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MONTREAL — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s deputy chief of staff testified at Luka Rocco Magnotta’s first-degree murder trial on Monday about the day her office received a parcel containing the foot of victim Jun Lin.
Jenni Byrne was the Conservatives’ director of political operations when a partially opened package arrived at party headquarters in Ottawa on May 29, 2012.
Byrne told the trial that her assistant brought her the parcel and she proceeded to open it completely, removing pink tissue paper and a black garbage bag before finding a black gift bag inside.
Byrne asked her assistant for scissors to open up the soft and mushy bag.
“We clipped the top off and there was a very, very bad smell,” she testified. “I knew that because of the nature of the smell, it seemed something that was rotting…and I thought it should be brought to the attention of the police.”
She told her aide to call 911 because “something was not right.”
Byrne never saw what was in the package — a foot belonging to Lin, the 33-year-old Chinese engineering student Magnotta has admitted to killing.
Magnotta, 32, is charged with first-degree murder in Lin’s slaying and dismemberment.
He has admitted the physical acts he’s accused of but has pleaded not guilty by way of mental disorder.
He faces four other charges: criminally harassing Harper and other members of Parliament; mailing obscene and indecent material; committing an indignity to a body; and publishing obscene materials.
Magnotta kept his head down as graphic photos were shown Monday of the foot as well as of a severed left hand that was in a separate package that never reached its destination — federal Liberal headquarters in Ottawa. It was intercepted at a Canada Post facility in the nation’s capital.
Both boxes had the same return address, listed to one Renee Bordelais.
Byrne said Harper was notified of the situation at party headquarters, but could not say when he was told.
She eventually spoke to his chief of staff at the time, Nigel Wright, once she was permitted to leave quarantine about 90 minutes after the package had been found.
Harper was in Ottawa on the day the box was delivered, but Byrne was unsure where his wife, Laureen, was.
Byrne identified the Laureen Teskey mentioned in a note found in the box as Harper’s wife. Teskey is her maiden name.
Theresa Kelm, a detective-constable with the major-crimes unit of the Ottawa police, testified later and identified a second name superimposed on the pink note addressed to the Conservatives that Byrne did not recognize.
Etched lightly was the name “Neil Fenton,” who was identified as Laureen Harper’s first husband.
Earlier on Monday, a postal-counter employee testified about two packages mailed by Magnotta to Vancouver.
The witness, Vee Foong Law, didn’t remember serving Magnotta on May 26, 2012, at a downtown Montreal souvenir shop where the counter was located.
Law was able to retrace the transaction using video surveillance and time-stamped receipts.
Magnotta mailed the packages the same day he left Canada for Europe. He was ultimately arrested in Berlin on June 4, 2012.
The Vancouver packages were the subject of testimony Friday when the people whose names were listed as the sender appeared as witnesses.
Hubert Chretien, the son of ex-prime minister Jean Chretien, and Logan Valentini, the sister of convicted killer Karla Homolka, both said they didn’t know Magnotta and never mailed anything to Vancouver schools.