MONTREAL – A wave of sorrow washes over Yan Shi’s face as he describes meeting the mother of the victim of one of Canada’s most horrific crimes.
Jun Lin’s mother could barely be understood amid her sobs but Shi said one message for her murdered son came out clear as a bell — “We come to bring you home now.”
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As the attention-seeking alleged killer of Lin sits in a German jail awaiting extradition back to Canada, Lin’s family is struggling to collect themselves enough to wrap up the loose ends of his life in the city where the Concordia University student met an unspeakable end.
Unlike the avalanche of information about his alleged killer, who has heaps of writings, pictures and videos of himself on the Internet, only a trickle of details have emerged about Lin and virtually nothing about his family, with the exception that they’re from China.
Lin’s torso was left stuffed in a suitcase which was dumped in the trash outside a working class Montreal apartment building two weeks ago. One of his hands and a foot was mailed to political parties in Ottawa and discovered, along with the torso, last week.
Luka Rocco Magnotta, a 29-year-old porn star and model whom police say knew Lin, has been charged with first-degree murder in his killing. He was arrested Monday in Berlin after an international manhunt.
As if the Lin family’s private anguish couldn’t get any worse, police are now trying to determine if another hand and foot mailed to schools in Vancouver belong to their son.
Shi, who is president of the Concordia Chinese Students Association, said his group is helping the Lin family while they are in Montreal, doing such things as providing guides around the city and interpreters.
He met Lin’s father, mother, sister and uncle when they arrived at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on Tuesday and grimaced with sadness as he described the emotional scene. Lin’s mother struggled to stay on her feet and was so overcome with grief that she could barely express herself.
“The entire scene was heartbreaking,” Shi told The Canadian Press in an interview.
“Lin’s mother was very emotional. She was crying the entire time. It’s really terrible just being there. We didn’t understand a word she was saying, she was crying a lot.
“She was barely walking. We had to help her.”
Few other details have emerged about the victim and his family.
Lin has been described as a hard-working and polite employee by his boss at a convenience store. He rented an apartment on May 1 with a roommate and friends have said he had a good sense of humour and liked cats.
The Chinese consulate has said Lin was born in Wuhan, the capital of Hubai province, and had been in Montreal since last July.
Wuhan is the most heavily populated city in central China and is sometimes referred to as the “Chicago of China.” It’s a major transportation hub and known as a political, economic, educational and cultural centre.
It was not immediately clear on Wednesday when Lin’s remains would be released to his family for burial because police note the body is still evidence in his slaying.
Frederick Lowy, president of Concordia University, where Lin studied engineering and computer science, and other officials of the school met with Lin’s family on Wednesday. Montreal police have also talked to Lin’s relatives.
“Like any other case, investigators meet with the family,” said Const. Anie Lemieux, a Montreal police spokeswoman.
Shi said the Chinese students association has set up a bank account where people can donate to help defray family’s expenses while they’re here to settle his affairs, which is expected to take two or three weeks. He said the family is exhausted.
A Chinese community newspaper in Montreal says it has also received $550 in donations for Lin’s family.
Shi and a university spokeswoman also said a public memorial is being considered for Lin, if the family agrees.
“We’re there to support the family,” said Chris Mota, a university spokesperson. “If they want one, we can help them.”
A police spokesman said that while regular Montrealers offered financial help, authorities would do their best to shield the family from any unwanted media attention.
“You must understand that they have gone through a horrible episode,” said police Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere.
Shi, a 24-year-old marketing student, said the Chinese student community was hit hard by Lin’s death and is grappling to come to terms with it.
“People are still shocked,” he said. “I constantly have people, my friends, telling me they know Lin, they were just with him a few days ago — and now this. I just met somebody today, she said the murder happened just a few houses away from where she lives and that was very scary.”
A shrine for Lin beneath a statue of Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, who is an icon to the Chinese because of his work in that country, has grown in recent days. Several bouquets of flowers lie in the space near Concordia and there are a couple of pictures of Lin taped to the statue.
There are also a few messages, including one that says, “We got that beast.”
Shi hopes things can get back to normal soon because he said people are overwhelmed by emotions and the media as journalists try to find out about Lin.
Shi himself did not know Lin personally but has gotten to know a lot about him.
“The more I know about him, the more he seems to be a very, very nice guy,” Shi said. “He just doesn’t deserve this kind of fate. It’s so cruel.
“What we are doing now is the least we can do for him.”
-With files from Peter Rakobowchuk