Berlin man tells court about meeting Luka Magnotta, taking killer into home
WATCH: Today the court heard testimony from a German man who took Luka Magnotta into his home, just days after Magnotta killed Lin Jun in 2012. As Mike Armstrong reports, prosecutors say this witness – Frank Rubert – could have been the next victim.
MONTREAL — Frank Rubert got off the subway and called police.
“I might have a murderer with me,” he told them.
He’d met Luka Magnotta — who had been using an alias — through an online dating service called Gay Romeo. They hit it off, spent an entire afternoon and evening chatting online, and eventually the seemingly nice, young man Rubert met said he’d like to visit his new friend in Berlin.
Rubert was at first hesitant, he told a Montreal courtroom through an interpreter Wednesday. He’d already once been scammed by someone online who asked for bus fare then never showed up.
But this guy didn’t ask for money, so Rubert relented. And even though the man he eventually met at the Berlin bus station was scruffy and slobby, with unkempt hair and wearing blue jeans, Rubert took him home: He said he’d have felt badly just leaving the guy at the bus station after promising he could stay.
The language barrier — one spoke no German, the other no English — was tougher face to face than it was online. So back at the apartment, they used their laptops to translate and have conversations.
Rubert told his guest the scruffy hair and clothing wouldn’t do if he planned to stay in Berlin. So the guest went to the washroom and emerged with short hair 15 minutes later. He told Rubert he’d cut it, but the court knows now Magnotta had simply removed his wig.
LISTEN: Amy Minsky reports during a brief break in the cross-examination of Frank Rubert
READ BELOW: This is a copy of an online chat taken from Rubert’s computer, and submitted at evidence in court Wednesday. Rubert (avira) said he ran messages from Magnotta (william2323) through Google Translate.
Nothing struck Rubert as odd about the man he’d trusted enough to offer a bed and a set of house keys.
The only remarkable thing about his guest, Rubert said, was the young man’s generosity — a generosity defence counsel later alleged was the motivation behind Rubert’s hospitality.
For three days and nights in June 2012, Rubert and Magnotta went to restaurants and bars, where Magnotta spoke with some escorts, dropped large sums of cash and drank quite a bit, the Crown’s witness said.
The two spent all of their time together. “Twenty-four hour a day,” Rubert told the court.
That is, until the morning of Monday, June 4, when Rubert had to meet someone for business — and ended up calling police about his houseguest.
Rubert hadn’t wanted to leave Magnotta in the house alone so they rode the subway together. Rubert suggested his guest spend the next few hours at an Internet cafe, handed him a cell phone and number where he could be reached, and the two parted ways.
Rubert said he doesn’t usually read newspapers. But with a long subway ride ahead of him, he decided to pick one up.
And that’s where he saw it.
“I don’t remember if it was the second page or the third page,” he told the court. But there was a photo of someone who looked very much like his guest.
LISTEN: Amy Minsky reports following the first half of Frank Rubert’s chief testimony
The article told of “cruel things,” he remembered. It told of a man who was the target of an international manhunt after killing a Chinese “friend” and fleeing Canada.
Rubert called police as he made a beeline for the station. He told the officer his guest, whose real name he still didn’t know, was either at the subway station or the Internet cafe.
When Rubert arrived at the police station shortly after, they told him to wait while they did some research. Fifteen minutes later, six officers came back to tell Rubert they had Magnotta.
READ MORE: Luka Magnotta surveillance videos released
Rubert would spend the next hours that day back at his apartment with police, going through the items Magnotta had left there — a folded map of Paris and a bus ticket, a pen and pencil, some clippers and a condom.
During cross-examination, defence attorney Luc Leclair repeatedly read from Rubert’s long list of run-ins with the law. He had faced a handful of theft and attempted theft charges, driving without a licence and reckless driving charges, and more serious counts of sexually abusing or sexually assaulting a minor.
To that, Rubert said simply that some people give false representations of themselves online. As Leclair continued his attack, Rubert raised his voice at times, seeming to become increasingly irritated as he told Leclair his criminal past has nothing to do with the case at hand.
READ MORE: What did we learn in week one of the trial?
“I travelled 5,000 kilometres … to make things clear,” he said through his translator, who soon after asked the trial judge for a break.
Still, Leclair suggested Rubert was turned off Magnotta at the bus station because the man wasn’t as young-looking as he’d hoped, but that all changed once he saw how much money Magnotta was carrying.
Leclair had the witness tell the court about one night when he and Magnotta visited a gay brothel. He had Rubert tell of spending three months in a psychiatric hospital on a judge’s order (the witness said that allowed him to avoid jail time and suggested that is what Leclair is attempting to do with his own client). Leclair had Rubert admit that one night in June 2012 he took two Romanian prostitutes to the bathroom, one at a time, and paid them using Magnotta’s money.
But Rubert argued this was only fair: He was helping out Magnotta who, in return offered to pay for things. Why not take him up on it?
Magnotta faces five charges including first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a human body, publishing obscene material, criminally harassing Harper and other members of Parliament and mailing obscene and indecent material.
He admitted to committing the actions of which he’s accused but pleaded not guilty. His lawyer said he intends to argue Magnotta was so psychologically sick, he wasn’t in control of his actions during Lin’s killing and dismembering.
Rubert felt stupid about the episode, he told court. He questioned his judgement. How, he asked himself, could he have brought someone into his home without knowing anything about him?
Before leaving, one officer wished Rubert happy birthday. Rubert was confused; his birthday was more than two months away.
But the officer was insistent: It is your birthday, he told Rubert. “You could have been next.”
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