MONTREAL—For someone whose alleged crimes were so spectacular they stunned and reviled people across the world, Luka Rocco Magnotta looked decidedly ordinary at his first court appearance.
Wearing a beige windbreaker and expressionless, if it weren’t for his manacled hands he could blend into any crowd.
The Toronto-born, self-described gay porn actor and escort appeared by video link Tuesday from a police operations centre in Montreal, flanked by two guards.
Lawyer Pierre Panaccio told Judge Lorie-Renée Weitzman his client would plead not guilty to all charges, including first-degree murder.
Magnotta, 29, stayed silent except for a brief exchange with Panaccio. “If you want to call me at home tonight, I will be pleased to talk to you,” Panaccio said, to which Magnotta replied, “Okay.”
Panaccio told the judge he needed time to consider asking for a psychiatric evaluation. That request could come as early as Thursday, his next court appearance.
At that time, the judge would decide whether to accept the request, believing there was enough evidence to determine whether the accused is unfit to stand trial or was, at the time of the offence, suffering from a mental disorder.
The court could order the suspect remanded to a psychiatric facility for not more than 30 days. A medical report would then tell the court “whether the accused is criminally responsible or not,” explained Louis Bouthillier, one of the Crown prosecutors assigned to the case.
Both Bouthillier and his colleague, Hélène Di Salvo, have extensive experience in murder cases.
It wasn’t clear whether Panaccio would remain as Magnotta’s lawyer. He refused to speak to reporters Tuesday.
Magnotta faces five charges, including first-degree murder, indignity to a corpse, publishing obscene material, obscene use of the postal system, and threatening Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Magnotta is accused of killing and dismembering 33-year-old Jun Lin in Montreal. Lin, a Chinese national who was studying computer science at Concordia University. Police also believe Magnotta sent body parts to political parties in Ottawa and schools in Vancouver.
His head has not been recovered.
He’s also believed to have filmed the killing and posted the video to the Internet. The video in question also appears to depict cannibalism and sexual defiling of the body.
Di Salvo promised to keep the family “aware of everything” in the case even after their return to China from Montreal. Police have not revealed the exact nature of Lin’s relationship with Magnotta before the murder, or whether it was more than just sexual.
Magnotta’s repatriation took place in an unusual fashion. He arrived in Montreal on Monday evening aboard a Canadian Forces CC-150 Polaris jet, escorted by six Montreal police investigators.
Authorities said a military plane was the best option. “How can we bring him back to Montreal on a commercial flight with other people sitting on board?” said Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière. “For very extraordinary cases, we do have to take some extraordinary measures.”
Yvan-Miville Des Chênes, an aviation expert and consultant, said it costs $6,000 per hour of flight to operate the jet. Considering an eight-hour flight from Berlin, he said the total cost would be about $50,000.
Typically, subjects extradited to Canada are escorted aboard a commercial jetliner.
Magnotta left Canada on an Air Transat flight on May 26. Several days later, after the discovery of several body parts, an international warrant was issued for him. Police apparently picked up his trail in Paris, but by then he’d already made his way to Berlin.
He was arrested June 4 after an employee at an Internet café noticed Magnotta reading about himself on the web. He surrendered to police without incident.
Magnotta didn’t contest his extradition to Canada, paving the way for a quick return.
With files from Star wire services