‘I knew I was bleeding:’ Lawyer who lost hand in letter-bomb blast testifies

WINNIPEG — A lawyer whose hand was blown apart by a letter bomb recalled the few seconds when she hesitated before opening the strange package that had landed on her desk.

Maria Mitousis told an attempted murder trial in Winnipeg that she arrived at work on July 3, 2015 and found a puffy envelope on her desk addressed to her.

The return address was a law firm where she previously worked.

Inside was a voice recorder and a note.

“It said that it would help me with my case and that I should press play,” she testified Wednesday.

Mitousis thought the package was “weird” and started walking toward the office of the law firm’s managing partner.

“But then I thought, ‘No, that’s silly’ … and I read the note again.”

She went back in her office, stood by the window, and pressed the play button. A loud bang followed, then shock and confusion.

“I remember feeling off balance … dizzy. I remember feeling pain in my stomach and burning,” she said. “I could feel that I had pieces of metal, pieces of plastic — sharp pieces — in my mouth.

“I knew I was bleeding from my neck.”

Guido Amsel, the ex-husband of one of Mitousis’s clients, is facing attempted murder charges related to the explosion. Amsel is also accused of sending bombs to his ex-wife and a lawyer at another firm who had represented him. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

A colleague has already testified that Mitousis walked to her office doorway and slumped down on the floor while an ambulance was called.

In the hours that followed, Mitousis’s right hand was amputated. She underwent extensive surgery to repair her left arm, an ear and other areas.

“I woke up and discovered that my right arm was completely wrapped and I didn’t have a hand anymore.”

Mitousis testified she is still in pain more than two years later.

“My right arm is in a constant state of some kind of pain — throbbing, burning.”

Mitousis sat turned toward the Crown for most of her testimony Wednesday. She made eye contact with Amsel, who was on the other side of the room, when asked to identify him.

Police found two other bombs in the days following the explosion and disposed of them safely. One was at the workplace of Amsel’s ex-wife. The other was at the office of a lawyer that had represented Amsel in a lawsuit filed by his ex-wife.

The couple had been in a bitter divorce battle that dragged on for years, along with a lawsuit over an autobody shop they co-owned.

The acrimony appeared to end in the weeks leading up to the explosion. Court documents show Amsel agreed to pay his ex-wife $40,000 and sell equipment from the autobody business. The auction was slated for eight days after the explosion.

Amsel’s lawyer, Saheel Zaman, asked Mitousis under cross-examination whether Amsel had been polite during their email exchanges and face-to-face meetings.

“The correspondence between you and Mr. Amsel was always cordial?” Zaman asked.

“Correct,” Mitousis replied.

Winnipeg letter bomb

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