Accused terror suspect struggled with mental health, former friends say

VANCOUVER – Eight years ago, a young woman now suspected of plotting to bomb a Canada Day celebration in Victoria offered a glimpse into her own mental health.

“I hate having an anxiety disorder, I really do,” says a posting on a blog that a friend confirmed Amanda Korody kept for several months in 2005.

“And I was supposed to see the doctor last week, but I forgot, so I ran out of pills on the weekend and now I’m going to have to miss a whole day of school because of it.”

At the time, Korody was living in B.C., where she moved from her hometown of St. Catharines, Ont., several years earlier. She wrote about taking physics and biology classes, posing for some amateur modelling work, and in one entry she mused that she may be “a little agoraphobic.”

Korody now finds herself charged with conspiring along with her partner, John Nuttall, to attack the B.C. legislature, and two former friends are pointing to her mental health problems as they attempt to comprehend how the bright, artistic person they once knew could be suspected of planning a deadly terrorist attack.

Many details have emerged about the troubled background of Nuttall, 38, who has a criminal record for assaults and drug charges in Victoria, a history of drug addiction and a trail of Internet postings that included allusions to becoming a warrior in a jihad.

But Korody, who is about 30 years old, has largely remained a mystery, aside from her own history of drug addiction. Reporters who toured the couple’s apartment in Surrey, B.C., found prescription bottles of methadone — a treatment drug used to wean addicts off heroin — with Korody’s name on the labels.

Korody grew up in St. Catharines, Ont., and friends say she was adopted.

Whitney Harte, who became friends with Korody at St. Catharines Collegiate high school, said she remembers a smart teen who struggled to fit in and seemed to be searching for an identity.

“I found her to be a very intelligent and creative person, she was very creative in art and music,” said Harte.

“I don’t think she really knew who she was, because she tended to take on an identity and lifestyle of the people around her, especially her boyfriends.”

Harte said she was aware that Korody had an anxiety disorder. She said Korody took medication for the condition and saw a psychiatrist. Harte confirmed the 2005 blog that discussed an anxiety disorder belonged to Korody.

Korody also drank and regularly took recreational drugs, said Harte, which seemed to make her mental health deteriorate.

“I did think she had personal issues that she managed poorly,” said Harte.

“As I got to know her, I kind of thought she spiralled down. She often mixed her medication and alcohol. She partied a lot. She clearly had some substance-abuse problems.”

Korody moved to B.C. sometime around 2002, Harte and another friend confirmed.

Within a few years, the group of friends Korody hung out with in St. Catharines lost touch with her. Harte said she resurfaced several years ago on Facebook, with a profile photo that appeared to show her wearing a niqab — a type of veil that covers the face.

Harte said when she saw that, she assumed it was yet another example of Korody leaping headlong into a new identity.

“She kind of took things to the extreme, and it was just another thing that she did,” said Harte.

The couple’s landlord also said she saw Korody wearing a veil.

It appears Korody met Nuttall in Victoria. Nuttall’s lawyer said the last time he spoke with his client before this week was about five years ago, and Korody was with him at the time.

Jeffrey Rossetto said he met Korody in about 2000 or 2001 after he moved to St. Catharines from Toronto. Rossetto and Korody had several friends in common and he often saw her at the record store where she worked, he said.

Rossetto also noted that Korody struggled with mental illness, which he believes led her to sometimes make poor decisions and become entrenched with the wrong people. She often rejected attempts by her friends to help her, he said.

With that in mind, Rossetto said he believes Korody has been unfairly depicted in the media.

“I believe she’s a victim of circumstance,” said Rossetto.

“She wasn’t really making her decisions in life with a really good sense of personal judgment, so I think that’s part of the reason she moved away and that’s probably equally why she hooked up with John Nuttall.”

Rossetto said he still has positive memories of Korody, and he says his opinion of her hasn’t changed with the accusations levelled against her this week.

“I remember her quite fondly, and that’s how I’d like to picture her today. She was kind of shy but creative. She was a really nice person,” he said.

“I know that (the image of an alleged terrorist) is not the real her. She had gone through several changes to try to assume some type of identity. She was really looking for a place to belong in the world. She was looking for her meaning in life.”

Korody and Nuttall are each charged with knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity, making or possessing an explosive device and conspiracy to place an explosive device with the intent to cause death or injury.

They have not entered a plea and Nuttall’s lawyer has not said how the couple will respond to the allegations. The lawyer, Tom Morino, has urged the public not to jump to conclusions.

Nuttall and Korody are currently in custody, with a bail hearing scheduled for July 9.