Man accused in Toronto ‘incel’ van attack pleads not criminally responsible

TORONTO (AFP) – A Canadian man inspired by the misogynist “incel” movement to kill 10 people by ploughing a van into pedestrians in Toronto pleaded “not criminally responsible” due to mental illness at the start of his trial on Tuesday.

Alek Minassian faces 10 charges of premeditated murder and 16 of attempted murder following the April 2018 attack that left dead eight women and two men, aged 22 to 94, and others badly injured in Canada’s largest city.

“I’m entering a plea of not criminally responsible on all counts,” he told the Ontario Superior Court.

The 28-year-old, wearing a shirt and suit jacket, appeared via videolink from prison where he has been held since his arrest on the day of the rampage.

The trial is being held by videoconference because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Cathy Riddell, 67, who was struck from behind in the attack and thrown 4.5 metres, earlier told reporters she was “feeling nervous but optimistic” as she entered the courthouse for the trial.

She has said she didn’t hear the van coming as it mounted a curb, nor does she remember being struck.

Victims’ families lamented that Minassian would not see them on the videolink, unlike in traditional trials in which they may face the accused.

“I want him to see the pain in their faces as they sit there in the courtroom watching him,” Elwood Delaney, whose grandmother died in the attack, told public broadcaster CBC.

But, he added, “We don’t get to see him go through that.”

The trial is expected to last about four weeks and will be heard by a judge, with no jury.

Since he has already admitted to planning and carrying out the carnage, the trial will focus on Minassian’s state of mind and criminal responsibility at the time of the attack, not whether he was the perpetrator.