In a messy and foul-smelling basement apartment on Scott Road in Surrey, B.C., a methadone pill bottle lies empty on a kitchen counter beside a pamphlet entitled “Islamic Laws Regarding Purity For Women.”
It is a glimpse into the life of a Canadian couple accused of plotting mass violence. John Nuttall, a rock guitarist in his late 30s, and Amanda Korody, a former convenience store worker in her late 20s, will not likely return home any time soon.
Just last week, the pair asked their landlord for a break on the $650 monthly rent for their apartment by the railway tracks. On Monday, they were jailed, accused by counter-terrorism detectives of an “al-Qaeda-inspired” plot to explode pressure cookers full of rusty nails into the throngs gathered for Canada Day celebrations at the B.C. Legislature.
Friends of Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody say they cannot reconcile the allegations with the accused. While the couple has long been seen as anti-establishment thrill-seekers, they always seemed more immersed in heavy-metal rock-and-roll – even after they began identifying themselves as Muslims a few years ago.
In the past six months, friends and neighbours say, they started playing religious lectures at high volume on their television and grew exercised about the continuing presence of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.
Mr. Nuttall “said Canadian army and military should not be over there, he was totally dead against it,” neighbourhood friend Ashley Volpatti said in an interview. “He thought Canadians shouldn’t be on Muslim soil.”
As for Ms. Korody, who went by the name “Anna” and wore Islamic veils in public, she “would go along with whatever Johnny would do,” said Katrina Mandrake-Johnston, who used to work with Ms. Korody at the neighbourhood Scott Hill Convenience Store. She added that Mr. Nuttall “liked to talk big.”
Police who have charged the couple with three terrorism offences each have released pictures of pressure-cooker bombs, yet said nothing about the motivations and evidence behind their construction. Mounties say they were watching things so closely over the past six months that no one was ever at risk.
In general, federal counter-terrorism authorities say radicalization is very rare and highly “idiosyncratic.” A 2011 government study called “The Making of Islamist Extremists in Canada Today” points out that most of Canada’s criminal terrorists have been citizens rather than people reared in Islamic countries.
Mr. Nuttall, a hard-partying guitarist, found himself begging for money on the streets of Victoria a decade ago. “He always was on a downward spiral,” said Stefano Pasta, a former bandmate.
Over the past 15 years, records show, Mr. Nuttall amassed a long rap sheet for petty crime. He was sentenced for assaults he committed while wrestling with drug addictions.
The six methadone bottles in the couple’s Scott Road apartment on Wednesday did not belong to him. A doctor prescribed them to Ms. Korody, who reportedly lost touch with her family in Ontario after she moved to the West Coast years ago.
The couple’s landlord let reporters for The Globe and Mail and other media outlets into the apartment. The two-bedroom basement unit is squalid, smells of used kitty litter, with garbage bags and clothes strewn about.
The books included George Orwell’s Animal Farm and The Bible. There were Aerosmith, Nine Inch Nails and Jethro Tull albums. On the wall hung a script for the fundamental Islamic shahada, or creed, which states “there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.”
Only a few years ago, Mr. Nuttall preferred donnybrooks in bars to reading Islamic literature about female purity. He used to be prone to fighting at a strip club called Monty’s, according to a former Victoria bandmate.
“Knuckleheads, UFC-watchers and beefy guys – he did not like them,” Jayme Black recalled. “He would pick a fight with them at the drop of the dime.”
Yet nothing in Mr. Nuttall’s past indicates violence on a larger scale. “He didn’t seem like he could put together a guitar riff – let alone a bomb,” Mr. Black said.