SURREY, British Columbia (Reuters) - One of the suspects in a Canadian bomb plot is a former drug user with a history of violence, a self-styled “Muslim Punk” who also wrote songs about his love for Satan.
Descriptions of John Nuttall by four people who knew him, combined with court records and his own postings online, portray a sometimes troubled man on the margins of society.
Police have charged Nuttall and companion Amanda Korody with trying to set off three home-made pressure cooker bombs in a crowd celebrating the July 1 Canada Day holiday in Victoria, the capital of the Pacific province of British Columbia.
Police said the pair drew inspiration from al Qaeda and described them as self-radicalized. Officials told reporters on Tuesday the authorities had always been in control of the situation and had made sure the devices could not explode.
Police did not give more details and would not say whether they had infiltrated the cell.
Tom Morino, the couple’s lawyer, told Reuters he had spoken to both clients on Monday. He said he had known Nuttall for 10 years and always found him to be “a pleasant, polite, thoughtful, generous individual”, albeit one with problems.
“(He had) some emotional issues, some addiction issues ... It is on the public record he had an addiction to illicit drugs for a while and struggled with that,” Morino said.
Nuttall, born in 1974, and Korody, born in 1983, will remain in jail until their next court hearing on July 9. Morino said the two were in a relationship.
In March 2003, the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper said Nuttall had been given a conditional 18-month jail sentence in 2003 for hitting a businessman on the head with a rock in May 2002 and stealing his briefcase. Morino told the court his client had been high on cocaine at the time, the paper said.
British Columbia court records posted online show only that Nuttall was convicted of robbery in relation to an offence committed in May 2002. They also show convictions for mischief and assault after an incident in 2001.
More recently, Nuttall was convicted twice for offences committed in 2009, one for assault and one for possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
Morino, who the paper said had acted for Nuttall in 2003, declined to confirm details about any of the cases.
At the time of their arrest, Nuttall and Korody were living in a dirty basement apartment in the town of Surrey, some 31 km (18 miles) southeast of Vancouver.
When Reuters saw the apartment on Wednesday after a police search, there were five empty prescription bottles labeled methadone in the kitchen. All were in Korody’s name.
Garbage bags stuffed with dirty clothes lay in one room. Pinned to a notice board was a leaflet about a 2011 conference to celebrate the birth and life of the Prophet Mohammad as well as an advertisement from a Vancouver store that sells surplus military clothing and equipment.
Landlord Ramesh Thaman said the couple had moved in three years previously and “looked like nice people”, albeit somewhat messy ones.
“I was totally shocked,” he told Reuters, speaking of the arrests.
Neighbor Charlene Thompson said she had called police earlier this year after hearing Nuttall having a loud conversation outside on his mobile phone.
“He was ... talking about jihad and all sorts of things,” she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
In online postings, Nuttall identified himself as Johnny Blade, “a Muslim Punk from Victoria” who belonged to a band called No World Order which had moved to Vancouver.
“We are new to Vancouver (sic) and looking to meet anyone else into Allah and hardcore punk,” he wrote in August 2011.
On his website, Nuttall posted four poorly-recorded solo songs with titles like “The End Of The World” and “In League With Satan”. An extract of lyrics from the latter song read:
“We are possesed (sic) by all that is evil/The death of your god we demand/We spit at the virgin you worship/And sit at Lord Satans (sic) Left Hand”.
Nuttall also played for a month with the British Columbia-based hard rock band Lust Boys in 2009, lead singer Tommy Thrust told Reuters.
“I’ve never known him to even believe in religion. As far as I knew he was an atheist,” he said, describing Nuttall as stubborn and opinionated. “He briefly spoke about politics here and there but he wasn’t really that well-educated.”
Thrust said Nuttall had left the band on good terms and said members would see him in Vancouver occasionally.
“He didn’t really say a lot when we saw him because he was always drunk. He just wanted to party, basically,” he said.
The Lust Boys issued a statement on Wednesday disassociating themselves from their former band mate.
“The actions played out by John Nuttall were one of an individuals (sic) radical thinking and poor decision making and should have no reflection on the LUST BOYS as a whole,” it said.
Writing by David Ljunggren; With additional reporting by Peter N. Henderson in Toronto; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, Martin Howell and Tim Dobbyn