It started online with videos of cats. It ended with a snuff film and dismembered body parts mailed to schools and the offices of local political parties.
Luka Magnotta is one of those criminals whose story played out across the internet. From the videos he posted to the community of amateur sleuths who tracked him down and the documentary on his crimes, Don’t F**k with Cats, that inspired endless commentary and discussion across social media. There were even internet rumours that he had dated killer Karla Homolka (rumours he started himself). Perhaps fittingly, it was while reading stories about himself in an internet café that Magnotta was finally caught.
His crimes are well known and well documented. So how did the man, born Eric Clinton Kirk Newman, go from cat killer to cannibal, inspiring internet infamy?
1. His background
Like many future killers, Magnotta’s upbringing wasn’t an easy one. His father suffered from schizophrenia and his mother was a germaphobe who would make Magnotta scrub his hands raw when washing. He himself spent time in mental hospitals and in 2002, was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
He dropped out of high school and attempted to find a career as a model and actor, while working as an escort, stripper, and porn actor. In 2007, he auditioned for the Canadian modelling reality show COVERguy. Then he had plastic surgery and a year later, auditioned for another show: Plastic Makes Perfect. By all accounts, he was desperate for fame.
2. The cat videos
Magnotta first attracted online attention when he started posting videos of cats—and not the cute, funny kind. In 2010, a series of videos were posted online in which Magnotta suffocated and drowned kittens.
These weren’t his first crimes. He had already been convicted of fraud in 2004, after racking up $17,000 on a friend’s credit card, and in 2005, he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman.
3. The backlash
The videos inspired internet outrage and soon, a community of amateur sleuths, via Facebook, were working together to try to find the man behind the videos. A tip led them to Luka Magnotta, a man who had inspired countless fan sites (fan sites he had created, as it would later turn out). They even located Magnotta’s apartment complex in Toronto, thanks to GPS data and Google Maps.
In the meantime, Magnotta posted another video: one in which he fed a cat to a snake. He started hinting he might graduate to humans.
4. Jun Lin
Jun Lin was a 33-year-old student who had moved to Canada in 2010. He was studying computer science and engineering at Concordia University. Online, he’d post pictures of his cat and talk about feeling lonely — he had only been in Canada for a couple of years and was older than most of his classmates. A fellow student told The Globe and Mail he was ‘looking for love’.
Lin was gay, but an ex of his, Feng Lin, reported at Magnotta’s trial that he felt pressure from his family to marry a woman. The two had broken up in the months leading up to his death.
5. The Craigslist ad
In 2012, Magnotta had put an ad on Craigslist looking for sex and bondage. Lin responded and they met on 24th May. Security footage captured them entering Magnotta’s building that evening. That night, Lin sent a text to his ex at the time he would have been waking up to say good morning. It was the last text that Lin ever sent.
6. The snuff video
A day after the two met, Magnotta posted another video. This one was called ‘1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick’. The video captured the savage murder of Jun Lin. In it, Magnotta stabbed Lin, who was tied up, with an ice pick, before performing necrophiliac acts and dismembering the body.
Viewers reported seeing acts of cannibalism. A dog also appeared in the video. Hours later, Magnotta booked a round-trip ticket for a flight from Montreal to Paris.
7. Discovery of the crime
By May, viewers of the video were attempting to report the crime to police, but their reports were largely dismissed as authorities believed the video was fake. By then, Magnotta had already started disposing of the body. CCTV captured him throwing bags into the bin while wearing Lin’s t-shirt.
On 29th May in Montreal, Mike Nadeau, who worked as a janitor, found a suitcase that had been sitting outside for days. He’d ignored it before, but now, the suitcase was emitting a foul smell. When he opened it, he found a man’s torso inside.
In Ottawa, a parcel was delivered to a Conservative party’s office. It was soaked with blood. Inside, there was a human foot.
Later, in a postal sorting office in Ottawa, a package addressed to the Liberal party's headquarters was found. It contained a hand. Other body parts were sent to elementary schools.
8. The arrest
Police believed Magnotta had travelled to Europe. He’d even written blog posts detailing how he might disappear. In practice, he went clubbing, continued to use his mobile phone, and hooked up with other men.
Once CCTV caught him in Germany, authorities were able to arrest him in an internet café in Berlin on 4th June, where he was sitting reading stories about himself.
9. The conviction
In 2014, a jury found Magnotta guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and the maximum length sentences for the other crimes he was charged with, including publishing obscene materials, committing an indignity on a body, and criminally harassing the prime minister. He filed an appeal, but later dropped it.
He remains in a maximum-security prison in Quebec.