A Toronto man who approached a woman on a sidewalk and killed her with a hammer last year pleaded guilty on Thursday to murder and terrorism, admitting he did it for the so-called Islamic State.
In an agreed statement of facts, Saad Akhtar said he left his home at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, 2020 carrying two notes pledging allegiance to ISIS and intending to kill as many people as possible.
The 32-year-old said he approached a random victim, Annie Hang-Kam Chiu, punched her to the ground and used a steel hammer he had bought at Canadian Tire to smash her skull as she lay on her back.
He then placed a note next to her that read: “Islamic State Baquiya,” an ISIS slogan. The second note, found later in his backpack, read: “This is for the Islamic State, & all the crimes against Muslims. God is great!”
Akhtar was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.
The case marks Canada’s first conviction for the crime of “murder, terrorist activity,” the Public Prosecution Service of Canada said.
Crown prosecutors have filed the same charge against a youth accused of an Incel-related attack in Toronto, and the suspect in the vehicle attack that targeted a Muslim family in London, Ont.
Hang-Kam Chiu, 64, worked at a rice pasta factory. Every morning, she stopped at a Tim Horton’s near her home for coffee and to help seniors with their English.
Akhtar said he had been planning a killing since 2019, but after murdering Hang-Kam Chiu, he decided to turn himself in.
He walked into Toronto Police 22 Division at 9:50 p.m. that night.
He was covered in blood and carrying a bag. He told officers he had just killed a woman and was arrested, according to the agreed facts filed in the Ontario court.
The police station was evacuated when police found what they thought was a bomb in his bag, but it turned out to be aerosol cans bound together, which he had intended to set alight if he was caught.
Police found the hammer at a bus shelter.
On his laptop, police found searches for details of a Feb. 2, 2020 terrorist attack in London, England, as well as lectures by Al Qaeda propagandist Anwar Al-Awlaki.
During a two-and-a-half hour interview at Toronto Police 41 Division, Akhtar said he chose his victim because she was “alone, not strong and was the appropriate height to be attacked with a hammer.”
He told police he was born in Pakistan, single and lived with his parents. He said he had attended Ryerson University and was an “IT person, more or less.”
“My motivation was a terrorist attack,” he said, according to a transcript of the videotaped interview.
“I guess I was just browsing online and I came across some, um, stuff, which, which kind of pushed me in the direction of, you know, these type of things.”
He said he left the note beside the body, “Just so you guys know it was terrorism.”
Akhtar told police he was “supportive of this idea of Islamic State” and had heard about other ISIS supporters conducting attacks in the West.
“So I’m like, hey, maybe I can do that,” he said.
Following the interview, he asked for a blanket and water.
The prosecution service said he had acted alone.
“Apart from the ISIS propaganda that inspired him to act, there is no evidence that he was aided or abetted by anyone in the commission of this offence.”