HL:Magnotta murder trial hears from European witnesses
MONTREAL — People who crossed paths with Luka Rocco Magnotta in France and Germany while he was the subject of an international manhunt were heard from Friday at his first-degree murder trial.
The testimony, presented in the from of videotaped interviews, was gathered by the court during a trip to Europe in June.
It provides the jury with insight into Magnotta’s movements once he left Canada on May 26, 2012, two days after Chinese engineering student Jun Lin was last seen alive.
Magnotta is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying and dismemberment of Lin.
Magnotta has admitted to the acts of which he’s accused but has pleaded not guilty by way of mental disorder.
The identities of some witnesses are protected by a publication ban.
They include a cab driver who drove Magnotta from the airport; the manager of another Paris establishment where Magnotta stayed and a nurse who sat with him on the flight from Montreal to Paris.
All witnesses said he appeared far heavier in 2014 than when they saw him two years earlier.
A pediatric nurse who took the Air Transat flight with Magnotta testified that Magnotta seemed bizarre.
Magnotta’s face was often hidden by long, flowing dark hair and the witness said he frequently seemed anxious.
Magnotta didn’t eat a meal on the plane and didn’t speak. By then end of the flight, Magnotta sat in the back of the plane and a flight attendant said he didn’t feel well.
“I find him hard to recognize,” the witness said of Magnotta. “He’s gotten bigger. He was very thin.”
The witness contacted authorities after seeing Magnotta’s face on television and realizing it was his seat mate.
The hotel manager said Magnotta registered under the name “Kirk Trammell” on May 27, 2012, and paid in cash for a nine-day stay in Paris at 50 Euros a night. The visit should have lasted until June 4.
“He was a client like any other,” the hotel manager said. “Nornal.”
He added Magnotta never formally checked out and French police seized his belongings from the abandoned room.
Despite having rented the room in Paris, Magnotta boarded a bus bound for Berlin on the evening of May 31, 2012.
The court also heard from a travel agency employee who sold Magnotta the bus ticket. He bought it using a passport with the name “Kirk Trammell” and paying in cash.
Jean-Philippe LeThon described Magnotta as someone who clearly took care of himself — a bit feminine in appearance, with plucked eyebrows.
“I was surprised that it is I who sold the ticket to that person,” testified LeThon.
Earlier, a Montreal police computer forensics expert testified that a search of the laptop seized in Berlin belonging to Magnotta contained no evidence that a video of the slaying of Lin was uploaded from it.
Frank Massa, a Montreal police computer forensics expert, testified about analysis done on two laptops belonging to the accused.
One was found in the trash behind Magnotta’s Montreal apartment and the other in Berlin following his arrest.
Much of the data had been deleted by the time police had retrieved the items and both laptops contained programs that automatically erase data on the computer, Massa said.
But police forensic software is able to work around that, the officer added.
“Our software is able to bypass all passwords,” Massa said. “We’ll see the whole structure — the files, folders, everything.”
Massa testified there were photos and videos on the laptop from the camera used to film the so-called murder video.
The police officer said his search of the Berlin computer turned up remnants of an email sent to one of the websites that first published the gruesome video.
Massa says it’s possible the email was sent from the laptop but he cannot say for certain.
The forensic officer also found a copy of the song “True Faith” by New Order that can be heard at the opening of the infamous video, which was downloaded on April 8 and deleted on June 1, 2012.
When questioned about the user name on the Berlin laptop — Catherine — Massa said he didn’t know the origin of the name.
Luc Leclair, Magnotta’s lawyer, suggested it was the name of the character that actress Sharon Stone portrayed in the movie “Basic Instinct” — the second reference to the movie in testimony this week.
Magnotta faces four charges in addition to premeditated murder: criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament; mailing obscene and indecent material; committing an indignity to a body; and publishing obscene materials.
The Crown is expected to conclude its case early next week and the defence could start presenting its case next Friday.