'Canadian Psycho' Luka Magnotta in Montreal court for pre-trial hearing

MONTREAL (AFP) - The most high-profile Canadian criminal case in years landed in a Montreal court on Monday as a former porn actor appeared to face charges of slaying and dismembering a Chinese student.

Luka Rocco Magnotta, 30, made worldwide headlines last year after allegedly filming himself murdering his victim and performing lewd acts with the body before posting the images online. He arrived escorted by prison guards for the start of a preliminary hearing, in which a judge decides whether there is enough evidence to prosecute.

Magnotta faces first-degree murder and other charges, including committing indignities to a body and harassing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Police say the occasional gay porn actor and male prostitute used an ice pick to stab his 33-year-old victim Lin Jun in late May before carving up his body, sexually abusing the corpse, filming the act and posting the video online.

Days after the killing, the authorities 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.

Mr Lin's parents, who travelled to Canada from China last year following their son's horrific death, have returned to Quebec to watch the court case of a man they have branded "a devil".

Magnotta pleaded not guilty following his arrest in a Berlin Internet cafe in June last year and subsequent extradition to Canada. His lawyers said they would ask the judge to bar the public from his preliminary hearing, which is expected to last at least 10 days. It is rare for a preliminary hearing to be held behind closed doors.

If convicted, Magnotta faces life imprisonment. His lawyers may argue against jailing him, claiming he has a history of mental illness.

Born Eric Clinton Newman, he changed his name to Magnotta in 2006, after years of swopping aliases such as Vladimir Romanov, or Angel. Police said he was known to change his appearance by dying his hair or wearing wigs, or disguising himself as a woman.

The media, however, dubbed him the "Canadian Psycho" because of the soundtrack from the movie "American Psycho" playing in the background as he allegedly butchered his victim.

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