"It was so angry sounding," McCall, who is now living in South Korea, wrote in an e-mail to Newsday. "[H]e made me a tad uncomfortable at times."
"I tend to trust my intuition, and I just kept my distance," she added.
But she and other former classmates from the British School of Lomé in Togo were shocked to see Abdulmutallab's face on television this weekend, accused of trying to blow up a Christmas Day Northwest Airlines flight with 290 passengers and crew members aboard. Abdulmutallab, 23, has told federal authorities that he received bomb materials and training from an al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen.
"We are all praying for him, his family and everyone affected by this," McCall said. "That he will get the help he needs."
As a teenager, his British boarding school teachers nicknamed him "The Pope" for his pious airs, but Abdulmutallab, who went by his middle name, was already a devout Muslim with sympathies for the religion's fringe elements.
No one thought anything of it then because Abdulmutallab seemed like a pleasant, polite young man, said the teacher, Michael Rimmer, of London. "Somewhere along the line, he must have met some sort of fanatics, and they must have turned his mind," Rimmer said.
"You would never expect this coming from him; he's a very good guy, a very good chap to hang out with," ex-classmate Efemena Mokedi told the BBC. "The numbers do not add up."
Abdulmutallab left London in 2008 and decided to travel, his father has said. He got a two-year visa to travel to the United States and flew into Houston in August that year. He studied business management briefly in Dubai before quitting to take up courses in Yemen, the BBC reported.