Jurors warned at gruesome trial of porn actor accused of dismembering Chinese student

MONTREAL (AFP) - The gruesome murder trial of a former Canadian porn actor accused of killing and dismembering a Chinese student got under way on Monday with a judge warning potential jurors to expect "shocking and disturbing" evidence.

Luka Rocco Magnotta, wearing a grey-blue polo shirt, sat in silence with his eyes mostly closed as what is expected to be a lengthy jury selection for his trial in Montreal began.

Magnotta, 32, is accused of using an ice pick to stab his 33-year-old victim Lin Jun to death in May 2012 before carving up his body, sexually abusing the corpse, filming the act and posting the video online.

Days after the killing, Montreal police discovered the victim's torso in a suitcase by the trash outside an apartment along a busy highway.

His severed hands and feet were sent through the mail to federal political parties in Ottawa and to two schools in Vancouver.

The head was found in a Montreal park months later. Magnotta was arrested in Germany in June and extradited after fleeing Canada.

Judge Guy Cournoyer told panelists they would be confronted with evidence that was likely to be "shocking and disturbing which could be upsetting".

Magnotta has pleaded not guilty to five charges including first degree murder; committing an indignity to a body; publishing obscene material; criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of parliament; and mailing obscene and indecent material.

A total of 1,600 potential jurors gathered at the court Monday for a process expected to last several days which will see them whittled down to 12 panelists with two alternates.

The trial judge also warned jurors they would be required to be bilingual with proceedings to be conducted in French and English.

Magnotta's lawyer Louis Leclair told reporters the jury selection was the "most important" stage of the trial.

"Mr Magnotta has his ideas, I have mine - do we choose men, do we choose women? It's not easy," Leclair said, adding that he was looking for "intelligent, open-minded" jurors who were capable of listening to his client.

The lurid nature of Magnotta's alleged crimes have set up the prospect of one of the most sensational criminal trials in Canadian legal history. Born Eric Clinton Newman, he changed his name to Magnotta in 2006, after years of swapping aliases, such as Vladimir Romanov, or Angel.

The media, however, crowned him "Canadian Psycho" because of the soundtrack from the movie "American Psycho," which was playing in the background of the video showing him allegedly butchering his victim.

For years Magnotta built a profile through blogs and escort adverts in which he searched online for sex partners and posted photographs showing himself as a trim, pouty-lipped model whose travels included Paris and other cities.

At the same time, profiles he reputedly posted on online dating websites conveyed an altogether different persona - on one site he listed beach volleyball as a hobby and said he was looking for a long-term relationship.

His lawyers questioned in pre-trial hearings whether he was fit to stand trial on mental health grounds. Canadian media have reported that Magnotta was treated for paranoid schizophrenia - a condition he has long suffered - in 2005, when he was convicted of fraud.

Lawyers attempted unsuccessfully to have Magnotta charged with a lesser charge after claiming there was insufficient evidence that Lin's murder was premeditated.