POLITICS

RCMP officer testifies in case of man accused of having chemical stockpile

06/01/2015 07:29 EDT | Updated 06/01/2016 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - An RCMP officer says she issued an international warning about a Nova Scotia man believed to have a large stockpile of chemicals after she reviewed emails Christopher Phillips wrote that described his "illegal thoughts" and plans for a toxic chemical he referred to as a "billionaire's weapon of terror."

Sgt. Lisa Stuart, testifying on the first day of Phillips trial, said Monday the accused was considered a threat to public safety after his wife complained to police about his deteriorating mental state and emails he had written to her about his purchase of a poisonous substance known as osmium tetroxide.

The woman's complaint in January prompted a search for Phillips and evacuations in two Halifax-area communities where chemicals were found, including what a police hazardous devices technician described as 750 bottles and other containers.

Phillips was arrested in an Ottawa hotel on Jan. 21 after it was evacuated by police, but Stuart confirmed that he didn't have any chemicals when he was apprehended.

He has pleaded not guilty to threatening police officers and possessing a weapon — osmium tetroxide — for a dangerous purpose.

Stuart read from several long, rambling emails from Phillips, saying it was clear from the messages that he was suffering from a "diminished mental capacity."

One of the emails described how Phillips wanted to construct a special display box for a vial of osmium tetroxide, which he planned to give to a friend for Christmas. Phillips described how the box could be used as a weapon.

"Throw entire box at any police officer that has decided to take up residence on your property. While still holding your breath, run like hell," said the email.

However, Phillips prefaced those instructions with the statement that he had no intention of acting on his suggestion - an assertion he repeated throughout the message.

"I would never harm an ... animal, a plant or even a police officer with something as terribly toxic as osmium tetroxide."

In other emails, Phillips muses about his plans to build a device to enrich uranium and then seek a patent for the device in Iraq, Pakistan or Syria.

The emails describe how Phillips is convinced he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, though they don't speculate about the cause. He also admits to being paranoid at times and describes himself as a "fragile little boy" who sometimes must "battle with inner demons."

In response, Phillips' wife Gosia wrote in an email to Phillips: "We are very fearful that you are capable of doing something dangerous in your state of mind." She encourages him to seek help from a mental-health professional.

Stuart testified that neighbourhoods in Halifax and Grand Desert, N.S., were evacuated after police found osmium tetroxide at two locations and a large collection of chemicals inside a shed in Grand Desert.

Later, court heard that police had found osmium tetroxide at only one location in the Halifax area.

Under cross-examination, Stuart told defence lawyer Mike Taylor that her decision to warn other police officers that Phillips was a "bio-chemical weapons specialist" was based on an assumption she made about his previous work in a U.S. military lab.

Stuart testified that she had written in a report that some of the chemicals Phillips owned were sweating and in a crystallized form, leaving them "unstable."

However, Stuart also confirmed in court that Phillips had legally obtained the osmium tetroxide and that none of the other chemicals were stored improperly.

In all, Phillips had 230 millilitres of osmium tetroxide in liquid form and another 31 grams in a crystallized form, well under the limit for legal possession.

The trial continues Tuesday.

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