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What happened to… Toronto van attack, part two

Police are seen near a damaged van in Toronto after a van mounted a sidewalk crashing into a number of pedestrians on Monday, April 23, 2018. The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed a request to keep some information barred from public view in the Toronto van attack case.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim. AVE

On part two of the Global News podcast What happened to…? Erica Vella revisits the story of the Toronto van attack and speaks with experts about the investigative interview between the suspect and Toronto Police.

On Apr. 23 2018, a man drove a white rental van down busy sidewalks in Toronto, killing 11 people and injuring 16 others.

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The driver was arrested without injury on the day of the attack and was brought in for questioning by Toronto Police.

READ MORE: Toronto van attack victims, family ready themselves for sentencing hearing

The almost three-hour investigative interview between Alek Minassian and Det. Rob Thomas was released publicly in September 2019.

“Ten people died today, fifteen were seriously injured. It’s important to ask, how do you feel about that?,” said Detective Rob Thomas in the interview.

READ MORE: Sentencing for Toronto van attacker delayed as court waits for key decision on another case

“I feel like I accomplished my mission,” said Minassian.

At the time of the interview, the driver of the white rental van was facing ten counts of first-degree murder and 15 counts of attempted murder.

“[He] has a constitutional right not to speak to the authorities,” said Kerry Watkins, former police officer and investigative interview expert.

“He’s been told, presumably by a lawyer, not to speak to the authorities, and practically and legally speaking, he shouldn’t speak to the authorities.”

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However, it was Det. Thomas’ job to get the suspect to speak to him even though he wasn’t obligated to.

READ MORE: Splashed drink led to end of deadly Toronto van attack, accused told police

During the interview, the suspect begins to speak about4Chan – an online anonymous image board – where he engaged in conversations with others about his frustrations with women and being a part of the Involuntary Celibate (Incels) community, an underground online community that lives primarily on the dark web.

READ MORE: 4 years on Toronto mourns victims of deadly Yonge Street van attack

“Incels is a movement about involuntary celibacy, male individuals who can’t have sexual relationships with women for various reasons that Mr. Doug goes into,” said Watkins.

“Detective Thomas was not judgmental about it, [he] encouraged him to discuss it and talk about it in great detail, which Mr. Doe did.”
Click to play video: 'Police interview video of Yonge Street van attack suspect released'
Police interview video of Yonge Street van attack suspect released

The interview was a crucial piece in the trial of the driver that began in November 2020.

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During the trial, Minassian had admitted to planning and carrying out the attack, but argued he should be found not criminally responsible for his actions because of his autism spectrum disorder.

The Crown had argued that Minassian is a mass killer who knew right from wrong, and happens to have autism. But the defence argued that because of autism, Minassian never developed empathy, and that lack of empathy left him incapable of rational choice.

On this episode of Global News’ What happened to…?, Erica Vella revisits the Toronto Van Attack and speaks with Watkins who explains details and tactics used in the investigative interview with the driver. She also learns more about the trial and continues her conversation with survivor, Cathy Riddell.

– With Files from the Canadian Press.

Contact:

Email: erica.vella@globalnews.ca

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