CityNews Rewind 2012: The worldwide manhunt for Toronto’s Luka Magnotta

A janitor discovers a dismembered torso in a suitcase at a low-rent apartment complex in Montreal on May 29. Later that same day, a package containing a human foot arrives at the Conservative Party headquarters in Ottawa. Another package addressed to the Liberal Party is intercepted at a Canada Post warehouse. It contains a human hand.

Two days before the gruesome discoveries, a lawyer from Montana alerts Toronto police to a chilling video circulating online called “1 lunatic 1 ice pick” that appears to depict a frenzied murder and dismemberment.

Roger Renville said police brushed him off, skeptical of the video’s authenticity.

It would turn out to be all too real.

Click here to read other stories in our CityNews Rewind 2012 series.

While all this was going on, Chinese university student Jun Lin, 33, is reported missing by friends in Montreal, and the man who would soon be accused of killing and dismembering Lin on camera before mailing out his body parts had already hopped a plane to Europe.

The worldwide manhunt for Luka Magnotta was underway.

The search for a suspected killer:

A disturbing portrait of murder suspect Luka Magnotta, 30, emerged while he was a fugitive.

Magnotta was born Eric Clinton Newman on July 24, 1982 in Scarborough. He attended high school in Lindsay, Ont., but moved back to Toronto in 2001.

He would eventually begin working as a stripper, escort, and gay-porn actor.

He reportedly went by the names Jimmy and Vladimir Romanov, and claimed to have connections to the Russian mob. Aside from those aliases, it’s believed he created dozens of other online identities and set up as many as 70 Facebook pages and 20 websites.

He was charged with credit card fraud in Toronto in 2004 and after pleading guilty he was given a nine-month conditional sentence and a year of probation.

There were also rumours that he dated Karla Homolka, although it’s largely believed the story was fabricated, possibly by Magnotta himself.  In 2007 he denied both dating Homolka, and creating the rumours.

More disturbing allegations arose when news surfaced that an animal-rights activist group began trying to track down a person who was posting videos online of kittens being tortured and killed in late 2010. Through their own research, the group claimed Magnotta was responsible for the cruel acts, and for months tried to track him down, to no avail.

Despite his prolific online presence, few seemed to know Magnotta personally.

CityNews spoke with a transsexual woman who claimed she had short affair with him when he was stripping in Toronto under the stage name Angel.

Nina Arsenault said she met Magnotta when he was just 18 and working at Remington’s strip joint on Yonge Street.

He would do “anything to be famous,” she recalled.

Arsenault called Magnotta “very manipulative” and a “pathological liar” and said he would “joke about killing animals…and killing people.”

“To me he was a f****d up kid.”

Magnotta’s arrest and aftermath:

Despite having published an online blog post in 2009 titled “How to Completely Disappear and Never Be Found,” Luka Magnotta’s time on the lam was short lived.

On June 4, less than a week after international police launched a worldwide manhunt for him, Magnotta was collared in a Berlin Internet cafe while reading stories about his alleged crimes.

“The web was used to glorify himself and it was the web that got him arrested,” Montreal police commander Ian Lafreniere said after the arrest.

The next day, two schools in Vancouver received packages containing more human remains. They were later positively identified as belonging to Lin.

Magnotta, who was flown back to Montreal in a military plane, is facing five charges including first-degree murder, defiling a corpse, and harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper for mailing body parts to the Conservative party headquarters.

On June 19, Magnotta pleaded not guilty to all charges. A preliminary hearing will take place in March 2013.

On June 26, Lin’s family held a private memorial in Montreal. His head was found on July 1 near a pond in a Montreal park.

They plan to remain in Canada until Magnotta’s trial is over.

Click here to read other stories in our CityNews Rewind 2012 series.

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