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Previous assessment described Ottawa shooter as deeply troubled but not mentally ill

Michael Zehaf Bibeau

A few years before his armed attack on Parliament, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau walked into a McDonald's restaurant in Vancouver wielding a sharpened stick in a robbery attempt that he hoped would get him jail time.

After the McDonald's clerk refused to hand over any cash, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau - a devout Muslim battling crack cocaine addiction - walked calmly outside and sat on his backpack, waiting for the police to arrive.

When he appeared in British Columbia provincial court on Dec. 16, 2011, he explained that he wanted to get arrested so he could go to jail to make amends for a past crime and to clean up his drug addiction.

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In audio recordings, obtained by the media through an application Thursday, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau can be heard telling the court that he confessed to Burnaby RCMP that he'd committed a robbery in Quebec, ten years earlier, but they refused to arrest him saying they could find no record of the crime.

He then set out to commit another robbery just to get arrested.

"I'm a crack addict and at the same time I'm a religious person and I want to sacrifice freedom and good things for a year maybe so when I come out I'll appreciate things in life more and be clean, or maybe get a therapy, like a detox if you guys can send me to one," he says in a clear, steady voice.

The Crown recommended he be released, but Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau objected.

"Oh, I don't want to be released. The reason I'm here is because I want to come in. And the police officers couldn't keep me so I went to do a crime to come in jail. So if you guys release me what do you think's going to happen again?" he said.

The court held him in pretrial for 66 days. When he appeared for sentencing court was told Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau had gone into the McDonald's, with "a grin on his face," and had pointed a sharpened stick at Sukhman Singh Minhas, who was standing behind the cash register.

When Mr. Minhas refused to hand over any money and said he was calling the police, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau simply walked away and waited for police.

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A report to court by Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission described the accused man as a troubled person, but not one who was mentally ill.

"The accused is aware of his charge and possible consequences of conviction. He wants to be in jail as he believes this is the only way he can overcome his addiction to crack cocaine," the mental status report states.

"He has been a devoted Muslim for seven years and he believes he must spend time in jail as a sacrifice to pay for his mistakes in the past and he hopes to be a better man when he is eventually released," it states.

"I am unable to find any features or signs of mental illness and although he seems to be making an unusual choice [in seeking jail time] this is insufficient basis for a diagnosis of mental disorder," concluded the report.

Judge Ray Low also heard that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau came "from a really good family in Montreal" and that he had been supporting himself with construction work in B.C., although he was unemployed and living on the street at the time of the McDonald's crime.

"You are satisfied because of your dealings with him that he doesn't have any mental health issues that I need to be concerned about?" Judge Low asked.

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"No, no," he was assured by a lawyer, who isn't identified on the recording, but who appeared to be defense attorney Brian Anderson.

Court also heard from one of the lawyers that Mr. Zehaf Bibeau was suspected of having "an undiagnosed mood disorder, so something along the lines of bi-polar,"  although that observation was in dispute.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau, who pleaded guilty to uttering a threat, was sentenced to one day in jail with credit for time served.

On Thursday, in response to applications filed by several media outlets, Judge Low released the audio recording and psychiatric assessment.

In releasing the material Judge Low said Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau's 2011 case was an unusual one "and certainly one where the general public is very much interested in finding out as much as they can about the unfortunate incident of yesterday."

He said it was important to get the information out to the public.

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