Tracing Luka Magnotta’s footsteps: The making of a killer

Dr. Joel Paris, center, a psychiatrist who examined Luka Magnotta, leaves the courtroom after testifying at Magnotta's murder trial Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 in Montreal.
Dr. Joel Paris, center, a psychiatrist who examined Luka Magnotta, leaves the courtroom after testifying at Magnotta's murder trial Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Part 1: The night Jun Lin is Last seen alive

Part 2: The homicide investigation begins

Warning: This story contains graphic details some readers may find offensive.

As a condition for release to Canada, German officials demanded a psychiatrist accompany Luka Magnotta on the June 2012 flight. Dr. Joel Watts, after receiving a request from the Montreal police, took on that role.

Watts was but one in a long line of doctors who treated or assessed Magnotta — though he was the only one to meet with the killer in both capacities. Three months after the police hired him, the defence counsel enlisted Watts’ services as an expert and had him testify during the trial.

The defence also hired Dr. Marie-Frédérique Allard to assess the defendant’s responsibility in the killing. While both doctors individually spend dozens of hours with Magnotta, he refused to meet with any Crown-retained psychiatrists.

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IN DEPTH: The Luka Magnotta file

The task facing the defence was to prove their client, now 32, lacked the mental capacity to understand the consequences of his actions when he killed and dismembered Jun Lin, mailed the victim’s body parts around Canada with threatening notes and posted a video online depicting the gruesome crime.

As such, Magnotta’s lawyers relied heavily on medical records dealing with his mental health, all of which were released for the doctors’ analyses.

Along with a 2002 diagnosis  of schizophrenia, as well as repeated mentions of the mental illness throughout the numerous medical files, two doctors who testified during the trial said they believed Magnotta was living with a personality disorder.

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.

2001 to 2014: Magnotta’s medical files, his upbringing

The records illustrate the evolution of a lonely Ontario teenager into a globetrotting young man with mental illness who was in and out of hospitals and a group home, often complaining of hallucinations, confusion and paranoid thinking.

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His symptoms waxed and waned. He went through numerous cocktails of medications, but was not always faithful in taking them as prescribed. Doctors alternatively described him as “bizarre,” diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic — just like his father — or as having a personality disorder.

Magnotta’s last medical record as a free man came from Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital on April 17, 2012, just weeks before he killed Lin.

WATCH: Global News legal analyst Philip Schneider about what we’ve seen during Week 9 of the murder trial.

His thick file, however, stretches back to at least the late 1990s. Throughout his late teens and early 20s, while living in Ontario, Magnotta was treated in Lindsay, Scarborough and Toronto.

That was back when he was known as Eric Newman Clinton.

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He legally changed his name to Luka Rocco Magnotta in 2005 due to “bad memories,” wanting to “reinvent” himself, and because he “did not like [himself],” according to information Watts recorded from two telephone conversations with Magnotta’s sister.

Eric Clinton was 18 in April 2001 when, after a number of visits to a community crisis centre in Lindsay, Ont., a worker referred him the nearby Ross Memorial emergency department.

Doctors were unable to make a diagnosis. Magnotta had reportedly been experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations, though he refused to talk about them while at emergency with his grandmother. In his notes, one doctor described Magnotta’s behaviour as “bizarre.”

READ MORE: Death behind bars – what happens to people with mental illness in Canada’s prisons

“I am not sure what we are dealing with,” the attending doctor wrote. “I have a feeling he is looking for some secondary gain but I don’t know what exactly … I thought I should just [make] a note about this rather bizarre and interesting presentation. I am sure at some stage one of my colleagues will see this young man again and might encounter the same perplexing problem.”

It was only a matter of weeks, though, before a paranoid schizophrenic diagnosis was added to Magnotta’s chart. He had returned to the hospital and was briefly admitted, complaining that someone was trying to cause him to overdose.

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Four months later, in August 2001, Magnotta was back at Ross Memorial again, this time because he’d overdosed on the sedative Clonazepam.

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He had been taking up residence at Harrison House, a group home for people living with mental illness, specifically schizophrenia. A staff member there noticed Magnotta’s behaviour was odd, then that the patient’s recently-filled bottle of pills was empty.

And so it went for years.

Magnotta was seen at the Toronto East Hospital in 2002, spent more time living at Harrison House the following year and then at Ajax, Ont.’s Rouge Valley Centenary Health Centre from 2003 to 2008. He had a doctor at North York General Hospital between 2009 and 2010, was taken to emergency at the Mount Sinai Medical Centre in Miami in 2011 and, finally, was seen at Montreal’s Jewish General in 2012.

Records from those last two indicate Magnotta lied to doctors at both institutions.

WATCH: If Magnotta lied to doctors to avoid hospitalization, Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier asked psychiatrist Marie-Frédérique Allard, could he also lie to avoid jail?

In Miami, Magnotta said he suffered no mental illness, had never been medicated and never treated in a mental institution.

