One suspect is a musician with a history of methadone use, who converted to Islam a few years ago. The other is his lover, 10 years his junior.
Together, John Stewart Nuttall and Amanda Marie Korody of Surrey, B.C., near Vancouver, are accused of allegedly plotting to explode pressure-cooker bombs on the grounds of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, while thousands were celebrating Canada Day.
After a five-month investigation, the RCMP arrested them both on July 1, and have laid charges against Mr. Nuttall, in his late 30s, and Ms. Korody, in her late 20s. The pair are both charged with knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and making or having in their possession an explosive substance. They made a brief appearance in court Tuesday and the case was put over until July 9.
The RCMP revealed few details about what may have motivated the alleged plot, only saying they believe the two accused were "inspired by al-Qaeda ideology" but were "self-radicalized" without support from abroad. What is known is that the police have been monitoring Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody for some time (the investigation was launched after a tip from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the country's spy agency) and that law-enforcement officials say they intervened at some earlier point to ensure the bombs could not have exploded and hurt people.
Police allege the accused took steps to build the explosive devices and place them at the legislature in Victoria, where thousands gather each Canada Day to celebrate the country's birthday. Evidence displayed by the Mounties showed pressure-cookers filled with rusted nails and a collection of metal nuts and washers.
But the RCMP insisted the public was never in any danger, saying "these devices were completely under our control, they were inert and at no time represented a threat to public safety," assistant RCMP commissioner Wayne Rideout said. Police said they ultimately seized the pressure-cooker devices outside the legislature on July 1 but the Mounties provided scant detail on how this happened.
The devices the two are accused of plotting to use are the same as the type employed in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings this past April, but the RCMP ruled out any link to the bombings.
Thomas Morino, a Victoria criminal defence lawyer familiar with both of the accused, described Mr. Nuttall as a beanpole of a man, over six feet and about 150 pounds, who has tried to make a living as a rock musician yet who "from time to time" ended up before the courts despite his best intentions.
One of the occasions was in 2002, when Mr. Nuttall used a rock to strike a businessman on the head during a robbery, according to the Victoria Times Colonist in 2003.
At that time, Mr. Morino successfully persuaded a court to sentence his client to 18 months of house arrest, after arguing that Mr. Nuttall had been on cocaine at the time of the crime but had subsequently used methadone to wean himself off of illicit drugs.
RCMP said the accused considered a range of different sites and attack methods.
"The suspects were committed to acts of violence and discussed a wide variety of targets and techniques," Mr. Rideout said.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark, in a public statement outside the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday, said it was "profoundly shocking" to think that the accused had hoped to harm "thousands of people who were gathered here on Canada Day with their families and their children."
Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the July 1 arrests demonstrate that "terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada."
Mr. Toews's office said the minister was informed on the morning of July 1 that the RCMP was planning to arrest the pair.
On Tuesday, Mr. Morino said that he last saw Mr. Nuttall "a number of years ago," when his client had recently converted to Islam. He added that Mr. Nuttall was mostly self-taught and not affiliated with any particular sect or mosque.
Mr. Morino said the allegations don't jibe with the man he has known. "He loves music. He was always a compassionate, kind, caring person."
As for Ms. Korody, he said she was with Mr. Nuttall the last time he saw him about five years ago. He was less sure about Ms. Korody's beliefs but said Mr. Nuttall "considers her his wife."
Mr. Morino spoke to the couple by phone after they were arrested and held at the RCMP Surrey detachment on Monday night. He said he has not yet seen them, nor the evidence against them, since their arrest.
With a report from Andrea Woo in Vancouver