Christopher Phillips's cottage was packed with chemicals, police say

Nova Scotia RCMP found unlabelled chemicals packed floor to ceiling in a cottage linked to Christopher Phillips, who made his first court appearance today on two charges: possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and uttering threats.

Halifax-area man accused of uttering threats, possessing weapon for a dangerous purpose

A hazardous materials team removes items from a cottage linked to Christopher Phillips Friday afternoon. Phillips is being held in custody until his next court appearance, scheduled for Thursday. (Molly Segal/CBC)

Nova Scotia RCMP found unlabelled chemicals packed floor to ceiling in a cottage linked to Christopher Phillips, who made his first court appearance today on two charges — possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and uttering threats.

A hazardous materials team and RCMP officers have been removing items from the Grand Desert cottage since Tuesday. Homes around the property were subject to an evacuation order, which remains in place.

An internal RCMP memo called Phillips a biochemical weapons specialist.

During his first court appearance Friday afternoon, the Crown said it was seeking a mental-health assessment of Phillips, but the defence wanted time to respond. 

Police have said the dangerous weapon charge against Phillips relates to the chemical osmium tetroxide and the threatening charge was for comments made about law enforcement officials.

Phillips is scheduled to return to court next Thursday, and until then will remain in police custody.

Chief Supt. Roland Wells said Friday afternoon that Health Canada chemists are also at the cottage in Grand Desert, a small community east of Halifax. He said the dozens of types of chemicals pose an extreme fire risk.

"Within the cottage is a variety of containers, filled with chemicals, stacked from floor to ceiling. Many of these chemicals are unstable, so we must use extreme caution and care to safely examine this extremely complex scene," said Wells.

He said a shed at the cottage was also full of chemicals, although those remain in their original packages. Wells said police are trying to determine how the chemicals were acquired, if they are legal, and what Phillips planned to do with them.

In a scrum after the court proceedings Friday, Crown prosecutor Perry Borden speculated about Phillips's intentions for the chemicals.

"There's also innuendo within the file that he's also looking at extracting metals from substances. So I presume, without being a scientist myself, that the chemicals could be used for extracting precious metals, but I'm just speculating on that," he said.

Dave Croft, who lives near the cottage, said Phillips struck him as odd.

"He said that he was using it for storage," he said. "It seemed odd because most Americans that come up here come up here for the view, and to use cottages for what cottages are used for, right? And they’re really nice, but this guy wasn't so nice."

Wells said investigators have never come across a scene like this.

"I don't think any of us have ever seen this volume of chemicals or chemicals in this state. It's very volatile, appearing to be degrading in some respects," he said.

Phillips, 42, a former U.S. resident, arrived in Dartmouth provincial court shortly after 7 a.m. AT Friday. 

He was arrested in Ottawa on Wednesday on suspicion of carrying two dangerous chemicals from Nova Scotia to Ottawa. A Canada-wide warrant had been issued for him by Nova Scotia RCMP. Phillips was returned to Halifax on Thursday aboard an RCMP plane. 

Police had been tipped off by Phillips's wife that he was on his way to the capital. A search by Ottawa police did not turn up any chemicals in his hotel room or vehicle.

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With files from The Canadian Press

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