NEWS

Luka Magnotta trial: PM staffer recalls receiving package with foul odour

10/20/2014 01:52 EDT | Updated 12/20/2014 05:59 EST
Jenni Byrne, Stephen Harper's deputy chief of staff, told the court she knew something was wrong when she was going through a partially opened package delivered to the party’s headquarters and was overcome by a "very bad smell."​

Byrne testified at Luka Magnotta's first-degree murder trial that her assistant brought her the package because it wasn’t sealed and was coming undone.

Magnotta has admitted to the physical acts behind the five charges against him, including killing Jun Lin, committing an indignity to his body, and sending obscene material. But the accused has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer intends to argue he should not be held criminally responsible because of mental illness.

The Crown alleges the killing was premeditated.

Byrne is now Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s deputy chief of staff, but when the package was delivered on May 29, 2012, she was the Conservative Party’s director of political operations.

The victim's father, Diran Lin, was in the small courtroom as Byrne began her brief testimony, but stepped out as soon as she mentioned she had started to open the package.

Byrne told the court she opened it to find bright pink tissue paper inside. She delved deeper and found a black garbage bag, which she opened to find a black wine gift bag inside.

The witness said the gift bag was rectangular and its contents felt soft and mushy. When she and her assistant used scissors to open the bag, a foul odour wafted out and Byrne immediately asked her assistant to call police.

Byrne said she never saw the package again after putting it down in the reception. She didn’t see the contents, she told the court, because she was quarantined for about 90 minutes after more than a dozen police officers arrived.

The package contained a foot, Ottawa police officer Chantal Pombert later told the court.

A pink note was also in the box, reading: “Stephen Harper and Lauren Teskey [sic] will know who this is. They f--ked up big time!!”

Laureen Teskey is the prime minister’s wife, Byrne told the court. She added Harper was in Ottawa at the time the package was delivered and he was told about it.

2nd package intercepted

A second package, this one destined for the Liberal Party of Canada and containing a gift-wrapped left hand, was intercepted at Canada Post’s Ottawa plant.

Pombert told the court the parcel had the same return address and sender, Renée Bordelais, as the first, as well as another pink note mentioning the prime minister’s wife. This one read: “You need to speak to Laureen Teskey and her family! Lots to hide!”

Earlier in the day, the court saw surveillance video from a downtown Montreal shopping mall that showed Magnotta walking into a postal outlet around 12:15 p.m. on May 26, 2012, several hours before he left his apartment to catch a flight to Paris.

The man who served him at the postal outlet, Vee Foong Law, told the court he didn’t remember the accused, but produced several receipts that showed Magnotta had sent two packages to Vancouver schools and sent a money order in U.S. dollars.

The trial continues this afternoon.

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