How Luka Magnotta, the Alleged ‘Cannibal Killer,’ Was Caught in Berlin

Luka Rocco Magnotta knew how to live underground—so why was he found in the open? Winston Ross reports.

AP Photo

Canada’s so-called Cannibal Killer could have remained on the lam for a long time.

Luka Rocco Magnotta successfully fled Montreal—by plane, no less—in advance of a nationwide arrest warrant issued after the one-time male model and low-budget gay porn star allegedly killed his lover, 33-year-old Chinese national Jun Lin. Magnotta made it to Paris, then slipped into Berlin, despite an international manhunt. As far as the authorities knew, he was lurking in the alleyways of France, not Germany.

He apparently knew how to cut ties with his family and friends, how to steal identities, how to disguise himself. And it seems that as a resident of the seedy underworld of male prostitution, he could easily finance his flight by selling himself in an industry that doesn’t require much in the way of passports.

But in the end, the 29-year-old who is accused of carrying out one of the most barbaric killings in Canada’s history was brought down by his own worst nemesis: Luka Rocco Magnotta.

Magnotta’s first problem was that he’d made himself famous long before allegedly dismembering Lin and mailing his body parts to Canada’s highest political offices. Magnotta plastered pictures of his own half-naked body all over the Internet. He may have spread rumors in an attempt to connect himself to child-killer Karla Homolka so that he could come out and publicly denounce them later. He reportedly posted videos of himself killing kittens on the Internet, then boasted to British newspapers that they hadn’t seen anything yet and that humans would be his next victims.

By the time Magnotta allegedly carried out that threat, he was already famous, already a household name in Canada. It’s not easy to hide when everyone knows what you look like.

“He was using the web to glorify himself,” Montreal Police Cmdr. Ian LaFreniere told The Daily Beast. “This is the same web that brought him down.”

The crime itself only magnified his notoriety. Montreal police say Magnotta filmed himself doing all kinds of dastardly things to his victim: slitting his throat, decapitating him, slicing off his arms and legs with a kitchen knife, feeding the flesh to a dog, having sex with the limbless corpse. That alone would warrant the kind of front-page media attention Magnotta seems to crave; allegations that he mailed the body parts to political offices garnered the suspect instant international notoriety.

Somehow, he made it to Berlin undetected. And that’s where Luka Rocco Magnotta all but strolled into Potsdamer Platz with the words “Arrest me: I’m an international fugitive” scrawled in blood on his bare chest.

When the cops found him, Magnotta was wearing no wig, no skirt—he’s been known to pose as a woman—no disguise of any kind. And if you thought that stupidity couldn’t be topped, consider where the police picked him up: in a bustling Internet cafe.

Reading articles about himself.

“You got me,” he reportedly told the cops who arrested him.

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“His biggest problem is that he’s an attention whore,” Washington, D.C., criminal profiler Pat Brown told The Daily Beast. “He’s in these Internet cafes because he’s so excited about what he’s done.”

To Brown, that’s one of the more interesting facets of a guy who’s already proved himself to be plenty bizarre. Magnotta’s alleged past as an animal abuser fits the profile of a serial killer, a genre of psychopath that tends to derive the most satisfaction from the murders themselves, not the attention they get as a result. It’s the plotting, the choosing of victims, the technique of the murder that gets a typical serial killer off. And because they enjoy that so much, they take meticulous steps to avoid getting caught, so as to keep killing, to experience that thrill again and again. Montreal police are now reviewing cold cases to see if any could be linked to Magnotta, LaFreniere said.

A mass murderer, on the other hand, is all about the notoriety. He plans to make a huge splash with the killing, to take out as many people as possible, to go down in history and probably die in the process. Avoiding prosecution is an afterthought.

It seems that Magnotta blends the two stereotypes, Brown said. The video, if it is really him, seems to make clear he thoroughly enjoyed himself and drew it out as long as possible. That’s serial-killer stuff. But the self-aggrandizing, the need to get online and read news stories about yourself—that fits the mass-murder profile better.

“It’s an odd crossover,” Brown said. “The serial killer enjoys the act of killing, one on one. He doesn’t care whether anybody else knows. He wants you to think he’s Clark Kent, but he’s really Superman.”

Another problem for Magnotta, said former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt, is that the fantasy he appears to have built up about himself—glamorous porn star, gruesome killer, cunning fugitive—doesn’t exactly track with reality.

The killing part Magnotta accomplished well, according to police. But what he didn’t seem to account for, Van Zandt told The Daily Beast, is that the crime police say he committed would result in a real international manhunt.

“Real cops with real guns were going to find him, real quick,” Van Zandt said. “He had no experience in running or hiding. He finally got to the point where he could act out this fantasy, but with no game plan about how to escape.”

Magnotta’s short-lived career at a fugitive was so poorly executed it makes you wonder if he was trying to get caught. Van Zandt wouldn’t go that far, though.

“Anytime you want to get caught, you pick up the phone and dial 911,” he said. “What happened here is fantasy met reality; reality won.”