Bizarre Luka Magnotta case draws more questions

Suspected murderer Luka Magnotta has been in custody for months, the details of his gruesome alleged crimes still etched but fading in the minds of Canadians. We were held captive for weeks by the bizarre web of lies and misdirection spun around the Toronto youth, and the international manhunt that ended in his arrest for the murder of Montreal's Jun Lin.

The death and dismemberment, in which Magnotta is suspected, has shocked many Canadians. Magnotta has been named Canada's most notorious murder suspect by some, a ticking time bomb by others.

When it all began, he was simply known as a kitten killer.

A documentary by CBC's the fifth estate details the bizarre path of Luka Rocco Magnotta, from lonely Scarborough, Ont., teenager to Montreal murder suspect.

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Hunting Magnotta asks questions about how Magnotta managed to raise the interest of Toronto police before he was a suspect in the grisly death of Lin, and whether enough was done to stop him.

According to the report, a group of anonymous online investigators first began tracking Magnotta over an online video that appeared to show him putting kittens in a bag and vacuuming out the air. The group conducted a thorough investigation, presenting police with details that suggested he was at one point in Toronto.

"When you look at the whole picture of what Luka had done, it's not just that he sucked the air out of a bag, he played with people, he manipulated his image, he was terrorizing people and he was killing defenceless creatures," says one activist, who goes by the name Moovan.

"It's not just some person on the Internet calling the police and saying, 'Somebody killed a cat.' There's a bigger picture here that I don't think the system itself takes into consideration here and that needs to be changed."

It is easy in hindsight to say police should have taken the search for Magnotta more seriously. But it was entirely reasonable for police to not make the search a priority when Magnotta was only suspected of creating an animal snuff film and it wasn't clear where the crime was committed.

We can fear what might come next for a man creating such videos. But no one could have ever expected what followed.

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According to the CBC documentary, Magnotta was first brought to the attention of police in Toronto nearly three months before Lin was killed and cut to pieces in Montreal.  Online correspondence between a Toronto detective and the investigating group suggest a search for Magnotta had been launched.

"I want to find this guy more than anyone out there," one email from a detective said. "Trust me, I want to bring him before the courts even if just to get him psychiatric help."

Luka Rocco Magnotta is taken by police from a Canadian military plane. THE CANADIAN PRESS

For years leading up to Magnotta's arrest in Germany on June 4, the group known as the Animal Beta Project tracked him through the Internet, attempting to piece together information and bring him to justice.

Members of the group told CBC that they felt at times like Magnotta was baiting them on, leading them on a chase and using fake identities to warn them he was capable of far worse crimes.

One member said they were conversing with someone they suspected to be Magnotta using an alias when the person wrote, "You guys better back off, this guy can snap on a dime and start killing humans."

Another alias began writing about the video "1 lunatic 1 icepick," shortly before Lin was believed to have been killed.

Magnotta allegedly posted a video by that name later, depicting Lin's death. Pieces of his body were mailed to political offices in Ottawa, while others were found in Montreal and mailed to a Vancouver school.

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Police eventually tracked Magnotta to an Internet café in Germany, where he was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and several other crimes. He has pleaded not guilty. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 2013.

"It's fascinating to get an insight on what's going on in his mind," veteran CBC journalist and documentary host Mark Kelley, told the Toronto Star. "The multiple identities he had online, the virtual world he created for himself that was so beyond belief when you deconstruct it . . . you can understand why so many called him a ticking time bomb."

If Magnotta was a ticking time bomb, he has gone off. And those who watched as the timer counted down are left wondering what they could have done to stop the explosion.

What if they had stopped the kitten killer? What if that was where the story ended?