Luka Magnotta – born Eric Clinton Kirk Newman

Early life and background

Luka Rocco Magnotta was born Eric Clinton Kirk Newman on July 24, 1982, in Scarborough, Ontario, the son of Anna Yourkin and Donald Newman. He was the first of their three children. According to him, his mother was obsessed with cleanliness, would routinely lock her children out of the house, and once put her children’s pet rabbits out in the cold to freeze to death. His father was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1994, after which he divorced Magnotta’s mother, leading Magnotta to move in with his grandmother, Phyllis.

Magnotta attended I. E. Weldon Secondary School in Lindsay. In 2003, he began to appear in gay pornographic videos, occasionally working as a stripper and an escort. He appeared as a pin-up model in a 2005 issue of Toronto’s fab magazine, using the pseudonym Jimmy. In 2007, he was an unsuccessful competitor in OUTtv’s reality series COVERguy. He had multiple cosmetic surgeries and auditioned for the Slice network television show Plastic Makes Perfect in February 2008.

Early criminal activity

In 2005, Magnotta was convicted of one count of impersonation and three counts of fraud (against Sears Canada, The Brick, and 2001 Audio Video) after impersonating a woman to apply for a credit card and purchase over $10,000 worth of goods. He pleaded guilty and received a nine-month conditional sentence with 12 months of probation.

A young Luka Magnotta
A young Luka Magnotta

He legally changed his name from Eric Clinton Kirk Newman to Luka Rocco Magnotta on August 12, 2006. Magnotta declared bankruptcy in March 2007, owing $17,000 in various debts. The bankruptcy was fully discharged in December 2007.

Magnotta created many profiles on various Internet social media and discussion forums over several years to plant a variety of claims about himself. One such rumour emerged in 2007, claiming Magnotta was in a relationship with Karla Homolka, a high-profile Canadian convicted murderer, which Magnotta denied in a subsequent interview with the Toronto Sun. During the murder investigation in 2012, Montreal police announced that the pair had dated but soon retracted the statement and acknowledged that they had no evidence to corroborate the claim. As with the Homolka relationship, Magnotta repeatedly denied the claims that he had planted as hoaxes and part of a campaign of cyberstalking against him. Police stated that Magnotta set up at least 70 Facebook pages and 20 websites under different names.

Murder and investigation

Lin was last seen on May 24, 2012, and his friends reported getting a text message from his phone at 9 pm. His boss became suspicious when he did not show up for his shift the next day. Three of his friends went into his apartment on May 27. He was reported missing to the police on May 29.

On May 25, 2012, an 11-minute video titled 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick was uploaded to Bestgore.com, depicting a naked male tied to a bed frame being repeatedly stabbed with an ice pick and a kitchen knife, then dismembered, followed by acts of necrophilia. The perpetrator uses a knife and fork to cut off some of the flesh and gets a dog to chew on the body. During the video, the 1987 New Order song “True Faith” plays in the background, and a poster for the 1942 film Casablanca is visible on the wall. Canadian authorities obtained a “more extensive” version of the video and said cannibalism may have been performed. Materials promoting the video appeared online 10 days before the murder took place.

On May 26, 2012, an attorney from Montana attempted to report the video to Toronto Police, his local Sheriff, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but the report was dismissed by officials. Bestgore viewers also attempted to report the video. Police later confirmed it as authentic and identified the victim, an Asian male, as the same one whose body parts were sent to Ottawa.

At 11 am on May 29, 2012, a package containing a left foot was delivered to the national headquarters of the Conservative Party of Canada.  The package was stained with blood, had a foul smell, and was marked with a red heart symbol. Another package containing a left hand was intercepted in a Canada Post processing facility, addressed to the Liberal Party.

