Tracing Luka Magnotta’s footsteps: Homicide investigation begins
← Part 1: The night Jun Lin is Last seen alive
Warning: This story contains graphic details some readers may find offensive.
Lin’s torso had been locked inside a suitcase, laying curbside for more than three days, when the luggage caught the eye of the building’s superintendent. He and another man pried it open, making the grisly discovery of a torso covered in maggots.
They called 911.
Hours after the call, a foot was discovered inside a parcel mailed to the Conservative Party of Canada’s headquarters in Ottawa. Soon after, a parcel containing a hand, this one destined for the Liberal headquarters, was intercepted at a Canada Post warehouse in Ottawa. There could be a connection, but authorities weren’t yet certain.
IN DEPTH: The Luka Magnotta file
Magnotta is charged with 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.
Although he admitted to the “physical acts” behind the crimes, he maintains a plea of not guilty. His lawyer is arguing Magnotta is not criminally responsible due to mental illness.
May 29, 2012: Homicide investigation begins
Montreal officer Peter D’Avola was the first to enter Magnotta’s drab bachelor unit turned crime scene. He had been helping the force collect evidence from around 1 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., when he was asked to check out unit 208.
When he walked in, D’Avola said he was struck by the “strong chemical smell, mixed a bit with the smell of a cadaver.” He took some notes of what he found in the apartment — a bottle of lemon juice and a blood smear on the table, a brown bedsheet hastily thrown over a mattress too small for it. His primary role in the unit was to clear it of any people, either a suspect or victim. With no one there, he left.
He was familiar with the building, he said, having worked for some years in that neighbourhood and fielding more than 10 drug- and alcohol-related calls to the building.
Homicide detective Antonio Paradiso, meanwhile, had received a briefing at the homicide unit that afternoon before making his way to the command post outside of the low-rent apartment building.
There, he took statements from the building manager, Eric Schorer, and the superintendent who had discovered the torso, Michael Nadeau.
WATCH: Luka Magnotta was normal and cordial, building manager said
Through Schorer, Paradiso learned of the surveillance cameras set up throughout the building and its property. He spent about one hour looking through tapes when he heard of the foot found in Ottawa.
Other officers, working under lead investigator Claudette Hamlin, were going through the piles of garbage awaiting pickup. In them, they found limbs, a dead puppy, blood-stained clothes, a hammer, knives and a small circular saw, as well as packaging materials, electronics and an ID belonging to Magnotta. The discovery of the identification led police, however briefly, to think Magnotta might be the victim.
Police finished gathering evidence from the bags at 10:05 that night. But then, word came of a gory video posted online with a potential link to the case. It was soon revealed that video was a legitimate snuff film, depicting a killing and dismemberment. Police watching the video noticed some items in the video they had seen in the garbage but disregarded.
Quickly, an officer was sent to retrieve a wine bottle and Casablanca poster from the trash. Both items were later found to hold DNA.
Police went back the building’s surveillance video. The building manager confirmed the man seen walking in and out many times over was Magnotta.
Footage from a nearby post office captured images of a man resembling Magnotta.
He was now the suspect.
While police were scouring the scene and collecting evidence, a close friend of Lin’s had reported him missing after leading a frantic and futile two-day search.
Dong Dong Xu became involved in the search at the request of Lin’s former boyfriend, who was growing increasingly concerned as hours and days passed without word from Lin.
Lin had been seen Friday, the day he was killed. He failed to show up for work that weekend.
On Sunday and Monday, Xu searched Lin’s apartment, the depaneur where the victim worked, and Concordia University, where Lin was enrolled.
READ MORE: Crown calls victim’s friend, killer’s client
All he found in the apartment was oil in a pan on the stove and eggs on the counter, several pieces of Lin’s ID and a very hungry cat, he said. The university was a dead end.
Xu had a bad feeling. He was afraid “something unpleasant” had happened. He met with police Monday, May 28, but was told they couldn’t do too much. Later that day, he phoned the Chinese consulate to report Lin missing.
The following day, police were just launching their investigation and hadn’t yet identified a victim.
Xu heard the chatter about a video online depicting a homicide and beheading. He found a link, but he didn’t even have to press play: The site showed a still of the victim’s head and Xu immediately knew it it was his friend, Lin.
WATCH: Victim’s friend choked back tears during testimony during a revealing day in court, Global Montreal’s Domenic Fazioli reports.
Again, he called police. The officers who came didn’t say as much, but their colleagues had already been on the scene of the crime.
The next day, May 30, a forensic biologist was combing through the bachelor apartment for 2.5 hours, analyzing the blood stains left behind to form a picture of what happened.
Jacinthe Prévost started her analysis of some 94 pieces of evidence the following day.
The apartment was covered with DNA belonging to 33-year-old Lin. His blood was on the bed, radiator, sofa, walls, floors, bathtub, sink and fridge. His hair was in the kitchen.
On May 31, homicide detective Paradiso got word the return flight Magnotta had purchased was scheduled for June 1. The detective went to the airport, but the suspect didn’t show.
Magnotta, investigators would later find out, had just made his way to Berlin, abandoning many of his belongings in the Paris hotel room he’d rented.
While authorities across the globe were on alert to watch for Magnotta, he was spending hours chatting online with a German man in his 50s. Frank Rubert met Magnotta through a site called GayRomeo.com and used Google to translate his new friend’s messages.
After hours online, Rubert invited Magnotta, who he knew as William2323, to stay with him in Berlin. Soon after, Magnotta got on the bus from Paris to Berlin.
For three days the two men partied in Berlin, visiting different bars and brothels, hanging out with a couple of Rubert’s friends.
Magnotta and Rubert spent all their time together until Tuesday, June 4, when Rubert had some business to take care of and directed his house guest to an Internet cafe.
Before settling in for his 30-minute subway ride, Rubert bought a newspaper. And that’s where he saw it: Close to the front of the paper, there was a picture of a man bearing a striking resemblance to his new friend. The text accompanying the story told of the horrendous crimes of which he was accused.
Rubert called police.
The employee manning the front desk at the Internet cafe also called police, immediately recognizing Magnotta.
Magnotta walked into the cafe at 11:54 a.m. More than an hour and a half later, a police truck stopped outside. Seven police officers entered the cafe and four minutes later escorted Magnotta outside. Upon questioning, Magnotta told the officers, “You got me.”
Exactly two weeks later, the prime suspect in one of Canada’s most horrific crimes was set for extradition. At the airport, six officers awaited him.
That afternoon, homicide investigator Paradiso met Magnotta face to face for the first time, escorted the suspect up the stairs and to the back of the plane, where he arrested him
← Part 1: The night Jun Lin is Last seen alive
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