WARNING: Due to the nature of the trial, this column contains graphic content.
MONTREAL - Somewhere somebody is thanking his lucky stars, his guardian angel and a mystifying twist of fate.
A man who walked in — and walked out again alive — of the apartment where Luka Rocca Magnotta murdered and dismembered 33-year-old Concordia computer engineering student Lin Jun only a week later.
After being tied and bound as Lin would be.
After being videotaped, thus trussed, fettered to Magnotta’s bed, as Lin would be.
That detail was the most shocking revelation heard by a jury here on Monday, information that emerged at the defendant’s preliminary hearing earlier this summer but was subject to a publication ban until the trial began yesterday.
It is unclear whether this male has since been identified, located, or if he will be called to testify at this much anticipated trial. But court heard the man appears in a 53-second segment of the “murder video” which will be screened for the jury in the weeks ahead.
The video Magnotta uploaded to the web mere hours after Lin was slain, one day before he bolted Montreal for Paris.
“Another man, bonded, lying naked on the bed in Mr. Magnotta’s apartment,” prosecutor Louis Bouthillier told the jury of eight men and six women.
“You heard about the so-called murder video. Most of you have not seen the so-called murder video. You will get to see it here in court. You are judges now.”
Lin — and the “indignities performed on him” — appears in the “graphic, gruesome video’’ for 10 minutes, said Bouthillier.
Magnotta, the preening model and low-rent porn actor, has admitted to all five of the charges he’s facing in the infamous crime that triggered an Interpol manhunt and international headlines in late May, 2012: First-degree murder, indignities committed to a body, publishing obscene material, criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Members of Parliament, and mailing obscene and indecent material through Canada Post.
Some of Lin’s severed body parts — two feet, two hands — travelled through the mail across Canada, arriving at two Vancouver-area schools and the Conservative Party office in Ottawa.
His head was found in a Montreal park.
His torso in a suit case.
A leg and two arms in garbage bags.
Along with a dead black dog, triple-bagged.
Phillips screwdriver, three knives, scissors, an angle grinder, hammer, blood-soaked T-shirt, Vaseline, blue Latex gloves, dish washing liquid, a sponge, tape, suppositories, plastic shower curtain, razor, mattress cover, Canada Post boxes, banking invoices and documents with Magnotta’s name on them, fleece-lined denim jacket, three pairs of sweat pants, jock strap, bathing trunks: All articles retrieved from garbage bags deposited in the alley behind the defendant’s apartment and inventoried by investigators, the items photographed and entered as 161 photo exhibits yesterday by Caroline Simoneau, a forensic ID officer with Montreal police.
By that point, the victim’s father, Lin Duran — here from China to bear witness, translator sitting alongside — had left the courtroom. He did not, with eyes watching him, view the disturbing photos of his son’s limbless, headless, mottled torso, as it was found in situ in that partly unzipped suitcase that had oozed red liquid onto the pavement under a hot sun.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer granted the family’s request for a pub ban covering all images of body parts and any “receptacles” in which they were found.
While Magnotta has conceded to everything, he pleaded not guilty to each formal indictment Monday morning. That means, as his lawyer Luc Leclair told the jury in his opening remarks, the defence will seek a not criminally responsible verdict — an unsound mind that rendered him incapable of forming intent or understanding the consequences of his actions. Mens rea is the issue — criminal intent.
“Mr. Magnotta has admitted the physical acts for each of the offences. The other part to each charge is the mental part — so the defence will be focusing on that.”
Magnotta, said Leclair, was diagnosed as a schizophrenic at age 19 and a borderline personality a mere month before these crimes were committed, though receiving no medication or further treatment after presenting himself to a psychiatrist at a Montreal hospital for a one-hour assessment. “If it had been done a different way, we probably wouldn’t be here.”
But Bouthillier, in his opening address, said the Crown will show that the crimes were premeditated and months in the planning.
Magnotta, who grew up in Scarborough, was born Eric Newman before changing his name, before seduced by his own reflection in the mirror.
A profoundly vain man, then. In court, however, the 32-year-old is unrecognizable from how he appeared in those days, the pretty boy in thrall to himself. Now gone to jailhouse seed, flabby and dumpy, with the protrusion of small man-boobs visible through his sweater, looking out impassively on the courtroom through dark-framed spectacles.
Magnotta was arrested without incident in a Berlin Internet café on June 4, 2012 and returned to Canada shortly afterwards.
Bouthillier told the jury they will hear testimony from a British reporter with the London Sun — among 60 witnesses appearing in person or via taped interviews — who recorded his meeting with Magnotta in a hotel room in December 2011. A few days later, Magnotta sent this journalist an email. “It is our position this email makes it clear Mr. Magnotta was planning to kill a human being and he was planning to make a movie of that killing.”
Leclair countered that Magnotta spoke to the journalist about “cat killing” videos and that he’d believed himself “hunted” by PETA, the animal rights group.
The ghastly news of Lin’s fate flashed around the world after police found the victim’s torso, alerted to the grisly contents by the janitor at Magnotta’s building. Investigators retrieved surveillance video that, said Bouthillier, show two men going inside the building together. “These images are the last images of Mr. Lin alive. He was killed and dismembered a few hours after that.”
A camera was also recovered from the trash.
Lin had held a good job in the IT department at Microsoft’s Beijing office, realizing a long-standing dream to live and study in Montreal, immigrating here in 2011. At the time of his death, Lin was also working part-time as a convenience store clerk.
Less than 48 hours later after the killing, Magnotta was in Paris using a false name, then moving on to Berlin. A man with whom Magnotta stayed in Berlin prior to the arrest is scheduled to testify next week.
Bouthillier said evidence will show that Magnotta took deliberate steps to hide the body and cover his tracks while on the run.
The thrust of the defence revolves around the NCR pitch, with Leclair contending Magnotta had long-standing mental health issues. Five years before Lin’s murder, Magnotta reached out to a Toronto reporter to deny that he’d ever dated notorious schoolgirl killer Karla Homolka. Why he believed anyone was under that impression is baffling.
Insight into the defendant’s purported mental disorders — hearing voices, feeling persecuted — will be provided by two defence psychiatrists, said Leclair, and biographical context by a family member. Maybe. His father, possibly.
“I’m crossing my fingers that somebody will come. I quite believe he will be here.”