Luka Magnotta with lovely hair
Magnotta thought himself to be a bit of a model

A janitor discovered a decomposing torso inside a suitcase, left in a garbage pile in the alley behind an apartment building in the Snowdon area of Montreal. He first saw the suitcase on May 25, but it was not picked up due to the large amount of garbage that day. After searching the scene, police recovered human remains, bloody clothes, and papers identifying the suspect, as well as “sharp and blunt objects” from the back alley. Footage from surveillance cameras inside the building showed a suspect bringing numerous garbage bags outside, and the images matched the suspect who was captured on video at the post office in Côte-des-Neiges.

At 11:33 pm EDT (03:33 UTC), police searched the apartment which Magnotta was renting on Décarie Boulevard. He had moved in four months prior, and his rent was paid up to June 1. The apartment had been mostly emptied before he left. Blood was found on different items including the mattress, the refrigerator, the table, and the bathtub. “If you dont like the reflection. Dont look in the mirror. I don’t care [sic]” was written in red ink on the inside of a closet.

On May 30, 2012, it was confirmed that the body parts belonged to the same individual, later identified as Jun Lin. The suspect in the case was quickly identified as Magnotta, who had by then fled.

A note was found with the package sent to the Conservative Party, saying six body parts had been distributed and the perpetrator would kill again. The other three packages also contained notes, but their contents were undisclosed by police, who cited their concerns about possible copycat crimes. On June 5, 2012, a package containing a right foot was delivered to St. George’s School and another package containing a right hand to False Creek Elementary School in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was confirmed that both packages were sent from Montreal.

On June 13, 2012, the four limbs and the torso were matched to Lin using DNA samples from his family. On July 1, his head was recovered at the edge of a small lake in Montreal’s Angrignon Park after police received an anonymous tip.

Manhunt

An arrest warrant for Magnotta was issued by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), later upgraded to a Canada-wide warrant  by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), accusing him of the following crimes:

1.     First-degree murder;

2.     Committing an indignity to a dead body;

3.     Publishing obscene material;

4.     Mailing obscene, indecent, immoral or scurrilous material; and

5. Criminally harassing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several (unnamed) members of Parliament.

On May 31, 2012, Interpol issued a Red Notice for Magnotta at the request of Canadian authorities, and for several days before and after his arrest his name and photo were displayed prominently at the top of the home page of the Interpol website. The Red Notice requested that Magnotta be provisionally arrested pending extradition back to Canada by any Interpol member state.

Magnotta booked a ticket for a flight from Montreal to Paris, France on May 25, using a passport with his own name.  After his arrival in France, his cell phone signal was traced to a hotel in Bagnolet, but he had left by the time police arrived.  Pornographic magazines and an air-sickness bag were found in the hotel room.   Magnotta used a false passport with the name “Kirk Trammel” at the hotel.  He had contacts in Paris from a previous visit in 2010, and police were following a large-framed man who had been in contact with Magnotta.  Another man he stayed with for two nights did not realize who he was until he had left.  Magnotta then boarded a Eurolines bus at the Bagnolet coach station bound for Berlin, Germany.

Luka Magnotta being arrested
Luka Magnotta being arrested

On June 4, 2012, Magnotta was apprehended by Berlin Police at an Internet café in the Neukölln district while reading news stories about himself.  He tried giving fake names before admitting who he was.  His identity was confirmed through fingerprint evidence.  Magnotta appeared in a Berlin court on June 5, 2012.  According to German officials, he did not oppose his extradition.  There was sufficient evidence to keep him in custody until extradition,  and he agreed to a simplified process.

On June 18, 2012, Magnotta was delivered to Canadian authorities in Berlin and flown aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris to Mirabel International Airport, north of Montreal. Military transport was reported by the government to be necessary due to safety concerns with using a commercial flight and potential legal difficulties if the plane was diverted to another country.  He was placed into solitary confinement at the Rivière-des-Prairies detention centre.

Immediate aftermath

Reactions in China were highly critical, with some believing the murder was racially motivated.  Some Chinese questioned public safety in Canada, as the killing was the second high-profile murder of a Chinese student there in slightly over a year.  Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called Chinese ambassador Junsai Zhang to convey his condolences.

