WARNING: Due to the nature of the trial, this column contains graphic content.
MONTREAL - “If you don’t like the reflection, don’t look in the mirror.”
Those were the words scrawled in red marker on the wall inside a closet in the studio apartment where Luka Magnotta resided and allegedly committed butchery of a human being.
But Magnotta was in thrall to mirrors.
As he was in thrall to his own beauteous image: the cherry-mouth pout a signature feature in autoerotic poses.
The sculpted cheekbones.
The arched eyebrow.
The seductive moue.
He lived in a house of mirrors, metaphorically, that reflected his own contrived creation.
“I don’t care,” the epigram on the wall continues.
Magnotta, who’s admitted — but pleaded not guilty — to the murder and dismemberment of Chinese exchange student Jun Lin, may or not be a head case, which is the “not criminally responsible” argument his lawyer has stated he will mount at trial here. But he was indisputably a vanity case, a walking hunk of narcissism.
The figments of his imagination were obliquely portrayed in court on Tuesday, in bizarre notes written on fuchsia paper, attached to gift bags containing parts of Lin’s mutilated body, sent through the mail to addresses across Canada.
The Conservative party offices in Ottawa received a foot and this communiqué: “Stephen Harper and Lauren Tesky (sic) know who this is. They f---d up big time.” (Laureen Teskey is the maiden name of the prime minister’s wife.)
The Liberals’ HQ got a severed hand and a note: “You need to speak to Lauren Tesky and her family!”
There is no evidence that either Stephen or Laureen Harper had ever heard of Luka Rocco Magnotta — born Eric Newman.
A package addressed to a woman at St. George’s School in Vancouver held a foot and this blunt footnote: “Die bitch! Soon.”
With a return address of L. Valentini in St. Catharines, False Creek Elementary in Vancouver got a hand and a little ditty: “Roses are red, violets are blue, the police will need dental records to identify you. Bitch.”
The real bitch, I would suggest, is the now-pudgy and slack-muscled 32-year-old man in the defendant’s dock, in his beige shawl-collared cardigan, with the barely noticeable moustache.
Scarborough-born Magnotta is facing five charges, including first-degree murder and committing indignities to a body, in the May 2012 slaying of Lin, 32. The horrors were captured by a camera and the “murder video” posted on the Internet within hours of the crime, court has been told.
Scores of still photos were entered as exhibits yesterday showing the scene at Magnotta’s apartment as forensic officers discovered it after the building manager reported finding a torso stuffed into suitcase and left in the alley alongside.
The second-floor unit — one room and a kitchenette — looks abandoned as, indeed, Magnotta had vacated it, purportedly on the day after the killing when he bolted for Europe. Forensics photographer Chantal Turmel took the jury on a virtual tour of the apartment as the pics were shown on a courtroom screen.
At first glance, the residence appears scrubbed clean. But closer inspection — and a more detailed set of photos — hints at the debauchery that lay beneath: Speckles of blood on the bathroom sink, on a shower curtain, on walls, on the cheap two-seat dining table; a large red splotch beneath the vegetable drawer in the fridge; a wide pinkish stain on the underside of a mattress behind the sofa.
That bed is where the murder allegedly was committed, Lin — as shown on the video which jurors will see later — tied and bound. As found, the bed was made up with a brown sheet. Beneath it, however, was a maroon plastic covering which, when removed, revealed a broad reddish-brown stain surrounded with white, as if someone had tried to “bleach’’ out blood. The box spring underneath is also wrapped in plastic.
“Was there a particular smell?” Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier asked the witness.
Turmel: “When we removed the mattress, there was a smell that was a little bit rotten.”
The Crown contends that Magnotta understood perfectly well what he was doing — was of sound mind in a legal context — and evidence corroborates that he took steps to hide the crime: cleaning up after himself, assuming a new name when he legged it for Paris and then Berlin, where Magnotta was arrested at an Internet café June 4, 2012.
When Turmel arrived at the apartment with her cameras in the early morning hours of May 30, she knew of the murder video. But missing was the Casablanca movie poster that had been above the bed and an empty wine bottle that had been used to sodomize Lin, court was told. By that point, police had already carted away 31 garbage bags that had been piled up outside the building, found to contain a slew of items connected to Magnotta and, apparently, Lin.
Turmel was instructed to climb into a dumpster truck and sift through the trash for more evidence. There she recovered the poster and the wine bottle along with a yellow T-shirt with a distinctive design on the front — the same shirt that Lin is wearing on a photo posted on his Facebook page, although the jury has not seen that yet.
Turmel was followed into the witness stand by Richard Dionne, a crime scene investigator with the Montreal police ID unit.
On July 1, more than a month after Lin was murdered and with Magnotta in custody in Berlin awaiting extradition, Dionne was summoned to Angrignon Park, about 10 kilometres from Magnotta’s apartment. Following a police sniffer dog’s trail, Dionne walked down a path and no further than 25 feet into the soggy bracken near a small water basin. There was what would prove to be Lin’s badly decomposed skull, turned a dun colour, with a sizeable chunk missing at the scalp line. A piece of hair-covered scalp was also retrieved.
It’s been a grisly trove of evidence shared with the jury thus far, with far worse to come.
For reasons unclear, defence lawyer Luc Leclair spent all of Tuesday going over the dozens of articles police recovered from those 31 garbage bags and entered Monday as photo exhibits by another forensic officer, Caroline Simoneau.
Leclair insisted the jury be shown the actual items rather than just photographs, so large cardboard boxes containing this evidence were trundled into the courtroom. As Simoneau, wearing purple Latex gloves, extracted each item from its brown paper police wrapping, Leclair carried the article to the jury box, walking slowly along the panel so every juror could get a good look.
Here is a black pair of men’s underwear.
Here is a hammer.
Here is a knife.
Here is a screwdriver.
Here is a circular handsaw.
They’d seen the pictures. Now they got the picture, first-hand.