Divorced and living by himself in a drab Charlottetown apartment complex for the past 10 years, Roger Bell did not go out of his way to meet people. “He didn’t say as much as hello,” said John Acorn, Bell’s next-door neighbor. Former colleagues and students described the retired high-school chemistry teacher as intelligent—but withdrawn. “My impressions were all positive,” said Bluefield high-school principal Eugene Murphy, who worked with Bell for 14 years at both Bluefield and Englewood Regional high school. “He kept to himself and did his job.” Former student Stephen Howatt said much the same. “He was quiet, but not in a shy kind of
way,” Howatt recalled. “He just kept to himself.” That private world was shattered on Dec. 16, when the small-framed, balding 52year-old was arrested by the RCMP and Charlottetown police—and accused of being the notorious Prince Edward Island bomber.
Bell now faces charges of planting three pipe bombs on the Island. An explosion outside the provincial Supreme Court Budding in October, 1988, caused extensive damage to
the law building but no injuries—and shattered PE.I.’s normally tranquil life. A second blast occurred outside the provincial legislature on April 20, 1995, with flying debris breaking the ankle of a man sitting on a nearby park bench. In June, police found a third pipe bomb at a propane tank storage yard after they received a warning letter from a mysterious group calling itself Loki 7, which had claimed responsibility for the other two bombings. The bomb blew up without injuring anyone while it was being disassembled.
Police arrested Bell following a search of his apartment, which is within walking distance of all three bomb sites. At a news conference on the day after the arrest, Charlottetown police Const. Richard Collins said that Bell aroused interest after the 1988 bombing—but he was one of many. The field narrowed after city police and the RCMP launched a joint task force in July. Police, however, have refused to reveal any evidence, and would not say why they placed Bell under 24-hour surveillance in August.
Courthouse security was tight on Dec. 19 when Bell was remanded into custody until his next scheduled appearance on Jan. 9. Bell said he intends to represent himself and asked the court to hire a private investigator for him and assign a lawyer to act as an adviser. “I feel the need of a legal assistant who can instruct me in the technicalities of the law and judicial proceedings,” he said. Bell, who occasionally referred to himself as “the accused,” asked that he be released on his own recognizance, but his request was denied. A court-ordered ban requested by Crown attorney Darrell Coombs prevents publication of any evidence presented at the hearing. But Bell resisted the imposition of the ban, saying that he is “interested in justice being seen to be done.” That will have to wait until the new year. In the meantime, Bell will spend his holidays behind bars.
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