The trial of accused bomber Guido Amsel began Tuesday with graphic testimony from the first police officer to arrive at the scene of an explosion that seriously injured Winnipeg lawyer Maria Mitousis.
Const. Paul Barker told court he was on patrol the morning of July 3, 2015 when he received a report of a "bomb event" at a law office at 252 River Avenue.
The front window of the building was blown out and a woman at the entrance was "waving frantically to get my attention," he said.
"I would compare it to an empty glove. The skin was still there but the flesh and bones were gone." - Const. Paul Barker
Inside, Barker found Mitousis on the floor, leaning against the door of her office, her hands covering her abdomen.
"There was a considerable amount of blood," Barker said, noting Mitousis had a serious injury to her throat.
Barker called for an ambulance and ordered everyone out of the building except for one of Mitousis' co-workers, whom he asked to stay with her while he ran to his cruiser for a first aid kit.
Barker said Mitousis complained her left hand was "stinging" so he lifted it to take a look. He was shocked but kept his reaction hidden from her.
"I would compare it to an empty glove. The skin was still there but the flesh and bones were gone," he said.
"She really wasn't aware of the extent of her injury yet and I wanted to maintain that."
Barker applied gauze and pressure to Mitousis's wounds until paramedics arrived minutes later. He and a paramedic then helped walk Mitousis to an ambulance.
Mitousis, 40, eventually lost her right hand in the blast but doctors were able to save her left.
2 other bombs safely detonated
Amsel, 51, was arrested in July 2015 after packages containing bombs were mailed to his ex-wife and two law firms. Two of the bombs were safely detonated but a third went off in Mitousis' hand.
He is charged with five counts of attempted murder and several explosives-related offences.
Amsel, seated in the prisoner's box Tuesday wearing a blue suit jacket and red tie, listened to the proceedings on headphones.
An identification unit officer testified at length about the various exhibits he photographed and removed from the three crime scenes.
Crown attorney Chris Vanderhooft questioned Const. Brian Neumann several times about the steps he and other officers took to avoid contaminating the crime scenes.
Neumann said identification officers wore protective garb, gloves and booties, rolled kraft paper on the floor to avoid tracking evidence from one area to another, and assigned areas as "hot zones" or "cold zones" where officers had to change their footwear.
'A lot of things were pulverized or sent into a very small state.' - Const. Brian Neumann, Winnipeg Police
Neumann said care was taken not to move any items at the crime scenes until they had been photographed and documented.
"I was the only officer to enter at this time," Neumann said when questioned about photos taken in Mitousis's office after the explosion. "Nothing has been removed by the forensic or post-blast investigation."
The explosion created "thousands of potential exhibitory items," Neumann said.
"A lot of things were pulverized or sent into a very small state," he said. "We had to make the choice to choose the most probative items ... Unfortunately, we don't know what was in the room initially ... but we collected everything we believed to be related to this incident."
A letter delivered with the explosive device was reconstructed by police to read in part:"Hi Maria, push enter to start. Listen to the conversation and phone me. Will help your defence."
Ion scan identifies "important" evidence
Neumann said police became aware during the course of the investigation that an ion scan of a pouch and bubble wrap envelope found on Mitousis's desk tested presumptive positive for a "clandestine" explosive called TATP.
"It became an important part of the investigation," Neumann said.
On July 4, a second bomb wrapped in plastic bubble packaging and addressed to Amsel's ex-wife, was delivered to an auto refinishing shop on Washington Avenue.
A photo looking down at the location where the bomb was safely detonated showed pieces of wire, copper and batteries, "possibly a switch from an improvised explosive device," Neumann said.
Neumann said police were still completing an examination of Amsel's business property July 5, when they received a report of a third "suspicious package."
A bomb sent to a law office at 280 Stradbrook was connected to an electronic greeting card, Neumann said. The RCMP bomb unit detonated the bomb in a sandbag bunker outside the law office.
Last month, Judge Tracy Lord rejected a defence motion to toss out a DNA warrant that helped secure Amsel's arrest.
He is also facing charges in connection with a December 2013 explosion at his ex-wife's home in the Rural Municipality of St. Clements. No one was injured in that incident.
The Amsels built the home together in the '90s and Iris, who owned the property, continued to live there following their divorce.
Court documents suggest Amsel and his ex-wife went through a bitter, drawn out divorce that included allegations of theft and impersonation.
According to documents, the couple married in Germany in November 1988, separated in January 2003 and divorced in August 2004.
They owned a numbered company involved in automotive repair. The couple initially split shares in the company — Amsel later bought out his ex-wife — and Amsel was ordered to pay $500 a month in child support. That payment was later changed to $583 a month starting in November 2013.
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- Guido Amsel went through bitter, lengthy divorce, court records show
In a 2010 affidavit, Amsel accused his ex-wife of moving $3 million from the company into a secret bank account prior to their divorce being finalized. Amsel alleged that the company struggled financially until they separated, then started to make money.
Following his arrest, Amsel had trouble securing a local lawyer to defend him. Later, he unsuccessfully argued that an out-of-province judge should be brought in to hear his bail review.
Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal ruled there must be "serious and compelling grounds" to assign a judge from outside Manitoba, and the accused must prove "institutional bias" to disqualify an entire court.
Amsel's alleged victim, Maria Mitousis, was not in court today. She is expected to testify later in the trial.