WARNING: Due to the nature of the trial, this column contains graphic content.
MONTREAL - It is but a glimpse, a few seconds here, a few seconds there.
Jun Lin is smiling.
He clearly believes himself in the company of a friend, no matter how recent the acquaintance.
Chatting amiably with his companion as they arrive at the apartment building, through the lobby, up the stairs, down the hall.
In his bright yellow T-shirt, with the distinctive cartoon design. In his baseball cap.
Four hours and 44 minutes later, Luka Magnotta is wearing that same shirt. In his numerous comings and goings, in and out of his apartment, up and down the lobby steps, Magnotta will change his clothing multiple times.
He’s got Lin’s cap on his head, over a dark wig.
Pausing to preen in front of a large mirror in the lobby, tucking the hair behind his ears.
Of Lin, nothing else is seen again in the surveillance video clips that were played for a jury here Thursday.
But there is a wheeled suitcase. Magnotta struggles with its weight after emerging from the elevator — the only time he hasn’t used the stairs — the thing flipping over when dragged down the steps of the building’s front stoop.
Lin’s torso is in there.
It’s 22:14, May 25, 2012.
And it’s been a busy night for Magnotta. A night of the macabre.
Casual in his movements, though, nothing furtive about the exits and entrances as night turns to day.
Four surveillance cameras capture Magnotta going about his business with detached calm through those hours – and the occasional mirror check. Even now, presumably with Lin’s corpse already butchered in apartment 208, there seems nothing shaken or wary about Magnotta. Repeatedly, he runs his hands through his hair, a model’s gesture, turns around to clock his bottom.
Even now, having done grisly murder and dismemberment — no denial of the grisly acts — Magnotta is utterly self-absorbed, pulling a pout for the mirror.
It takes merely two minutes for Magnotta to deposit his baggage in a side alley before reappearing.
Jurors have heard and will eventually see with their own eyes what happened in apartment 208: Lin lying bound on Magnotta’s bed, Lin’s head and limbs severed — the diabolical dissection of a human being allegedly filmed by his killer and, within hours, uploaded to the Internet.
Starring Magnotta, two-bit male model and gay porn actor.
The role of his miserable life. And damning evidence in his first-degree murder trial.
Somewhere during that carving and rendering, Magnotta apparently ordered a pizza. A delivery man is seen arriving and Magnotta later stuffing the empty box into a large garbage bin in the building’s basement — as another camera records his nocturnal ramblings.
A dozen times Magnotta returns to the basement, hauling waste baskets full of trash, plastic garbage bags, piles of clothing, empty bottles, a couple of pillows, dumping the lot into the two rubber bins. Other large bags he takes directly outside to the curb.
Police will find parts of Lin’s legs amidst that detritus.
His head will be discovered a month later in a local park.
Both hands, both feet, will travel through Canada Post, destined for a couple of Vancouver schools, the Conservative party offices and Liberal party offices in Ottawa. In gift bags, with bizarre, menacing notes attached.
The distressing torso-in-the-suitcase find was made by building janitor Michael Nadeau on May 29, jammed behind old furniture he’d put out days before but which hadn’t been picked up by garbage men. “In back of the furniture there was a suitcase and there was maggots crawling out all over the place,” Nadeau testified yesterday.
He and the building’s late manager were curious, decided to investigate.
“We opened it up. We saw a neck, shoulders and the top of a torso. That was enough for us. We called 911 right away.”
The call-out for a suspicious death went to homicide detective Claudette Hamelin at 10:50 a.m. She arrived with her partner as forensic teams were already documenting the scene. Attention was focused on the suitcase, which was dotted with splotches of white spray paint. In the lengthy compilation of surveillance video clips that Hamelin presented to the jury Thursday, Magnotta is seen coming back to the building from one of his many departures and returns May 25, carrying what was then an obviously empty suitcase at 8:48 a.m.
Four hours earlier, he’d emerge with a puppy in his arms and then go back in.
Police would find a dead puppy in Bag No. 16 — out of 25 — along with part of a human leg and a blood-soaked bedcover.
Bag No. 10 contained a cell phone, digital camera and lap top computer.
Bag No. 7: A still soapy wet shower curtain and two black-handled knives.
Big No. 18: A hammer, screwdriver and a circular saw.
And, throughout, documents — photocopy of a passport, probation driver’s licence, bank ledger statements — with the name Luka Rocca Magnotta.
“I’m looking for the rest of the body and maybe tools used for the crime,” Hamelin recalled.
The search was less methodical than Hamelin would have liked because a wind-whipping storm had descended, police scrambling to haul all the garbage bags under the protection of a crime scene canopy, and away from prying media cameras. By the time the bags’ contents were searched again the following day, Hamelin had learned about the Internet video. The building manager had also identified Magnotta in the surveillance video, going up and down the stairs.
“I thought the remains were of Mr. Magnotta,” said Hamelin. “But watching the (Internet) video, we realized there was a second crime scene somewhere that we had to locate.
“The victim in the suitcase was not Mr. Magnotta. He was my prime suspect now.”
The suspect — now the defendant — watched impassively from his seat behind glass in the dock as all those video images, more than a hundred of them, unfolded on courtroom monitors.
Magnotta has pleaded not guilty to five crimes, including first-degree murder and committing indignities to a body. His lawyer, Luc Leclair, has told the jury he will mount a case for “not criminally responsible,” arguing the defendant wasn’t of sound mind when he committed these crimes.
Court heard earlier in the day from Luc Savard, a Montreal police officer with the technological computer crime unit. It was Savard who retrieved the surveillance video on May 29. In the days afterwards, as the investigation moved quickly forward, Savard also collected video from surveillance and CCTV cameras around the city.
Magnotta at the postal counter of a pharmacy, buying mail boxes. Magnotta on May 24 at the corner convenience store where Lin, a Concordia University computer student, worked part-time. Magnotta at another post office. And Lin, at 8 p.m., May 24, entering the apartment building where he’d lived for two years with his former lover, Feng Lin. The couple had broken up earlier that month, as Feng testified Wednesday, Jun Lin moving in with a friend and Feng returning to China to visit his parents.
Somewhere, Lin’s path crossed fatefully with Magnotta.
Magnotta, who bolted Canada on May 26, was arrested June 4 in Berlin following an Interpol manhunt.
He still had Lin’s baseball hat.