Raised in Toronto’s Scarborough section, Mr. Magnotta had a self-aggrandizing online persona – and an extensive one.
He claimed to be a bisexual porn star, a famous model and a world traveller who drove expensive cars. He was rumoured to have dated Ontario schoolgirl-killer Karla Homolka and to have had plastic surgery to look like 1950s American film icon James Dean.
In reality, it appears Mr. Magnotta worked mostly as an escort. He also appears to have travelled extensively. Photographs posted on his website show him posing at landmarks in Moscow, Paris, New York and on a tropical beach.
Acquaintances of the Toronto native describe him as manipulative, needy and volatile. He was prone to outbursts of anger. One former lover recalled that he joked about killing people and animals. He apparently had a child, harboured a seething anger towards his parents and hinted at a traumatic childhood.
Mr. Magnotta went by several aliases, including Vladimir Romanov and Mattia Del Santo. He was born Eric Clinton Kirk Newman, but legally changed his name on Aug. 12, 2006.
A Facebook group started in December, 2010 had been tracking Mr. Magnotta after videos of kittens being killed were posted on YouTube. The group sent its evidence to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which began an investigation in February, 2011.
Ontario SPCA spokesman Brad Dewar wouldn’t reveal whether Mr. Magnotta is a suspect in the animal-cruelty case, but noted last week that the organization had reached out to law-enforcement agencies around the world for help, including municipal police services in Toronto and Montreal, the RCMP and FBI, and an animal-welfare organization in the United Kingdom.
“We spent 18 months warning the police … and what did they do?” Facebook group member Rob Lynn, who lives in England, wrote online hours after police revealed last Wednesday they were on the hunt for Mr. Magnotta in connection with the Montreal killing.
With reports from Kyle G. Brown in Paris, Ingrid Peritz in Montreal, Josie Le Blond in Berlin, Adrian Morrow and Tu Thanh Ha in Toronto
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