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Police describe search of accused letter bomber's home, business





A police search of a floor-to-ceiling safe in the home of an accused bomber didn't reveal any explosives, court heard Wednesday.

Investigators found two voice recorders among paperwork and passports in the large bedroom safe in Guido Amsel's Pandora Avenue home and X-rayed them to make sure they weren't bombs, Winnipeg Police Service bomb unit officers testified.

A bomb believed to be concealed within a voice recorder caused an explosion July 3, 2015, at a River Avenue law office. Maria Mitousis, who had represented Amsel's ex-wife during the couple's divorce, lost her hand in the explosion.

The 51-year-old Amsel is on trial for five counts of attempted murder and several explosives-related charges linked to three bombs mailed to city addresses over the course of three days in July 2015. The packages were addressed to his ex-wife, his ex-wife's divorce lawyer and the law office of his own lawyer after the couple's bitter divorce proceedings.

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A police search of a floor-to-ceiling safe in the home of an accused bomber didn't reveal any explosives, court heard Wednesday.

Investigators found two voice recorders among paperwork and passports in the large bedroom safe in Guido Amsel's Pandora Avenue home and X-rayed them to make sure they weren't bombs, Winnipeg Police Service bomb unit officers testified.

SUPPLIED</p><p>Guido Amsel.</p>

SUPPLIED

Guido Amsel.

A bomb believed to be concealed within a voice recorder caused an explosion July 3, 2015, at a River Avenue law office. Maria Mitousis, who had represented Amsel's ex-wife during the couple's divorce, lost her hand in the explosion.

The 51-year-old Amsel is on trial for five counts of attempted murder and several explosives-related charges linked to three bombs mailed to city addresses over the course of three days in July 2015. The packages were addressed to his ex-wife, his ex-wife's divorce lawyer and the law office of his own lawyer after the couple's bitter divorce proceedings.

Amsel is also charged in connection with a December 2013 explosion at his ex-wife's home. He's pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and maintains his innocence.

Insp. Brian Miln, who was then part of the WPS bomb unit, testified he and others were called to help in the search of Amsel's home, to make sure officers didn't fall victim to any bombs or "booby traps" — of which they found none. He said after RCMP safe-opening specialists cracked open the container, the bomb unit X-rayed the two voice recorders inside and found they didn't contain explosives.

Police also focused attention on a decommissioned hot water tank in Amsel's basement that looked like it had a piece cut out of it.

Sgt. Ari Berdesis, who was then-co-ordinator of the WPS bomb unit, said the tank caught his attention because of the copper fragments police had found at the explosion sites. They wanted to know if the hot water tank could have been the source of the copper that was used in the explosive packages, he said.

"The inside of the tank, I believe, was copper. That's what was striking me as somewhat interesting," he said during direct examination questioning from Crown attorney Chris Vanderhooft.

Under cross-examination from Amsel's defence lawyer, Saheel Zaman, Berdesis acknowledged, however, he hadn't made any notes about his thought the missing piece of metal from the tank could compare to copper police had already seized. He testified he recalled the outside of the tank appeared to be made of steel.

"I don't recall if I looked inside," he said.

Police also executed a search warrant at Amsel's auto garage on Springfield Road. Berdesis testified they found a 45-gallon drum at the back of the Springfield Road property that appeared to be a burn barrel.

He said it looked like there was insulation inside and thought it might be related to the insulation of the hot water tank found in the basement of Amsel's home, but "it was just burnt, everything was burnt."

He didn't seize anything from the Springfield Road address, Berdesis said. Officers swabbed a laptop and a Samsung device to check for explosives, but didn't find any. Nor did they find a letter punch set on Amsel's property, despite looking for one that matched the stamped-copper messages that were pieced together at two of the three explosion scenes from July 2015.

A letter punch set found in the home of another potential suspect was dismissed by police because it didn't match the font of the message fragments they'd found, three different police officers have now testified, as Amsel's defence team continues to raise questions about police handling of evidence and the possibility of evidence contamination.

Miln and Berdesis both testified Wednesday they followed protocols and took precautions to avoid any contamination. Zaman questioned them at length about whether they wore latex or nitrile gloves during various stages of their investigation. In the "post-blast" protocol he circulated to officers involved with the law office explosion investigation, Miln had included a note that read latex gloves should be preferred because nitrile gloves were more porous.

Neither officer could remember specifically what type of gloves they had used at various locations in the investigation, but they described using a double-glove procedure that involved regularly changing outer gloves each time they handled a new category of evidence.

The trial is set to wrap up in December, with more testimony from police investigators scheduled to be heard in court later this week.

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Read more by Katie May.


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