Alek Minassian Says He Had a ‘Strong Desire’ to Commit Van Attack, Court Hears

Alek Minassian Says He Had a ‘Strong Desire’ to Commit Van Attack, Court Hears
Crown attorney Joe Callaghan, clockwise from top left, Justice Anne Molloy, accused in the April 2018 Toronto van attack Alek Minsassian and Dr. Alexander Westphal are shown during a murder trial conducted via Zoom videoconference, in this courtroom sketch on Nov. 30, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Alexandra Newbould)
The Canadian Press

TORONTO—The man who drove a van down a crowded Toronto sidewalk and killed 10 people told a psychiatrist he had a strong desire to commit the attack.

The trial of Alek Minassian has heard he told the psychiatrist that while he did not feel compelled to carry out the attack, he simply wanted to.

His explanation came in an audio recording of a conversation he had with Dr. Alexander Westphal, who is testifying for the defence.

Minassian’s lawyer had said Westphal would be the only expert to say the 28-year-old should be found not criminally responsible for his actions, but the psychiatrist has stopped of making that conclusion.

Westphal says Minassian does not truly understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people but says criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one.

Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder. He argues he should be found not criminally responsible due to autism spectrum disorder.

His state of mind is the sole issue at trial after he admitted to planning and carrying out the attack.

In the audio recording of Minassian’s conversation with Westphal, court heard his discuss motivation for the attack.

“I felt a strong desire to want to especially as the time ... approached, but I didn’t feel compelled to do it, I didn’t really feel I had to do it,” Minassian said.

Crown attorney Joe Callaghan said those words seemed at odds with a report by Westphal that said Minassian felt he “had to go through with it” after making the decision to go forward with his plan.

Under questioning from the Crown, Westphal said Minassian was not compelled to commit the attack.

The Crown repeatedly asked why that was not in the report, a question Westphal seemed confused by.

“You only included facts that fit your narrative, you’re not interested in an objective view,” Callaghan said, his voice raised.

“I think I accurately captured that aspect I don’t think he was compelled to do it,” Westphal said.

This is Westphal’s fourth straight day testifying at trial.

By Liam Casey