Journalist describes meeting with ‘defensive and cocky’ Luka Magnotta in England
Warning: This story contains graphic details and language.
MONTREAL — The email wasn’t in their possession long before people in the newsroom decided to call police.
Two days had passed since British journalist Alex West met Luka Magnotta in London.
“Well, I have to say goodbye for now, but don’t worry, in the near future you will be hearing from me again. This time, however, the victims wont [sic] be small animals,” read the Dec. 10, 2010 email sent from an account bearing the name John Kilbride — the same name belonging to a victim of one of Britain’s most notorious killers.
Testifying Tuesday via video link form the Canadian High Commission in London, West, who was writing for the Sun papers in the United Kingdom, told the court he and his colleagues were fairly certain the email came from Magnotta despite the name in the email address.
“It almost sounds so fantastical … It almost sounds like something you’d see in a movie,” West told the Quebec Superior Court Tuesday, describing his reaction to the email.
Crown prosecutors in Magnotta’s first-degree murder trial have spent weeks building a case to convince the jury Magnotta planned the May 2012 killing of 33-year-old Jun Lin. They have said this testimony will seal the deal.
Magnotta faces five charges in connection to the killing, including first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a human body, publishing obscene material, criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament and mailing obscene and indecent material.
The defendant has admitted to the actions behind the crimes of which he is accused, although his lawyer is arguing Magnotta was so psychologically sick at the time he cannot be held criminally responsible.
WATCH: Jury hears testimony from the prime minister’s deputy chief of staff and the Montreal police officer who examined files from Magnotta’s digital camera. Domenic Fazioli reports.
Looking at a copy of the email, West told the court it alluded to some details from their meeting two days earlier, on Dec. 8, 2011. The audio of the encounter was played for the jury Tuesday.
Armed with a pen and paper, a photographer and a recording device hidden in his suit pocket, West knocked on a door.
From inside, a voice asked who was there. When West identified himself as a journalist and asked for a word, the man who later identified himself as Magnotta said, “Not really. I have nothing to say.”
Eventually, Magnotta opened the door, but didn’t invite the journalist in. They spoke beside a door for close to 30 minutes.
West had received the assignment based on anonymous emails, telling the newspaper Magnotta was in town, where he was staying and that he was the person behind online videos showing kittens being killed.
Later that morning, after compiling a file on his subject, West was face to face with Magnotta at a hotel above a pub in London’s northwest.
Once they began to speak, the Canadian denied all accusations saying he only wanted to be left alone.
West, however, was working under the assumption Magnotta had sent all of the anonymous emails and was behind the online chatter connecting Magnotta romantically to convicted killer Karla Homolka as well as the kitten videos.
West told Magnotta he believed he was creating a “personality cult” online about himself; Magnotta said the allegation was preposterous, that he had received hundreds of death threats on account of his online reputation.
Montreal police testified earlier in the trial they uncovered dozens of social media profiles and other online accounts connected to Magnotta.
“He was defensive, nervous and at times cocky,” West told Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier.
A photo from the encounter — that West said was snapped “surreptitiously” — shows Magnotta standing with his arms crossed against his chest looking straight at West.
Taking questions from the defence later Tuesday, West had trouble putting words to the feelings he had while interviewing Magnotta.
“It’s difficult to say in words,” he said. “It was a feeling I got about him. That something wasn’t quite right.”
Two days after the interview, the “Kilbride” email was sent to three addresses at the Sun’s newsroom. It promised that, once the writer moved from killing kittens, he would send a video.
“You see, killing is different then [sic] smoking.. with smoking you can actually quit. Once you kill, and taste blood, its [sic] impossible to stop. The urge is just too strong not to continue,” the email read.
Bouthillier has said West’s testimony is key for his case on account of that email, saying it will help prove Magnotta planned a murder up to six months in advance.
During cross-examination, defence attorney Luc Leclair showed a Nov. 19, 2012 email from West to his address asking to talk.
On the stand, West said he couldn’t remember the exact purpose of the email or what he would have asked Magnotta had he had the chance. He told the court he assumed he’d wanted merely to follow the story and sought to open a dialogue with the suspect’s lawyer.
Leclair also revealed during cross-examination West had arrived in Montreal during pretrial hearings in 2013 as a reporter when he was subpoenaed to testify.
The trial is set to resume Thursday morning.
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