On June 4, 2012, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was pleased that the suspect was arrested and congratulated the police forces on their good work in apprehending him.  Interim Liberal Party leader Bob Rae said that Canadians should mourn the victim rather than “in any way, shape or form” celebrate Magnotta’s notoriety.

Two days later, Lin’s family arrived at Trudeau Airport in Montreal.    The Chinese Students and Scholars Association of Concordia University established a fund to defray expenses incurred by Lin’s family while in Canada and an award was created in his honour.    A candlelight vigil was held in Montreal.  

Magnotta was named Canadian Newsmaker of the Year by The Canadian Press, which caused controversy.  

Lin’s body was cremated on July 11 and his ashes were buried on July 26 at Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery in Montreal.  

On July 16, 2013, Edmonton police charged Bestgore.com owner Mark Marek with corrupting public morals, a rarely used obscenity charge, for hosting the 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick video online.  On January 25, 2016, Marek changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to a six-month conditional sentence after a joint submission from the Crown and defence. He had to serve half of the six-month sentence under house arrest.

Legal proceedings / Preliminary hearing

On June 19, 2012, Magnotta appeared in court by video link to plead not guilty to all charges through his lawyer.  On June 21, Magnotta appeared in person at a high-security Montreal courtroom to request a trial by jury.

A preliminary hearing began on March 11, 2013. The evidence presented is subject to a publication ban. Magnotta’s defence team requested the media and the public be barred entirely from the hearing; this was declined the next day.  Jun Lin’s father, Diran Lin, travelled from China to attend the hearing.  On March 13, one of Magnotta’s lawyers resigned, due to a possible conflict of interest.  Expert witnesses testified, including a forensic pathologist, a forensic toxicologist, a forensic odontologist,  a bloodstain analyst,  data recovery specialists  and an Internet investigations officer.  The prosecution also displayed video evidence.  Both Magnotta and Lin physically collapsed at separate times during the proceedings.   

On April 12, 2013, Magnotta was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, offering indignities to a human body, distributing obscene materials, using the postal service to distribute obscene materials, and criminal harassment.

Trial

Magnotta elected to be tried by judge and jury.  He pleaded not guilty, admitting to the acts of which he was accused but claiming diminished responsibility due to mental disorders. Crown Attorney Louis Bouthillier made his opening statement on September 29, 2014. Quebec Superior Court Justice Guy Cournoyer presided over the trial, which lasted 10 weeks.  On the opening day, he instructed jurors that Magnotta “admits the acts or the conducts underlying the crime for which he is charged. Your task will be to determine whether he committed the five offences with the required state of mind for each offence.”

Six tools (a pair of scissors, two knives, a screwdriver, an oscillating saw and a hammer) were recovered outside Magnotta’s apartment and analysed by ballistics expert Gilbert Desjardins. He said none could be definitively linked to the killing and that no skeletal marks suggested the screwdriver or scissors were used, but some were consistent with saw and knife or X-Acto blade injuries.

During the trial, defence attorney Luc Leclair argued that Magnotta was in a psychotic state at the time of the crimes and could not be held responsible for his actions. The Crown prosecutor argued that the murder of Jun Lin was organized and premeditated and that Magnotta was “purposeful, mindful, ultra-organized and ultimately responsible for his actions.”

Magnotta chose not to testify during the trial.

After a 12-week trial which included 10 weeks of hearing testimony, the jury of eight women and four men received final instructions from the trial judge on December 15, 2014, and was sequestered before beginning its deliberations the next day.  On their eighth day of deliberation, they returned a verdict of guilty on all charges.  Magnotta will serve a mandatory life sentence and will be eligible for parole after 25 years. He was also sentenced to 19 years for other charges, to be served concurrently.

