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Portrait of an accused murderer

Luka Magnotta could soon be back on Canadian soil

Luka Magnotta may be back on Canadian soil soon. Credit: Twitter
Kadir Anlayisli says the man in booth 25 was reading about himself.
 
Anlayisli, a clerk at a Berlin internet café, called the police.
 
“Are you Luka Magnotta?” The police asked when they arrived shortly thereafter.
 
“You got me,” was the reply from the occupant of booth 25.
 
Luka Rocco Magnotta was wanted in connection with one of the most brutal and sadistic crimes in recent Canadian history. His crime, the video of it, and his flight to Europe had transfixed international media.
 
Commentators wondered, Where in the world is Luka Magnotta?
 
He was on Karl Marx St, as it turns out, sitting in Anlayisli’s café. Appropriate, as Magnotta’s online persona depicted him as somewhat of a Communist.  (And a Nazi too, or so it seems.) He is accused of a laundry list of crimes surrounding the death of Chinese national Jun Lin.

Magnotta could be back in Canada within a week, as The Globe and Mail is reporting he is not contesting his extradition.

Yet questions still swirl around Magnotta. In the mountainous pile of online information available about him, it is remarkably difficult to sift fact from fiction; authentic from fraudulent. With some detective work, journalists, police and online activists have pieced together aspects of Magnotta’s life. Yet still little is known about the personal life of the man who has been dubbed everything from a serial cat killer to the Canadian Psycho to the James Dean Killer – a moniker he styled for himself.
 
On May 31, Xtra reported on details of Magnotta’s online presence, connecting him to an obsession with serial murderer Karla Homolka, white supremacist groups and countless other eccentric postings.
 
As the hunt continued for Magnotta, online groups took up the challenge to trace the web that Magnotta had spun across the internet. From the so-called “deep internet,” where an alias connected to Magnotta sought morphine that may have been used on his victim, to posts predating the release of the murder that detailed the video to an eerie degree of accuracy — the self-styled sleuths cobbled together an impressive composite of Magnotta’s internet profile.
 
The six-day case that captivated the world took many strange turns. The initial absurdity of body parts posted to the Liberal and Conservative headquarters gave way to the even more gruesome reality of the crime. By May 30, when the video came to light, the world looked on in morbid fascination.
 
Who was Luka Magnotta?
 
Few were able to speak authoritatively about the man accused of murder, necrophilia and cannibalism. Xtra tracked down Julie, an ex-girlfriend of Magnotta’s, who spoke of his narcissism and lust for fame. Julie emailed Xtra in the hour after Magnotta’s arrest. “They got the fucking monster!” she wrote.
 
“I was in tears when I first heard the news,” she said. “I feel a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”
 
Xtra also conducted an exclusive interview with Dave, a friend of Magnotta’s from 2002. Dave paints a picture of a shy, soft-spoken 19-year-old who feared confrontation.
 
The two met on the instant messaging client ICQ and soon began exchanging phone calls. Not long after, they met in a coffee shop in Toronto’s gay village. They quickly became good friends, speaking frequently on the phone.
 
When Dave visited Magnotta’s apartment, he says, warning bells started to go off. He noticed that Magnotta — who then went by Eric Clinton Newman — was a “show-off” with deeply narcissistic behaviour. Magnotta, he says, had a penchant for flashy jewellery and constantly needed approval. “Do you like my rings?” Dave says in a dull baritone, mimicking the accused murderer’s voice.
 
Magnotta was a serious “homebody,” Dave says, and he rarely wanted to go out. The one time the two went to a bar together, Magnotta insisted it be late at night. “He didn’t want to be seen.”
 
Magnotta moved not long after, and Dave visited his new apartment in Scarborough. Magnotta, who didn’t seem to have a job, appeared to be living off a neighbour’s credit card. That’s what “set off the alarms,” Dave says. He was probably right to be suspicious, as Magnotta was charged with credit card fraud just two years later.
 
Magnotta was obsessed with mafia movies, Dave says, but fixated on the erotic thriller Basic Instinct as his favourite. The movie’s poster pops up on several of Magnotta’s online profiles. The movie revolves around a brutal murder committed with an ice pick — the same murder weapon Magnotta allegedly used. The sequel was released while Magnotta was seeing Julie, and the two went to see it on its opening night. “He wanted to sit in the front row, and he was holding my hand the whole time,” Julie says.
 
Dave broke off ties with Magnotta after he started playing “weird psychological games,” he says. Namely, Magnotta would call him and make plans. Dave would show up and wait, only to find that he had been stood up. Dave called Magnotta and confronted him about it. Magnotta didn’t take it well, Dave says, and became very anxious. They wouldn’t speak again.
 
The Magnotta family
 
Even after Magnotta’s arrest, details are still coming to light about his life. One blog, styled like much of Magnotta’s writing, is a supposed news story about an affair Magnotta carried on with his sister. Another post, written under Magnotta’s alias of Vladimir Romanov, in an almost identical writing style to much of Magnotta’s, recounts the author’s childhood. The post is the most recent response to another writer’s recounting of their childhood. Assuming the post was written by Magnotta, it makes it one of the very few penned in the past year and perhaps the only written under his Romanov alias. It accuses his parents of ritualistic abuse and says they both suffered mental illness.

The post, if true, sheds light into Magnotta’s anti-social behaviour. “My mother wore surgical masks and latex gloves and wouldnt allow us to have anyfriends because they were ‘dirty,’” it reads, rife with Magnotta’s trademark error-prone writing. “We couldnt go outside OR even go to school.”

 
While the exact nature of Magnotta’s earlier life is notoriously hard to pin down, there is at least consistency amongst a lot of his online profiles. While some of the details change — such as whether he had sex with his sister, mother or stepmother as a child — there is at least a driving narrative that Magnotta had a disquieting, troubled childhood.
 
Meanwhile, others had come across Magnotta’s escort postings — often under variations of “Jimmy” — and had tried calling the phone number attached. That number was actually for a man known only by the name of “Bill,” who appears to have been Magnotta’s handler. His ad, for “models gay, bi or straight for [private adult entertainment],” appeared in the Toronto Sun. He was contacted by Xtra and confirmed his name and occupation but declined to comment.
 
Lin Jun
 
Some news outlets speculated that Lin Jun (also known as Justin Lin) had a darker side, but the consensus appears to be that Magnotta’s victim was a hard-working student trying to make a better life for himself and his family.
 
In a bizarre coincidence, the victim’s name — Lin – was a mere letter away from this journalist’s name — Ling. As such, it’s fitting that it was an Xtra commenter — Darn, from Toronto — that offered up a translation of a Chinese-language blog post from one of Lin’s acquaintances. The post notes that Lin was a soft-spoken, shy teenager from a working-class background who came out of the closet, even in socially conservative China. It goes on to tell of Lin’s sad, unrequited love for a man while he was in college.
 
While it’s impossible to substantiate such a post, it is consistent with much of Lin’s presence on the Chinese-language social media platform Weibo.
 
Magnotta now faces five charges in connection with Lin’s death: one count of first degree murder, a charge relating to his production and distribution of the so-called snuff film, and three charges relating to his treatment of the body and body parts.
 

Note: Both Julie and Dave are assumed names. They chose to remain anonymous so as not to attach their name to this case.