A Sociopath’s Online Trail

Posted June 5th, 2012 at 12:00 am (UTC-4)

Tracking Luka Magnotta’s Digital Footprints

Doug Bernard | Washington DC

Warning: This story contains elements of a graphic and often disquieting nature.

There’s nothing about the story of Luka Magnotta that isn’t unsettling, bizarre or even profoundly disturbing. It’s a story of cruelty, murder and a sociopath’s need for attention.

In many ways, it’s not much different than the sad procession of grisly crime tales that have preceded it through history. But Luka Magnotta’s story is different in one key regard: the degree to which much of it played out online in real time…and the role of the Internet in his capture.


A Carefully Crafted Online Life

From Luka Magnotta's Facebook page

Born Eric Clinton Newman, the 29-year-old Canadian national changed his name to Luka Rocco Magnotta on August 12, 2006 when he was just 24 – the first of his many changes. Raised by his grandparents, those formerly involved with Magnotta say he had poor relations with his family, who have refused all comment. Around the same time as his name change, Magnotta began appearing in different guises online: posing for semi-clothed photos, billing himself under various names as an adult film “star” and even competing on a nationally televised modelling competition.

He lost, but he then began using different names: Luka Rocco, Vladimir Romanov, Mattia Del Santo, Jimmy; each with a different back story and different identity. They all seemed different, but were all Magnotta.

In no time, the web began to blossom with references to one or more of these people. Pictures, videos, interviews; MySpace pages, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and personal websites, complete with comments from ‘contributors’ who all read suspiciously alike.

Luke Magnotta posing uncomfortably with a fake gladiator

Magnotta, it seems, was populating the Internet with a host of made-up personae, littering the web with ego-boosting references and carefully crafted images of himself as someone of remarkable beauty, exceptional talent and unlimited possibilities. “I’m a people person,” Magnotta says during an interview about his “career” as a male escort that can only be described as off-kilter (if not just weird.)

But other sides of Magnotta began to emerge as well. Messages on white supremacist websites were linked to Magnotta. On Orato, a 2007 poster named “Luka Magnotta” wrote of serious sexual abuse and mental illness which site editors called “creepy.” Maclean’s reported that Magnotta was the source of a rumor that he had dated Canadian serial killer Karla Homolka – a rumor he later vehemently denied in an unhinged appearance at office of the Toronto Sun.

And it got worse.

Someone named “Rocco Magnotta” wrote a blog entry titled “How to Completely Disappear and Never be Found,” advising readers to “cut all personal ties with everyone who knows you,” “create new identities” among other unbalanced suggestions. Now deleted, a blog titled Necrophilia Serial Killer Luka Magnotta emerged, with two bizarre posts extolling the author’s fascination with dead bodies.

Then in 2010, someone posted a video on YouTube of a young man putting two kittens in a plastic bag, then vacuuming out the air until the kittens suffocated. (Other videos of cruelty to kittens followed.) Animal rights activists quickly identified the torturer as Magnotta, a claim he denied by accusing his agent, former friends, or unnamed ‘stalkers’ of plots to ruin his life.

Soon Magnotta’s other online personae sprang to action, choking website comment sections with strange, unfocused rants while extolling Magnotta’s talents. Whatever was happening, whatever the accusation, Magnotta appeared to have an ever-inflating sense of his importance, actively putting himself at the center of online dramas he likely created.


Digital Fingerprints and Online Confessions

On May 29 Canadian police were aghast to discover someone had mailed a human foot to a Conservative Party leader in Ottawa. Authorities quickly discovered another parcel containing a human hand, headed to Liberal Party headquarters, and began a nationwide investigation.

Around that time, investigators made a horrific discovery online: someone had posted  a video titled “1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick” of what appeared to be the murder and dismemberment of a young Asian man, committed by someone who looked suspiciously like Magnotta. [Ed note: the video was removed from YouTube but continues to be re-posted elsewhere. Canadian authorities confirmed the authenticity of the video. VOA will not link to these videos.]

Montreal police quickly identified the victim as Jun Lin, a Chinese national studying at Montreal’s Concordia College and rumored to be sexually involved with Magnotta. Lin’s remains were found inside and nearby Magnotta’s apartment, but Magnotta wasn’t; it soon became obvious that he had fled to Paris. Police issued a warrant for Magnotta on charges of murder, desecration and cannibalism.

