The packages containing human remains that were received by two Vancouver schools on Tuesday were sent from Montreal, police said.
Police said the body parts will be returned to Montreal for DNA testing but they believe the packages are linked to the killing and dismemberment of a Chinese university student, Lin Jun, whose foot and hand were mailed to the Ottawa offices of the Conservative and Liberal parties last week.
Montreal police commander Ian Lafrenière said the packages sent to Vancouver contained notes.
He said both parcels were traced to Canada Post outlets in Montreal.
Police said Mr. Magnotta travelled extensively and spent time on the U.S. West Coast, but they could not establish a direct connection to Vancouver. They said they have no reason to believe he travelled to Vancouver from Montreal before he flew to Paris on May 29th.
At this stage, police say they have no reason to believe that the suspect in the case, Luka Magnotta, was working with an accomplice.
Vancouver police will travel to Montreal, where investigators will take over the case.
In a media statement issued Wednesday morning, Vancouver police said the decision to turn the investigation over "came late Tuesday after Vancouver police homicide investigators noted that the packaging and addresses on the boxes sent to Vancouver was similar to that of the packages discovered earlier this week in eastern Canada."
The victim in the Vancouver body parts case has not yet been positively identified.
Staff at False Creek Elementary discovered the hand at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, said Vancouver Deputy Police Chief Warren Lemcke.
Bruce Murton, principal at False Creek Elementary, said the white package arrived through the mail and was collected by the secretary.
“It smelled. It was a suspicious, smelly package,” the principal said in an interview.
He could not recall if it had a return address or any strange markings.
“It was just a regular package that comes from the post office,” he said.
When asked if school employees were shaken up by the incident, Mr. Murton said: “I think everyone is OK here.”
About an hour later, staff at St. George’s School discovered a package containing a human foot, Mr. Lemcke said.
“The Vancouver police and the B.C. Coroners Service have been called in to investigate,” he said. “The remains will be examined by the coroner and there’s no indication of an identity at this stage in the investigation.”
Police said it is too early to determine whether the body parts belong to Mr. Lin, whose right foot, right hand and head are still missing.
Mr. Magnotta, the chief suspect in the gruesome killing-dismemberment case, was captured in Berlin on Monday after nine days on the lam.
Constable Anie Lemieux, a spokeswoman for the Montreal police, said the contents will have to be analyzed before establishing a connection.
“We may suspect that it’s linked (to the Magnotta case) but we can’t confirm it for sure,” she said.
The schools remained cordoned off into Tuesday evening as forensic investigators continued to examine the scenes. Both schools were re-opened Wednesday and classes resumed.
There was no indication that students or staff at either school were targeted, Mr. Lemcke said.
“This must have been a very, very traumatic incident for all involved at the schools that were involved in opening these packages,” he said.
“The Vancouver police department will assist in any way we can with our victims services section.”
The investigation will centre on who the victim is and where the packages came from.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a news release he found the events to be “deeply disturbing and repugnant.”
“The police investigation is still in its early stages, but it is my hope that justice for these acts will be delivered swiftly,” he said.
In a statement issued to media, a spokesman for St. George’s assured the public the school’s students “are in no way affected by this matter.”
“We are not aware of any connection of the package to the school, and at this point, the VPD are suggesting that the targeting of the school is random,” said Gordon Allan.
The Vancouver School Board had little to say on the matter, citing the active police investigation.
“Our priority is always for our students, to provide a calm and safe environment for them,” said spokesman Kurt Heinrich.
Canada Post did not immediately respond to a request for information, but regular parcel delivery takes 7 days from Montreal to Vancouver, according to the company’s website.