Alek Minassian Would Tell His Victims He Was Lonely and Angry at Society, Court Hears

Alek Minassian Would Tell His Victims He Was Lonely and Angry at Society, Court Hears
Crown attorney Joe Callaghan, clockwise from top (L), Justice Anne Molloy, accused in the April 2018 Toronto van attack Alex 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 killed 10 people while driving a van on a Toronto sidewalk says he would tell his victims he committed the attack because he was lonely and angry at society.

A psychiatrist says Alek Minassian told him if he were to try to explain his actions to one of his victims, he’d say he was isolated and bitter.

But Dr. Alexander Westphal says the 28-year-old Minassian was just saying what he thought victims would want to hear and does not understand the effects of his actions.

Westphal, the defence’s star witness at Minassian’s trial, has said the man lacks empathy and does not understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people.

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

His state of mind at the time of the attack is the sole issue at trial.

Westphal has stopped short of saying Minassian should be found not criminally responsible, saying that is a legal matter not a psychiatric one.

The prosecution played a video Monday where Westphal asks what Minassian might say to one of his victims who survived the 2018 attack.

“The proper thing might be to apologize, but if I do that, I might have a very hostile reaction, and them saying ’it is not sincere,’” Minassian says in his orange jumpsuit in an interview room at the Toronto South Detention Centre.

“I don’t know what to say to them.”

Westphal then asked Minassian to explain his actions.

“I’d probably say I was feeling very isolated and bitter at society and I decided to take out my anger on random people,” Minassian says.

“I’d probably tell them I never had many friends, people were leaving me out, I felt like I was being shortchanged in life, it wasn’t any fun.”

Crown attorney Joe Callaghan said that showed Minassian’s ability to view the perspective of the victim.

Westphal, as he has much of the past several days of cross-examination, disagreed with Callaghan.

The psychiatrist maintains that Minassian does not truly understand what he did was wrong due to his autism spectrum disorder.

“There’s no evidence he was an unhappy person who felt marginalized other than his use of it as an explanation to a victim,” Westphal said.

“I think he’s putting things in terms of what he thinks people are expecting to hear.”

In his report, Westphal concluded Minassian was not psychotic at the time, but had “an autistic way of thinking that was severely distorted in a way similar to psychosis.

Court also heard Monday that Minassian had thought about abandoning the attack right up until the moment he stopped at a red light across the street from his first group of victims.

Minassian told Westphal he used the so-called “incel-ideology—referring to men who are involuntarily celibate and angry at society because they cannot have sex with women—as a way to ”rev” himself up for the attack.

He said he thought about incel ideology as a way of “forcing myself into the mindset ... so that I don’t chicken out at the last minute.”

“I was trying to push out all thoughts of trying to talk myself out of it.”

Westphal testified that Minassian has not shown any anger towards women and does not believe the incel ideology is part of the reason Minassian committed the attack

By Liam Casey