06.04.12

Canada’s 'Cannibal Killer:' Early Reports Warned About Luka Magnotta

Could Montreal police have stopped a murderer—before a severed foot arrived in the mail? Warning: this story contains extremely graphic descriptions of the crimes involved.

A few years back, a washed-up male model-turned-low-budget porn star from Montreal, who christened himself Luka Rocco Magnotta, penned a blog post, titled How to Completely Disappear and Never Be Found.

The advice was mostly no-brainer stuff: don’t sell your house if you don’t own it outright, get a good fake ID, choose buses over planes; carry a briefcase full of cash (provided, of course, that you can get your hands on a briefcase full of cash).

Mostly, Canadians found it interesting because it was weird—a porn star blogging about how to escape the world. This was a guy who made his living on notoriety,  who posted pictures of himself all over the Internet,  who was suspected of spreading rumors that he once dated the country’s notorious child-killer, Karla Homolka, only to march into the lobby of the Toronto Sun in 2007 and disavow all that, claiming the gossip was ruining his life, that someone had stolen his Pomeranian and that he wanted it back.

Everything about the Toronto man born Eric Clinton Newman was weird, really. So a blog post about how to disappear, if bizarre, fit Magnotta’s bizarre profile.

These days, it’s all starting to make more sense. Magnotta, 29 years old, has apparently taken his own advice and fled the country to escape a nationwide arrest warrant  issued for one of the most gruesome series of crimes in the country’s history. Whoever did what Luka Magnotta is accused of doing makes the Causeway Cannibal look like a pussycat. Canada’s answer to the America’s latest round of twisted flesh-eating psychopaths, apparently, is to double down.

A warning, here: what you are about to read is hideous, and should you be one of those people who visualizes a thing that’s being described to you, stop and finish digesting any food you’ve recently eaten.

Magnotta, who also goes by the pseudonym Vladimir Romanov, is a suspect in a crime against his lover, a 32-year-old Chinese national named Jun Lin, according to Montreal Police. Lin was brutally murdered sometime last month, after being stabbed with an ice pick and his throat slit. The killer then sliced him to pieces, decapitating him, carving out pieces of his flesh and feeding it to a dog, masturbating with the man’s body parts, and anally penetrating the limbless corpse, when all that was left at that point was a torso.

The killer captured the whole sick scene on video, and that wound up on a website on May 26 called bestgore.com, which purports to be “dedicated to ensuring the general public is aware of the reality of the world out there so everyone can make educated decisions that affect their well being and the well being of their families,” but is clearly a forum for the kind of peeping toms who get off on watching people do awful shit to each other. The video’s title: “1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick.”

Police only found out about this grisly killing when Jun’s body parts started showing up at the offices of Canada’s major political parties. A severed foot arrived at the headquarters of the country’s Conservative Party in Ottawa Tuesday morning; postal workers intercepted a severed hand at the Ottawa Postal Terminal later that day, en route to the offices of the Liberal Party; and a janitor found the torso in a Montreal garbage dump near Magnotta’s apartment. Perhaps the killer had run out of stamps, by that point.

There were more warnings. After somehow stumbling acrossbestgore.com, a Montana attorney told reporters he tried to alert police about the ice-pick video, only to be condescendingly dismissed.

As news of the case broke last week, reporters somehow found their way into  Magnotta’s abandoned apartment, filming a blood-soaked mattress that bore remarkable similarity to the one in the video, along with the rest of the flat. Police say they have that video in hand and that despite the killer’s face being obscured in most of it, they consider it direct evidence linking Magnotta to the crime—along with other body parts left in his apartment, his relationship to the victim, and his escape to France.

The murder may not be a whodunit, then, but it does raise all kinds of sordid questions breathless Canadian reporters are scrambling to answer: what the hell is wrong with this guy? Who in their right mind would publish, let alone watch, a video like that? And could he have been stopped before hacking Jun Lin into pieces?

The first question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think, criminologist Rob Gordon, of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, told The Daily Beast. While the killing itself fits the profile of a psychopath and the making of a video and mailing of body parts to high-profile places fit that of someone desperate to call attention to their crimes, cases like this are so few and far between that criminologists don’t have much evidence that allows them to find patterns and common threads.