Photo from INTERPOL of Luka Magnotta recently in an unidentified airport

But far from trying to disappear online, Magnotta appears to have continued actively posting on the web while in flight, both defending himself and taunting authorities. The Twitter account “LukaMagnotta” posted on May 31, “Je suis en cavale LOL” – French for “I’m on the run.” A new YouTube user named “Beavis Butthead” began posting videos with images both from Magnotta’s Montreal apartment alongside those from the murder video, accompanied by discursive comments that read much like those of Magnotta’s online personae.

Briton’s Sun newspaper, already accustomed to having flesh-crawling encounters with Magnotta, reported this week that it spotted someone in an online war game using an account associated by Magnotta. The Sun on Monday also published pictures from what it said was another video posted online containing images of what looks like a bloody handprint and the words “It Was Luka Magnotta.”

And so it came as no surprise on Monday when authorities in Berlin announced they had taken Magnotta into custody…while he was at an Internet cafe. He had been reading online news coverage about himself. “You got me,” he told police.

A New Breed Of Psychopath?

“I would have to say that Luka Magnotta was quite a bit different from the other psychopaths I’ve dealt with in the past,” says criminal profiler Pat Brown. “Not that his general behavior isn’t typically psychopathic; he’s very narcissistic, he’s very grandiose, he has no empathy, he’s a manipulator of the nth degree. What is different about him is he’s basically an attention whore; he loves the media, and he wants to be the most well-known person in the world.”

Altered photo of the Sun's Kris Sims with Luke Magnotta's face, allegedly posted by Magnotta himself while on the run in France

As a professional profiler, Brown has a lot of experience with sociopaths and serial killers, some of which she documents in her book “The Profiler.” Unlike most any other sociopathic killers she’s tracked, Brown says Magnotta invested an unusual amount of time and work into creating an online reality – one that met his needs for approval, but also, she says, put him into his own reality.

“Serial killers don’t spend this amount of time on this,” she notes. In part because, perhaps obvious to everyone but Magnotta, all those digital fingerprints helped authorities track him down. “This is something new.”

Brown may be right. Prior to Magnotta, most deranged serial killers preferred to operate in the shadows, cultivating an unassuming and private image. Of course, many – like Ted Bundy or the “BTK” or “Scorpio” killers – have long taunted police or select members of the media in a perverse game of ‘Catch Me If You Can.’

And more recently Igor Suprunyuck and Victor Sayenko, the young Ukranian serial murders dubbed “The Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs,” posted online updates and images from their spree of 21 murders by hammer. Ukranian prosecutors made ample use of Suprunyuck’s Facebook page, which lists Sayenko as a friend, his motto as “The Weak Must Die, The Strong Will Prosper,” and his favorite sport as “hammer toss.”

But Brown says Magnotta’s use and infatuation with the web as a tool for his own aggrandizement may likely inspire others. “Undoubtedly,” she says:

“We saw in Columbine how that one action inspired copycats. I’ve no doubts that this one [Magnotta] used the Internet as a way to get himself out there; to promote himself to exactly what he wanted to be, the one everyone is reading about. And it’s a sure thing that others will follow in his steps, learning from what he did to feed their own fantasies.”

Meaning more monsters may look to Magnotta and begin plotting their own exploits, amplified by the Internet.

Magnotta’s last Facebook update: “Monsters, Demons and Ghosts, they live in-side of us and they are real, and sometimes they win.”

Jun Lin, in a recent photo posted on his Facebook page

Postscript: While Magnotta has been grabbing headlines the world over for his clearly bizarre behavior and other obscene actions he is alleged to have committed, almost forgotten has been Jun Lin. A 33-year-old student, Lin had a part-time job as a cashier in a Montreal convenience store. Known as Patrick Lin on Facebook, he is universally described as polite, friendly, and an all-around nice guy.

In a dark twist to an otherwise upsetting story, one of Lin’s last postings on Facebook was of a deserted Montreal subway car he was riding on last month. He titled the picture “Midnight cannibalism train.”


27 responses to “A Sociopath’s Online Trail”

  1. Ide Cyan says:

    Jun Lin’s subway photo and its caption are an obvious reference to the 2008 film “The Midnight Meat Train” directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. (If it reads slightly differently it’s probably because of the translation to Chinese and then back again not quite arriving at the same wording, as usually happens with translations.) There’s no need to read anything into it beyond that.

  2. David Lawrence says:

    The youtube poster Beavis Butthead was not Magnotta, as he/she continued posting after the arrest.

    Interesting article tho.

