The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Life at Canada's most infamous crime scene; horror and cleanup in Apartment 208

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MONTREAL - Residents of a low-rent apartment building now making international news as a ghastly crime scene were sucking on beers as they engaged in some neighbourly gossip about the killing in their midst and the macabre cleanup ahead.

What happened behind the red door of Apartment 208?

Police believe the second-floor bachelor unit in Montreal, which Luka Rocco Magnotta rented for $490 per month, was the scene of atrocious acts that have triggered an international manhunt.

A small group of tenants and curious neighbours squeezed into Magnotta's cramped apartment for a glimpse around suppertime Wednesday.

Among them was the woman tasked with tidying up the blood-soaked mess.

"I can't believe I'm cleaning this tomorrow, man," said Kelly, a handywoman who has been doing renovation work in the building for the last two months. She didn't want to give her last name.

CAUTION: GRAPHIC CONTENT MAY DISTURB SOME READERS.

Kelly pointed to a crumpled heap against a wall. It included a pink bed sheet soaked with what appeared to be a huge blood stain. It was lying beside a purple, blood-streaked shower curtain.

She held each of them up to give those assembled a better look. The gesture forced Kelly to gag and cough as a rancid stench immediately sprung into the air.

"Oh God, what a smell," she said.

The pile sat on wall-to-wall carpeting and close to a table — and both looked to be smeared with blood. In the bathroom, despite an initial cleanup, specks of blood spatter could still be seen on the floor.

The grimmest sight, perhaps, was inside the apartment's small refrigerator.

Dried blood had pooled up at the bottom of the fridge, where the fruit and vegetable drawers would normally sit. A few small chunks of what appeared to be flesh were still stuck to the inside walls of the appliance.

"I need a bonus for this," Kelly said.

The apartment itself was quite bare and the walls were plain, except for a message scrawled in red marker on the inside of the closet: "If you don't like the reflection. Don't look in the mirror. I don't care."

Outside the building, leaning on a wall, was the unit's mattress. Blood had seeped all the way through it.

The bed sat close to where two men discovered a human torso Tuesday, a find which first brought police to the building.

The body part had been stuffed into a suitcase and left out with the trash.

One of those men said he's since tried to divert his attention to anything but the discovery. Mike Gauthier said he hopes the tactic will keep depression from creeping in.

"I've just been keeping my mind busy because I don't like to dwell on stuff," said Gauthier, as he pulled on a cigarette while standing next to the stinky mattress.

"I remain strong."

He said he helped the other man pry open a lock on the suitcase's zipper. They were curious to find out what was inside because the bag emitted a foul odour for days.

"I thought it was a piece of meat," said Gauthier, who quickly realized that it was part of a human body.

"I'm happy that we discovered it because now there's a manhunt out for a killer... Who knows what could have happened if we didn't discover this?"

Gauthier, an overnight security guard who's lived in the building for three years, said Magnotta's apartment was emptied before he apparently vanished in recent days. There were no clothes and no books inside the unit, he said.

Few tenants said they knew Magnotta, who had only lived in the building for around four months. Those who had crossed his path described him as a feminine man who was quiet and aloof, but at times pleasant.

On Wednesday evening, about a dozen of them sat on the front steps of the building that overlooks the city's humming Decarie Expressway.

Several tenants knocked back beers at the regular gathering spot, which some of them have dubbed "The Stoop."

The decaying apartment complex itself carries a sarcastic nickname from locals: "The VIP building." Tenants say it has seen its share of drug overdoses and other violent incidents in recent years.

"This was my last straw," said Rachel, who did not give her last name. She said she plans to move out as soon as possible, after living in the building for only six months.

A crouching and exhausted Eric Schorer, the building's manager, stared blankly toward the group of tenants from inside the lobby.

Last Friday, garbage workers only picked up some of the trash tenants had put out for collection. The suitcase was among many items that, oddly, were left behind.

Schorer, between sips from his can of beer, said the torso never would have been discovered if all the garbage had been collected, as usual.

"God works in mysterious ways."

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