“They tend to be one-offs,” Gordon said. “The amount of case material you have to go on is extremely limited, so it’s very hard to profile these particular cases and come up with an equation that adequately explains it. There’s an awful lot of pop psychology out there that’s not terribly helpful.”  Necrophiliacs, for example, tend to hang out in morgues and cemeteries, not porn studios.

As for the webmaster glorifying the horrific scenes on that tape, Gordon doesn’t buy the site’s explanation that “turning our heads and pretending the video doesn’t exist would only make the perpetrator feel more secure and open to further exploitation,” even though the webmaster was initially convinced that Magnotta was only trying to make himself appear to be a killer, to garner attention.

“The guy clearly longs for attention and seeks to get it through fake associations,” the post’s author writes, citing the false links to the Canadian serial killer and the now-defunct blog purportedly set up by Magnotta titled necrophiliac-luka-magnotta.blogspot.com. “Anyone could start a two-page blogspot site in which they’d make themselves look like a psychotic killer waiting for their next victim, so they can grin from the comfort of their living room as the whole Internet falls for the trap and gets caught up in a chase of a demon that doesn’t exist.”

What the website does accomplish, though, is to lend fodder to increasingly louder charges that detectives could have stopped Magnotta sooner—if not from killing anyone, at least from getting out of the country.

Magnotta, it turns out, is not new to the “deranged web videos” category. Last year, a Montreal woman named Carol Rehnlund started a petition on the website Change.org to bring him to justice, after videos surfaced in December 2010 of a man murdering kittens. In one, he places them in a plastic bag and then sucks the air out of it, with a vacuum. In another, he feeds the cat to a python. That video’s title: “1 Boy Two Kittens.” German news reports later claimed they were able to trace the video to Magnotta. 

“He’s certainly not doing it secretly,” Gordon said. “I don’t know whether his motive is to seek attention or not. You’d have to talk to the guy.”

There were more warnings. After somehow stumbling across bestgore.com, a Montana attorney told reporters he tried to alert police about the ice-pick video, only to be condescendingly dismissed. The British Sun tabloid reported that its editors warned Scotland Yard about a ghoulish email Magnotta sent after the kitten videos surfaced.

“I’ll be back,” Magnotta reportedly wrote, “and this time the victims won’t be animals.” The newspaper claimed, “We warned the Met Police then of our fears he would go on to kill—but they DROPPED the case, saying it was outside their jurisdiction.”

Nina Arsenault, a Toronto transsexual, told Canadian reporters last week that she had a relationship with Magnotta more than 10 years ago, and that Magnotta was a drug user with a temper, who sometimes turned his anger on himself.

“He was hard-tempered, self-absorbed, manipulative, angry, aggressive,” Arsenault told the Associated Press of the man she met when he was around 18, and she 28. Magnotta would often hit himself in the head, she said, and other parts of his body. “That was very frequent, like some kind of compulsive behavior he couldn’t stop.”

Other ex-girlfriends have told reporters Magnotta was obsessed with serial killers, and that he would do “anything” to be famous.

Montreal Police could not be reached for this story. But Gordon says it’s 20/20 hindsight to suggest the authorities could somehow have prevented Magnotta from doing what he allegedly did.

“The Internet is packed with bizarre stuff,” Gordon said. “You would need an army of police officers solely employed doing analysis and following up on clues in order for that to be an effective way of tracking people down.” 

There are now more important tasks at hand: catching a very disturbed individual who has apparently spent a considerable amount of time plotting ways to drop off the face of the earth.

Nowhere in Magnotta’s old blog post did he address how tricky it might be to avoid people recognizing someone once they’ve gone to as many lengths as he has to make his face famous.

“What will hinder him the most is what he used to glorify himself,” said Montreal Police spokesman Ian Lafreniere, at a press conference Friday. “The web, with all the photos we have of him.”

But the fugitive may have found a way to mitigate that challenge, Montreal Police say: he could be posing as a woman.