Police say the intense media spotlight and international search for Luka Rocco Magnotta, the 29-year-old suspect in the grisly slaying and dismemberment of a victim whose body parts were sent in the mail, will make it difficult for him to remain on the lam.
Interpol posted a picture and information on Magnotta, a Montreal resident, on its website Thursday among a group of nine international suspects wanted for crimes including homicide, kidnapping and organized crime.
Interpol's involvement came after Montreal police issued a worldwide warrant for first-degree murder.
Clues at the Montreal crime scene led police to expand their search abroad.
"We found some evidence," said Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière. "We found, also, a letter that was posted on a website making us believe he might be gone out of the country."
He said the suspect may have fled to a different continent — but he would not confirm a report that the possible destination was France.
"There is no country in the world that is not talking about him," Lafrenière said. "There’s a lot of heat on him. There’s a lot of pressure on him, so we believe that it’s going to be hard for him.”
"If you look on different websites, you see the appearance of that person could change dramatically — from a male to a female, wearing and things like that — so that's the reason we've put a lot of effort trying to locate this suspect," Lafrenière said.
Magnotta has family in the Toronto area, so investigators are still working with domestic police agencies in case, he said.
Victim likely in a relationship with suspect
Magnotta is wanted in connection with the slaying of a man whose body parts were sent through the mail and found stuffed in a suitcase behind a low-rise apartment in west-end Montreal, near the Décarie Expressway.
Police believe Magnotta was in "a relationship" with the victim, said to be a man in his 30s.
Investigators haven't released the victim's name and are awaiting autopsy results to confirm his identity.
However, Montreal police said they believe the victim was reported missing in Montreal several days earlier.
"There's no family in Montreal, that's why it's going to be even more complicated," Lafrenière said.
He said police believe the victim was killed last week. The property manager at the Montreal building where a torso was discovered stuffed in a suitcase in a trash pile said he first saw the luggage out on Friday.
Montreal police said they had received 15 solid tips about Magnotta's whereabouts within two hours of releasing his photo Wednesday afternoon.
"We received many calls because a lot of people were shocked about this story," Lafrenière said.
He said police are holding some information back to weed out false leads from the public.
Police said much of their investigation has been focused on the internet, because Magnotta did not have an extensive criminal record.
"There's a heck of a history on the website now," Lafrenière said. "We're finding all kinds of images, all kinds of information." Several websites show pictures of the suspect in modelling poses.
Sources have told CBC News that police believe they have evidence of the suspect videotaping the killing and dismembering the victim.
Police said they're being careful in their release of images and video to help find the suspect, but cautioned this could be the kind of attention he is after.
“That type of suspect, I call him a suspect but a very deranged man, is looking for publicity,” Lafrenière said.
U.S. lawyer says he warned police about graphic video
A lawyer based in Montana told CBC News that he notified Toronto authorities over the weekend about a graphic online video that appears to depict the stabbing and dismemberment of a man.
Roger Renville, a civil litigation lawyer, said he came across the 10½-minute video Saturday morning on a website that showcases gory footage. Renville said he believes the video documents the killing and dismemberment of a man.
There isn't any confirmation that the victim in the video is the same one that Magnotta is alleged to have killed.
But Renville said he is "extremely frustrated" at how Toronto police handled his weekend call.
"I kept insisting, and he told me that my story didn't make sense," he said in a Skype video interview Thursday. "Why would a killer film himself and then put it on the internet?"
Toronto police denied that they ignored Renville's tip.
Remains still unaccounted for
The full scope of the crime came to light Tuesday when a torso was discovered in Montreal and the hand and foot surfaced in Ottawa.
The foot was sent to Conservative headquarters and a hand found at a Canada Post terminal that was addressed to the Liberal Party of Canada headquarters.
Montreal police said there are still remains that are unaccounted for, but they have no reason to believe they were also sent in the mail.
Magnotta, believed to be originally from Toronto, is also known as Eric Clinton Newman and as Vladimir Romanov. Montreal police give this description of Magnotta:
- Five feet 10 inches tall.
- 135 pounds.
- Black or dark brown hair.
- Blue eyes.
Building manager Eric Schorer said Magnotta had lived there for four months but hadn't been seen around in a while. He said there were never any complaints about noise in the unit, and that Magnotta passed a credit test to rent there.
Police in masks combed through the blood-soaked apartment Wednesday, having zeroed in on the source of a stench locals described as rotting meat, said a building resident.
A neighbour said police were showing neighbours pictures of two men — the suspected victim and the homicide suspect.
Montreal police said Magnotta was not known to them and had no criminal record. CBC News has learned, however, that he was convicted on four counts of fraud in Ontario in 2005. He served 16 days in pre-trial custody and was given a further nine-month conditional sentence and 12 months probation.
The suspect's name has also come up in association with videos showing the killing of kittens. A CBC News source said police are also investigating a possible connection between the suspect and Karla Homolka.
Lafrenière said he would not substantiate internet rumours about the suspect.
Staff Sgt. Marc Habgood of the Peterborough Lakefield police service said they were contacted by Montreal investigators looking for Magnotta on Thursday.
"They advised us that they had a warrant for the arrest of a male party for [murder] and that he had family members in Peterborough, so he asked us to check a couple of residences," he told CBC's Peterborough affiliate, CHEX.
"We spoke to two family members and they hadn't seen or heard of him in over a year… His family is here. They really stress that they've had nothing to do with him for over a year. They're not anticipating hearing from him or seeing him."
'Horrible' crime scene
The hand and foot mailed to Ottawa were sent from a fake Montreal address, police said.
Lafrenière described the scene of the alleged crime as "horrible" but said investigators would be releasing few details for now.
"The most important thing for us is to nab the suspect, and to make sure we don't jeopardize a future trial. I'd have a lot of trouble, as a father, to sleep if that happened."
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