‘Canadian Cannibal’

Alleged Killer Luka Rocco Magnotta Was Caught Thanks to His Own Carelessness

A self-styled master of disguise and evasion, accused killer Luka Rocco Magnotta was a careless fugitive, Tracy McNicoll writes.

Paul Zinken, dapd / AP Photo; inset: Berlin Police / Reuters

Luka Rocco Magnotta styled himself a master of disguise and an authority on life on the lam. But in the end, he turned out to be a bumbling fugitive. Even as Interpol was on red alert, the former Montreal porn star suspected of murdering and dismembering his lover appears to have spent his last moments of freedom reading stories about himself in French on computer #25 at an Internet café on a busy Berlin thoroughfare—with no better disguise than a pair of sunglasses and a hoodie.

Kadir Anlayisli, the Neukölln district Internet café employee who flagged down a passing police van on Karl Marx Strasse, also told reporters that Magnotta was looking to print out an ID card. And the alleged “cannibal killer” attracted needless attention when he addressed the Berlin merchant in French, calling him "Monsieur." Magnotta had famously fled his blood-soaked apartment in the bilingual Snowdon district of Montreal and had spent, it is now known, five days in Paris. But he was a native of the patently English-speaking Toronto district of Scarborough and is thought to speak poor French (and even if he didn't, the twangy Quebec accent tends to stand out in Europe).

In the end, Magnotta relented without resistance. "You got me," he told the seven German police officers called in to arrest the former porn actor on Monday. It was all over in four minutes, and fingerprint analysis would later confirm the quick conclusion to a 10-day international manhunt. Magnotta, 29, briefly faced a German judge on Tuesday afternoon while Canadian authorities are seeking quick extradition of the man suspected of killing his Chinese lover, Lin Jun, a 33-year-old Concordia University student, then dismembering the body on camera, posting the gruesome killing and sexual abuse of the limbless corpse on the Internet, and mailing a severed foot and hand to two major Canadian political parties in the capital city of Ottawa.

But even in defeat, the notorious self-aggrandizer may well have gotten what he wanted—not a hail of bullets, but a wash of attention, a world caught up in his myth-making. The man tracked by Internet activists as the Vacuum Kitten Killer for gory videos he had allegedly posted online showing him sucking the air out of a sack of small cats and feeding one to a python, Magnotta would earn the nickname "Canadian Psycho," so deemed for the soundtrack to the appalling dismemberment video. Entitled "1 Lunatic 1 IcePick," it features "True Faith," by New Order, a song played in the opening minutes of the cult film based on Bret Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho.

Indeed, Magnotta was also betrayed by his cinephile bravado. French police have said the pseudonym he'd used to board a Berlin-bound Eurolines bus at Paris's suburban Bagnolet station last week was Tramell, the surname of Sharon Stone's character in Basic Instinct, a film known to have inspired Magnotta and one that also features an ice-pick slaying. The manager of La Soummam hotel-restaurant told Le Parisien newspaper that Magnotta showed him a Canadian passport bearing the name Kirk Tramell when he advanced cash for a room on May 27, steps from the Bagnolet bus station, just outside Paris's Periphérique ring-road. Police would find porn magazines and airsickness bags in Magnotta's abandoned room on Saturday, three days after he fled to Berlin.

In Germany, Magnotta is dubbed variously "the Porno Killer" or "Kanada Kannibale." In France, where he was nicknamed "le Dépeceur de Montréal," the Dismemberer of Montreal, police fielded a reported 20,000 tips from a captive public, with Magnotta's "wanted" poster pout plastered on police station walls throughout the country, just as Le Parisien newspaper warned he was "susceptible to reoffend on short notice." One radio phone-in caller on Sunday said she was sure Magnotta tried to crash a party in her 17th arrondissement apartment, in the same Batignolles quarter where police had been spotted following up on a lead at a bar. "He came to knock on my door, he wanted to come in to finish the party with us at home," the caller told RMC radio, saying he was handsome, "very beautiful eyes, a very pronounced mouth," and spoke with an accent.

With Magnotta in German custody on Tuesday morning, Europe 1, another French radio station, boasted an exclusive interview with two men, calling themselves David and Nathan, claiming to have sat next to Magnotta during his seven-hour overnight flight from Montreal to Paris on May 26, two days after the alleged murder. They described an agitated man in a Mickey Mouse T-shirt with a "teenaged" look and dirty hair, who hid his face to cry and "didn't smell too, too good. At one point, he disappeared and I got worried—we're a little paranoid on planes, so right away I thought, yeah, he's put a bomb in the toilet," one of the men told Europe 1. "But the flight attendant reassured me, she said, 'No, he's in the back, he's not doing well,' and I turned around and saw he was crying." Explaining further on his blog, the alleged seatmate wrote that it wasn't the official Interpol photo of a short-haired Magnotta that tipped him off, but another he saw later online. Indeed, Montreal police had rubbed their hands at all the potential disguises the narcissistic Magnotta had shown himself wearing in online posts.

Canadian authorities will now look to extradite Magnotta. There were concerns the proceedings could take more than a year if the suspect decided to fight his extradition, but during his brief Tuesday hearing, Magnotta told the judge he would not contest his return to Canada. German officials had sounded optimistic that it could take place within days. Meanwhile, Canadian officials would like to learn more about the whereabouts of Lin's remains—the victim's right leg and head are still unaccounted for, even as his parents arrange travel from China this week. Montreal police are also interested in reviewing other unsolved cases for any link to Magnotta.

Observers, meanwhile, will continue to untangle Magnotta's reality, breaking down the legend he spent years building up online. While the Kanada Kannibale awaits his fate in a Berlin cell, The Ottawa Citizen on Tuesday is detailing the bankruptcy Magnotta allegedly filed for in 2007—as an unemployed waiter with little more than a 12-year-old Ford Explorer—the same year he was interviewed detailing his glamorous life as a high-class male escort on Naked News.

It was also in 2007 that a rumor spread online that Magnotta was dating the Canadian serial killer Karla Homolka, who had recently been released from prison on plea-bargain reduced charges. At the time, Magnotta—suspected of spreading the romance rumor himself—contacted media to insist he was being smeared. In fact, Homolka's real-life romantic partner in crime had been her husband, Paul Bernardo, currently serving a life sentence in Canada for the rape and torture deaths of teenage girls. Bernardo was also known as "the Scarborough Rapist" for a lterrifying series of attacks in the 80s and is still the most notorious native of Magnotta's hometown.