop, even after buying her out, but came to believe she had stolen more than $3 million from him — an allegation Iris has denied.
"I started to look into the paperwork closely," then went to police, and was told to hire a lawyer, Amsel said.
Amsel claimed his business only started making money after Iris was no longer involved and his new wife was handling the bookkeeping.
"There is no possible way that a man [can be] working in a shop 16 hours a day, taking rent on tenants … and at the end of the day you have zero," Amsel said.
He hired one lawyer, then went on to another who was later granted permission from a judge to withdraw from the case.
Amsel admitted asking the lawyer whether Iris or Mitousis had "paid her off."
"Because of the way she was handling the disclosure … it was very questionable to me and it appeared to me that I should ask the question," Amsel said.
Iris Amsel has denied the allegations, and sued Guido for money she felt she was owed from the business they owned together.
The acrimony appeared to end at a pre-trial conference in March 2015. A memorandum from the meeting said Amsel agreed that he owed Iris $40,000 plus interest and dropped his lawsuit, agreeing to sell-off vehicles and equipment to get the money.
Amsel said that at the time the bombs were sent, he was putting his legal disputes behind him — including a battle over finances with his one-time wife — and was settling into a new life with his second wife and their two children.
"I had a wife, kids," he told court. "It was time to move on."
DNA on string, pouch
Amsel told court he has no experience putting together explosive materials and has never sent explosives to anyone. He also said handwriting found on the packages was not his.
Defence lawyers have suggested the string found outside Iris's home had been present for years and was dislodged by the explosion.
Amsel told court he had used string while hauling insulation into his garage rafters years earlier and left it when he was done. He had also used string to provide a straight line while planting trees around the yard, he said.
"I have no idea what happened to the string after that," he said.
Amsel provided a third explanation, suggesting the string had been left behind years earlier when he was spreading gravel on the driveway.
He said he had never seen the pouch that allegedly contained a digital recorder and explosive device.
Amsel also said he visited Mitousis's former law office in 2011 or 2012, when he would have left DNA on legal documents he was reviewing in connection with ongoing litigation with his ex-wife.
"When I flip pages, I lick my fingers," he said. "I do it with every page," he said. Amsel said he also sweats a lot and is in the habit of picking his nose, which could also explain why he leaves DNA behind him.
Amsel said DNA left on the court documents, which may or may not have been in Mitousis's office at the time of the explosion, could have been "innocently" transferred to the pouch.
"You would agree that would be an incredible coincidence," Vanderhooft said.
"It's unlucky, but it's very common that we spread our DNA," Amsel replied.
Amsel said he "felt very sorry" for Mitousis when he heard about the explosion that resulted in the loss of her hand.
"I don't have any personal feelings about her," he said. "She was the lawyer for my ex-wife and I respected her for that."
In a search of Amsel's home, police found two voice recorders in a safe. Amsel said he used them for a variety of purposes, such as recording a conversation with a lawyer or playing with his children.
"We had Christmas songs on them."
Besides the letter bomb that injured Mitousis, two others were found: one at Iris's workplace and the other at a law firm that had represented Amsel in a dispute with her.
With files from The Canadian Press