OTTAWA, Ontario — He was pegged as a serial kitten-killer by animal rights activists and as a man who may have dated a Canadian woman convicted of drugging, raping, torturing and killing young girls almost two decades ago.
His images and words are all over the Internet, on porn sites and what appears to be his own website, where he defends himself as the victim of cyberstalkers out to get him. And a journalist who met him years ago described him as “creepy.”
Authorities launched a massive manhunt for Magnotta after a severed hand was sent to Canada’s Liberal Party, a foot to the Conservatives and a torso was stuffed in a suitcase and tossed in the trash of the Montreal apartment building where he lived.
The corner of Place Lucie and Decarie Boulevard, on the edges of an expressway, will be forever notorious now. Some tenants told the Montreal Gazette they were planning to move out immediately. They could no longer live there, not after the maggots in the suitcase.
“We opened it and there was a body with no head,” Mike Nadeau, the building cleaner, told the Gazette.
And not after the foul smell of rotting flesh permeated the building.
Inside apartment No. 208, dried blood stained the table, the bed, the bathtub, the refrigerator.
Montreal police Commander Ian Lefreniere said officers who have been investigating crimes for 30 years had never encountered such a grisly scene before.
To make matters more chilling, Lefreniere said Magnotta filmed himself in the act, the shocking 10-minute video then posted online for all to see.
Deranged. Gross. These were Lefreniere’s words for Magnotta.
His digital footprints lead to a disturbed man who might have committed other unsavory acts.
He wanted attention. He got it, Lefreniere said, in the most despicable way
He was born in 1982 in Scarborough, just outside Toronto, as Eric Clinton Newman. He changed his name to Magnotta in 2006, according to the Toronto Star.
Sometimes, he used the alias Vladimir Romanov. His website has writings in Russian as well as a link in Arabic that takes readers to an explanation of homosexuality.
The police bulletin described him as a white male with black hair, blue eyes. He stood 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighed about 135 pounds.
A search for Magnotta on Google yields a plethora of images that match his description of himself: A model, an actor, a porn star. There are images of Magnotta half or fully naked, in suggestive poses, lips always pouted.
Reporter Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun met Magnotta in 2007. There were rumors then that Magnotta was romantically linked to Karla Homolka, who many years before was arrested for the rape-murders of three Ontario girls, including her own sister. In a plea bargain deal, she was sentenced to only 12 years in jail.
She had been released from prison when the rumors about Magnotta started, Warmington said.
He asked Magnotta to come to the Sun building; he was nervous to meet him in an unfamiliar location.
He had bleached blond hair and wore black leather. He said his modeling career was careening because of the rumors.
“I very quickly determined he was narcissistic,” Warmington said Thursday. “He was a guy looking for attention in a creepy way, name dropping one of our most notorious criminals.”
Warmington felt Magnotta was a “little out there.” Coherent but not connecting. But he didn’t sense him to be dangerous.
When police released his name this week, Warmington felt chills.
“It freaked me out,” he said.
Magnotta’s name is also familiar to animal rights activists who accuse him of being a serial kitten-killer. They say the man in an YouTube video killing kittens by drowning and asphyxiation and then using the carcasses in sexual acts is Magnotta.
A Facebook group started in December 2010 identified Magnotta by name on its page, dubbed him the “Vacuum Kitten Killer” and asked for help in tracking him down.
This week, a post on the page said: “We are patiently waiting for more information on the case and have faith in the Montreal Police ….Members of this group have spent over a year searching for this individual, who we believe is also responsible for several videos where animals were killed. Information gathered by group members was passed onto the authorities in Canada, and we were informed that they were actively working on locating the person seen in the videos hurting animals.”
Lafreniere of the Montreal police department said he was aware of the animal allegations.
“Again, this might give us an update about what kind of man he is,” Lafreniere said.
But kittens were not the target of this police probe. Not when a human being had been butchered.
As for his part, Magnotta portrayed himself as a victim; someone who was stalked in cyberspace by people who misunderstood him.
“Once and for all I will set the record straight,” he wrote on a website that seems to be his. “Many hoax websites are created using my image and name, posing as me to seem more believable in respect to the type of audience these website (sic) have, I feel I don’t need to list them specifically but people need not be told, not to believe what they read and to take it as fact.
“I care about a lot of things, what others think of me isn’t one of them,” he said.
The website has an explanation of homosexuality in Arabic, writings in Russian and an entire section on what he calls media propaganda techniques.
The photos on his website show a man who probably liked to look in the mirror. Magnotta shows off a lot of flesh and his lips are always in a perfect runway pout. There’s a picture of him exiting the Manhattan subway at 34th Street-Penn Station; another in a hot tub with two women.
Police in Peterborough, Canada, where Magnotta has relatives, told the Toronto Star that he had not been seen in years.
Another relative told the Ottawa Citizen that Magnotta had hurt the family when he was younger. The relative stayed close to the phone Wednesday night, in case the fugitive made a call while on the lam.
No such call came.
And by Thursday, the manhunt spread across borders and oceans. Police feared he had fled Canada.
Lefreniere said Magnotta, a king of disguises, once wrote about how to disappear after committing the perfect crime. Police are hoping he will not be able to follow his own advice.
Credit: Moni Basu, CNN.