    • Doug Bernard says:

      David – thanks. Although that’s not entirely correct. The last posts by Beavis Butthead was from May 31; the following ones from June 3 and on are actually from other YouTube users.

      • Doug Bernard says:

        David – I checked later this week, and in fact Beavis Butthead is posting videos, and leaving comments once more. I double checked our story, and while I never said BB was Magnotta, I did say the two sounded alike. I’ll leave that for others to decide. –db

  3. K Sims says:

    Why do the facts of this case keeping getting IGNORED? Thre is no cannibalism in the video. There is no necrophilia only SIMULATED humping. We see no one’s face in this video. In fact, the man in the video is definitely stockier in build than Luka, who only weighs 138lbs. It’s very possible this man showed up at Luka’s apartment to harm Luka, and got his friend instead. It’s VERY possible that Luke fled out of fear. Let’s not judge before we know all of the facts. Luke is not goy, he is bi as is 35% of the population. Are the facts of this case not grisly enough that we must make up lies such as cannibalism and necrophilia to amp up the entertainment value? Disgusting.

    • Doug Bernard says:

      K – I specifically never said there was cannibalism in the video, only what appeared to be a murder and dismemberment, by someone “who looked suspiciously like Magnotta.” That is a very fair characterization I think. The charge of cannibalism comes from the Montreal police; I assume in Magnotta’s trial they will present their evidence to that charge. Interestingly, nowhere in the story do I ever mention Magnotta’s sexual orientation, either. –db

  4. lisa says:

    Creepy for certain. It may actually be a net positive if antisocials (sociopaths) at large begin using the internet to boast their exploits – we’ll likely have a better chance of identifying and catching them sooner.

  5. Adam says:

    K, what the hell are you talking about?

  6. […] serial killers have shown a predilection for working in the shadows, criminal profiler Pat Brown told Voice of America Magnotta displayed a gregarious nature that helped lead to his capture: in addition to surfing […]

  7. T Catzman says:

    GREAT article! I’ve watched the video and there’s no way of knowing if the humping is simulated or not. However, there’s no question that he indeed uses a severed arm to fondle himself more than once. His being gay, bi, or otherwise has absolutely NOTHING to do with this! I agree he is an “attention whore.” There’s really no doubt in my mind he is the murderer in the video. (he should have taken his ring off his right ring finger AND secured his straight died hair so it wouldn’t fall out of the hoodie). I believe he saw the attention he received after the kitten videos and decided to kick it up a few notches for even more attention. He achieved his goal. (I’m pretty sure he was on youtube the day he was caught as LukaMadonna) I’m pretty sure, if it was someone intending to do Luka harm, they wouldn’t have cut him to pieces…it usually doesn’t work that way. Lastly, an oversized hoodie will make anyone look bigger than they are.

  8. Mel says:

    Pretty sure the diagnosis Pat Brown is looking for is “Histrionic”. It’s not new, it’s one of the oldest personality disorders out there. Just watch “Ancients Behaving Badly”.

    Also, I was in the comments of the Beavis Butthead video and his videos are still up as of lately. It was HollywoodLoveLetters on YT and also many many others (sentinal560, MichealJackson088 are only 2 I am sure of). That footage isn’t even recent. He probably filmed that for his imaginary fans of his imaginary p0rn career, or perhaps because he was planning this for a very long time.

    For some reason the lyrics of “River Below” from Billy Talent are coming to mind…

    • Cris says:

      @ Mel. Please look up the diagnosis for Histrionic Personality Disorder in the DSM-IV TR because you are clearly wrong, they have empathy this man clearly does not. Coming from psychologist with experience this is a textbook Narcissistic Antisocial.

      • Mel says:

        I completely agree that LRM is primarily ASP/NPD. However, I also believe he has very strong Histrionic undertones. It is difficult to say anything for certain though because it appears he was heavliy influenced by so many others’ crimes.

        A simple Google search reveals the following traits (from the DSMV) as points to identify a Histrionic personality. As it indicates, 5 or more would strongly indicate a diagnosis of Histrionic.

        I have included the 5 I feel are relevant to LRM. Ironically, NPD, ASPD and Histrionic personality all come from the same “Cluster B” of personality disorders.

