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Former UBC student accused of attempted murder claims he got message from Qur'an to kill

Keith Fraser

Former University of B.C. student Thamer Hameed Almestadi is pictured in this undated image from his Facebook page.

Former University of B.C. student Thamer Hameed Almestadi is pictured in this undated image from his Facebook page.

A former UBC student charged with the attempted murder of a female student testified Thursday that he got a message from the Qur'an to kill the victim.

Thamer Hameed Almestadi, 19, has pleaded not guilty to the October 2016 attempted murder of Mary Hare in the victim's university dorm. The main issue at the trial is whether Almestadi is not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

The accused told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Margot Fleming that he was agitated after attending a math class and believed that his math professor had singled him out by making comments about him.

Almestadi, an international student from Saudi Arabia who is Muslim, returned to his student residence and listened to an audio-recording of a passage of the Qur'an several times in an attempt to calm himself.

The story he listened to involved a person having been killed and Allah telling Moses to tell people to sacrifice a cow, he told the judge.

He said he listened to the story several times because he was "confused" about the message but eventually concluded he was being told to go and kill someone.

"I was supposed to go and kill Mary," he told the judge.

Almestadi said he got a steak knife that he had purchased and kept in his room and went to look for Mary Hare but could not find her. He had only met her briefly once before, outside the Salish House residence where both students lived.

He said he saw two guys who were saying to each other that if "Plan A" didn't work out, they should go to "Plan B" and that the conversation between the two men was somehow linked to his math professor.

Almestadi said he went up to the third floor of the residence, where Hare resided, and saw her name tag on the room.

He said that Hare's description of the attack, in which she said he attacked her with the knife and tried to choke her when she opened her door, was accurate.

"I remember she opened the door and I said, 'Hi,' and smiled and I attacked her," Almestadi said under cross-examination.

He admitted that he tried to cut the victim in the throat with his knife and that the attack continued until other students rushed to help Hare.

"The only reason you stopped choking her was because people came to her aid," said Crown counsel Daniel Porte.

"Yes," replied Almestadi.

Later, after he'd been arrested and was being interviewed by police, he told police he wanted to see Mary.

"I wanted to make sure she was still alive. I realized I made a mistake."

"How did you feel about what you'd done," said Porte.

"Bad," said Almestadi.

Porte asked the accused whether he wanted to say anything to Hare, who was sitting in the front row of the public gallery.

"Sorry, Mary, really I am," he told her.

Dr. Jeanette Smith, a forensic psychiatrist, testified about her first meeting with Almestadi about a week after the attack.

She said her first impressions were that he was oddly upbeat considering his circumstances and was "troubled" by his indifference to his predicament.

Smith said that the process of getting clear answers from him was frustrating and that he appeared to be struggling to understand what he'd done, believing that it might have been a malevolent spirit masquerading as God that had told him to kill.

The psychiatrist said that it was her opinion that Almestadi had some psychotic symptoms at the time of the attack.

"My sense was that he was still unwell."

The trial is expected to continue Friday with more testimony from Smith.

kfraser@postmedia.com

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