OTTAWA — A political mastermind behind Stephen Harper’s Conservative government made the gruesome discovery of a human foot in a box belonging to a torso found in Montreal.
“I’m fine,” Jenni Byrne told The Canadian Press on Wednesday as new details emerged about a crime that’s horrified the capital and has some shaking their heads about the political vibe in the country.
Byrne had been handed the suspicious-looking package when it arrived at Conservative party headquarters just blocks from Parliament Hill on Tuesday morning.
Though it was addressed to the party, Byrne is one of the most senior staffers there, having been the national campaign manager for the 2011 general election.
She examined the blood-stained box and as she opened it, a foul odour escaped and overcame the office.
“It was such a horrible odour, I’m sure many of us will not forget it,” said party spokesman Fred DeLorey.
Police were immediately called and when they opened the package further, determined that a foot lay inside.
The disturbing find set off a major investigation that went well into the night as Ottawa police later found a hand at the Canada Post mail facility in the east end of the city.
Reports suggested Wednesday that the package with the hand was destined for the Liberal party, but party officials said police had not advised them they were the intended recipient.
Police said Wednesday both packages were mailed from Montreal.
There, police had been grappling with a grisly find of their own — a human torso found stuffed into a suitcase in a west-end neighbourhood.
They named a suspect in the case Wednesday afternoon and said all the body parts are from the same victim.
“The suspect and victim knew each other,” Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere told reporters.
“It isn’t linked to organized crime.”
Canada Post officials refused repeated requests for comment on the incidents or even information on mail security in the nation’s capital.
On Parliament Hill, political staffers were keeping a close eye on the mail, rattled by the incident.
“Our sympathies go out to the staff at the Conservative officers who opened the package,” said NDP MP Randall Garrison.
“Our thoughts are also with Canada Post employees who had to deal with the second package containing human remains. They were both victims of an outrageous and reprehensible act.”
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said there is more to the incidents than just their bizarre nature.
“Behind it is a human tragedy and we should all reflect on that this is a terrible crime has been committed,” Rae said.
But it could also be a reflection on the times, said New Democrat MP Yvon Godin.
“It’s very upsetting,” he said.
“It could be just one crazy person that did it but at the same time we have lots of people unhappy in our country, the way the country is going,” he said.
He said he hoped the packages weren’t sent for that reason, saying it was very sad if that was the case.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau called the packages horrific and says he and his staff are disturbed.
“I’m worried about anything that might cause us to pull back or put up any barriers between Canadians and their representatives,” said Liberal MP Justin Trudeau.
Conservative Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he wants to let the police do their work.
“It is of course a very disturbing development,” he said.
Toews wouldn’t comment on whether the packages had spurred any security changes on Parliament Hill.
It was not clear whether there was a political motive behind the packages, but Toews was the target of public attacks earlier this year following his introduction of an online surveillance bill.
A House of Commons committee later found his privileges as an MP were violated when he was threatened by the activist group Anonymous in a series of videos posted online.