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When referred to the Jewish General just weeks before killing Lin, Magnotta again withheld potentially critical information, neglecting to tell doctors he was hearing voices and chalking his previous diagnoses of schizophrenia and psychosis up to a fictional problem with substance abuse. Throughout the years, Magnotta had repeatedly told doctors he didn’t like alcohol or drugs, and rarely took either.

The various doctors Magnotta had seen noted their patient’s complaints: he was hearing voices talking about him, felt the FBI and local police were out for him, thought other people could hear his thoughts, believed people were watching him through video cameras, was worried he was being poisoned, and had to move every few months, convinced the government was spying on him and bugging his phone.

READ MORE: Magnotta trial: Not criminally responsible myths, debunked

With almost each new doctor Magnotta met, he went through his personal and family history: His mother became pregnant with Magnotta when she was in Grade 9, and dropped out before finishing the school year. Still, she homeschooled her son until Grade 6.

Magnotta told doctors his mother abused and isolated him, and that she forced him to wear diapers when he was six years old.

His parents divorced when Magnotta was 13, around the time his father’s mental health began deteriorating.

Magnotta told doctors that when he finally started to attend school at 11 years old, he felt ostracized, and that other kids made fun of him. Saying he was unable to concentrate, he never graduated high school, dropping out before the end of Grade 11.

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READ MORE: Magnotta’s father describes son’s isolated, dysfunctional childhood

For years, Magnotta bounced between living with his mother, his father and his grandmother, and also had stints living in New York and Los Angeles.

Eventually, Magnotta’s perverse and now well-known online presence started to emerge.

WATCH: Magnotta’s father painted a picture of his son’s troubled past. The defence hopes his testimony will counter the prosecution’s portrayal of Magnotta as a cold, calculating killer. 

Officers who testified during his first-degree murder trial said he had a deep presence online with dozens of profiles on a number of sites. For some accounts, he used his name, for others a pseudonym. At times, he had the different profiles converse in an apparent attempt to create a buzz about Luka Rocco Magnotta.

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He gained attention when animal rights groups began going after him for posting videos depicting kitten killings to YouTube. Those disturbing videos first became known in December 2010, while Magnotta was living in New York.

WATCH: A Toronto doctor has told the jury Magnotta was convinced in 2005 he was being stalked and that voices in his head told him he walked like an ape.

During one interview with defence psychiatrist Watts, Magnotta said he wasn’t sure how the cat videos wound up online, but blamed a former client, Emanuel Lopez —  or Manny, as he’s frequently called throughout medical and legal records — saying this often violent and manipulative man ordered him to kill the pet kittens.

Magnotta told his doctors Manny was an American he met in 2010, but assessing psychiatrists were not able to find him. Watts told the court it was unclear whether Manny — or another person, named Rebecca, who appeared to be a major presence in his life — actually existed. Despite a lack of any evidence presented to the court and jury supporting Manny’s existence, Magnotta has laid blame on the mysterious, or perhaps fictional, man for much of his more heinous behaviours, from killing kittens to killing Lin.

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READ MORE: Did Magnotta make up rumours about himself? What prompted him to mail packages to Ottawa?

Magnotta’s deviant online presence also included “rumours” of a romantic tryst he had with infamous schoolgirl killer Karla Homolka. Magnotta filed police complaints about the rumours and approached media to say the rumour was ruining his professional and personal life. Earlier this year, however, he admitted to forensic psychiatrist Allard the entire story was his own fabrication, which he later regretted.

The kitten videos and the Homolka speculation both seemed to simmer on the backburner while Magnotta moved from one city to another, sometimes taking his medication, sometimes not.

After he was discharged from the Miami hospital in January 2011, he travelled briefly to New York, then Toronto. That February, he decided he’d move to Montreal to get away from his family and begin anew.

There, Watts wrote in his report, Magnotta “often went to walk-in clinics feeling confused, helpless, and thought he could not do anything right.”

Toward the end of his first year in Montreal Magnotta took a trip to London, where a reporter with the UK Sun newspaper caught up with him to question him about the kitten tapes.

WATCH: Testifying via video link from London was British journalist Alex West, who met Luka Magnotta about five months before Jun Lin was killed.

Magnotta denied being behind the videos, professing his love for animals. He told the reporter the “rumours” of his involvement were destroying his personal and professional life.

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Two days after the December 2011 interview, which was surreptitiously recorded, the Sun newsroom received a menacing and vulgar email from a “John Kilbride” — the name of a murder victim in one of the United Kingdom’s most notorious cases.

READ MORE: Journalist describes meeting with ‘defensive and cocky’ Luka Magnotta in England

Magnotta eventually admitted the email came from him, telling Watts he was disgusted at having done that.

The email’s author professed to being the kitten killer and wrote of his intentions to move from killing animals to killing humans, promising to send the newspaper a “copy of the new video [he was] going to be making.”

Five months later, Montreal police were trying to pull a snuff film from a number of websites as Magnotta emerged as the primary suspect in Lin’s killing and became the target of an international manhunt.

Part 1: The night Jun Lin is Last seen alive

Part 2: The homicide investigation begins

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