Magnotta filed an appeal for the convictions to be annulled and a new trial ordered. The appeal was filed with the Quebec Court of Appeal by Magnotta’s defence counsel Luc Leclair, citing judicial error in the jury instruction. The appeal further claimed that the “verdicts are unreasonable and unsupported by the evidence and the instructions.”  Magnotta withdrew his appeal on February 18, 2015.

Mental health

ExpertDiagnosisCrown/Defence
Dr. RoyBorderline personality disorder with histrionic traitsIndependent
Dr. ParisBorderline personality disorderCrown
Dr. ChamberlandAntisocial personality disorder, Histrionic personality disorder, Narcissistic personality disorderCrown
Dr. AllardParanoid schizophreniaDefence
Dr. WattsSchizophrenia, Histrionic personality disorder, Borderline personality traits, ParaphiliaDefence
Dr. BarthParanoid schizophreniaDefence

During his trial for murder, defence witnesses provided evidence that Luka Magnotta had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia as a teenager.  Defence expert Dr. Joel Watts testified that Magnotta showed signs of episodic schizophrenia (undifferentiated type), histrionic personality disorder, borderline personality traits and paraphilia not otherwise specified.  The prosecution revealed that Magnotta had been using illegal drugs during his teenage years which led to symptoms that mimicked schizophrenia and that Magnotta had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder by Crown expert Dr. Joel Paris at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal in April 2012.    Dr. Renée Roy, the forensic psychiatrist who treated Magnotta at Rivières-des-Prairies Detention Centre since November 2012, through his preliminary hearing and right up to the murder trial, diagnosed Magnotta with borderline personality disorder with histrionic features.  Dr. Gilles Chamberland, another Crown expert who was not able to interview Magnotta, diagnosed Magnotta with antisocial, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders.  A number of psychiatrists over the years noted that Magnotta displayed antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic traits. The prosecution accused Magnotta of pretending to be schizophrenic since his defence pleaded diminished responsibility due to alleged schizophrenia.  

Investigation into other possible crimes

Magnotta is alleged to be the person behind a series of videos of animal cruelty involving cats which were posted to YouTube beginning in 2010, including one titled 1 boy 2 kittens which showed a man deliberately suffocating two kittens with a vacuum cleaner.  In January 2011, a private Facebook group identified Magnotta as the person in these videos;  animal rights activist groups subsequently offered a $5,000 reward for bringing him to justice.  He was initially dubbed the “Vacuum Kitten Killer” by the online animal activists.  In February 2011, Toronto police began investigating Magnotta in connection with the videos after receiving a complaint from the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  The OSPCA also contacted the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Britain, the American FBI, and police in Montreal due to the suspect’s extensive travels.

On June 8, 2012, the Los Angeles Police Department announced they were in contact with Montreal police to determine if Magnotta was involved in the then-unsolved murder and decapitation of Hervey Medellin,    known as the “Hollywood Sign Murder”, but later announced that they did not believe he was involved in the crime.  The animal rights group Last Chance for Animals claimed responsibility for posting YouTube videos linking him to the Hollywood Sign Murder in an attempt to lure Magnotta into contacting them.    LCA offered a $7,500 reward for information leading to his arrest while he was on the run.  On November 16, 2015, Gabriel Campos-Martinez was sentenced to 25 years to life for the murder.

Magnotta was also investigated for possible links to the 2010–2017 Toronto serial homicides, although this lead was eventually abandoned for lack of evidence.

Don't fuck with cats is available on Netflix
Don’t F**k With Cats is on Netflix

In media

The murder of Jun Lin and its subsequent trial drew comparisons across North America to Mark Twitchell, a convicted murderer inspired by Dexter, who used social media in his crimes and to self-promote his work.  Author Steve Lillebuen, who wrote a book on the case, described a new trend in crime where social media allows killers to become “online broadcasters” and have direct, instant access to a global audience they may crave.  

Netflix produced a three-part documentary series on Magnotta and the group of people on the internet who helped track him down. The show, titled Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer and directed by Mark Lewis, premiered on December 18, 2019.

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