In a dramatic turn of events, the man accused of killing six men as they attended prayer in a Quebec City mosque last year has pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder.
Alexandre Bissonnette originally pleaded not guilty to the 12 charges Monday morning but that afternoon announced he was changing his mind and wanted to plead guilty.
He said he didn’t want the families of the victims to have to “relive the tragedy.”
Superior Court Justice Francois Huot refused to accept the pleas pending a psychiatric assessment of the accused to ensure he fully understood the consequences of his decision.
Huot placed a publication ban on Monday afternoon’s proceedings but agreed Wednesday to accept the 12 guilty pleas.
The charges against Bissonnette, 28, were related to a shooting attack at the Islamic Cultural Centre in January 2017 in which the six men aged between 39 and 60.
The counts of attempted murder involved five people who were struck by bullets and a sixth charge encompassed the other people present at the mosque.
Bissonnette told Huot on Monday he had been thinking for sometime of pleading guilty but that he was missing certain pieces of evidence, which were relayed Sunday.
“In my heart, it’s the decision I’ve made,” Bissonnette said.
When Huot asked him if he was fully aware of what he was doing, Bissonnette replied, “Yes.”
He also said he was not changing his pleas because of any threats and that he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Huot then asked Bissonnette whether he knew he would be getting a life sentence and he answered, “I understand.”
Jury selection was scheduled to start April 3 and the trial to last two months.
Many members of Quebec City’s Muslim community were present in court Monday and Wednesday.