        1- is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention (*he started his own rumours to gain attention >_<)

        2- interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior (can't say for sure, no "testimony" to his real life behaviour/interactions but p0rn…)

        3- consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self

        4- has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail watch his "Naked News" interview)

        5- shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion (again, the "Naked News" interview, not so much the emotion, in fact a marked lack of expression)

        One can only draw conclusions from what LRM has revealed of himself online. So far, there have been very few (credible) personal accounts from anyone who knew him. My personal feeling is that LRM was planning this for a very long time and cut his ties with anyone he knew long ago. Maybe the dissolving of these relationships was on purpose, or was a catalyst for the events that played out?

        Aren't you kind of playing the kettle v.s the pot? If you believe that one solution to this condition is to not give it any attention they why post a comment?? Society discussing this subject should not be confused with enabling. If you want to point the enabling finger, point to towards the people who create a demand for gore videos.

        Being able to discuss this subject openly IS educating ourselves. Also, if an individual is influenced by these kinds of stories then their mental health issues have been precipitating for awhile. I agree, the media loves this kind of story because it makes them lots of money. That in itself is almost as criminal as the crime they are reporting.

        Plus, can I just say *thank the everything* for the media?! It played a HUGE role in LRM getting caught. If it weren't for the media talk, he wouldn't have gone to the cafe where he was caught. How perfect is that?!

  9. […] serial killers have shown a predilection for working in the shadows, criminal profiler Pat Brown told Voice of America Magnotta displayed a gregarious nature that helped lead to his capture: in addition to surfing […]

  10. […] serial killers have shown a predilection for working in the shadows, criminal profiler Pat Brown told Voice of America Magnotta displayed a gregarious nature that helped lead to his capture: in addition to surfing […]

  11. Les says:

    Doug, thank you for the great article! I have been following this story and there is good and new (for me) info here.


  12. […] serial killers have shown a predilection for working in the shadows, criminal profiler Pat Brown told Voice of America Magnotta displayed a gregarious nature that helped lead to his capture: in addition to surfing […]

  13. […] Rocca Magnotta (left), a shameless Canadian slut, is already being labeled as a sociopath, which may be true but is probably off. Luka, born Eric Clinton Newman, is a 29 year-old […]

  14. Kitty LeClaw says:

    Great article, Doug! If I remember correctly, the “Necrophilia” blog contained an homage link to an article on the Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs, as well as one re: Armin Meiwes — both links in Russian typeface. The title of Magnotta’s horrendous video was also clearly inspired by the Maniacs’ “hammer” clip. I doubt very much at this point if an original thought ever passed through this deviant’s brain…

    I shudder to even think about the potential for copycatting; which would be ironic, as Magnotta’s actions were very much copies of other crimes, both real and imagined.

    • Doug Bernard says:

      Kitty – thanks for the thoughts and kind words. I’ve seen many reports that say Magnotta was fascinated by serial killers, although I haven’t seen any contemporaneous comments yet from him. Interestingly, profiler Pat Brown volunteered that this case could well inspire ‘copycat’ killers, which is a chilling thought. –db

      • Kitty LeClaw says:

        Magnotta is an odd bird; constructing myths bound to arouse public scrutiny only to deny them when confronted directly. If I recall correctly, suggestions that he was obsessed with serial killers were recounted by people who knew him personally. As for his own “online trail,” this reported fascination appears to be conspicuously absent, which is quite interesting.

  15. Kelly says:

    Call me crazy, but I beg to differ. Research the minds of these beings and their psychological disposition. It’s proven you are dealing with a Psychopath. That being said, making Worldwide News headlines, expressing your outrage and disgust simply does this: Fuels, manifests and breeds situations like this to happen. If you need an outlet, talk to a Councillor or a friend…you are doing nothing beneficial here by feeding what he or any other sick competitor wants. You’re enabling the behavior. What is more alarming is that with our intelligence, if you are really so outraged, look for a way to make it stop. Stop the media glory. This being, if prosecuted will in fact have access to all information that’s going around about him. For crying out loud he was found reading news about himself. Stop it. Stop making this the focus of your energies as you are are doing nothing more than sending a message out to all of the other sick people out there that they can “out do” the shock he’s placed on the World because they are so disturbed that they want the status the World has given to this born sicko. I am tired of seeing this happen. Truly. But if you really want to make the change, educate yourselves, shift your focus onto good things….otherwise you are just as much to blame.

  16. This was a well written article, I’ve never heard of Luka Magnotta, I’d like to add this article to our website, with a link back to your site. Please contact me if this is agreeable. Keep up the good writing

  17. […] serial killers have shown a predilection for working in the shadows, criminal profiler Pat Brown told Voice of America Magnotta displayed a gregarious nature that helped lead to his capture: in addition to surfing […]

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