McArthur, 67, preyed on the Toronto gay community for nearly a decade and only recently has he been arrested and convicted. He was only recently sentenced to eight concurrent life sentences and will not be eligible for parole until he is 91.
McArthur, a father of two, pled guilty to the first degree murders of eight men – Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam. McArthur moved from Oshawa to Toronto after separating from his wife in the 1990s. He was described as being convincingly harmless, had an“unthreatening appearance”, round features and “cheery smile” and played Santa in the local malls.
In Jan 2018, he was arrested and accused of murdering six men. He buried the remains of his victims in the large flower planters at the home of a client where he stored his landscaping business tools. After exhuming the remains and finding further remains in a ravine behind this property, McArthur was charged with an additional two murders.
Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam went missing between 2010 and 2017 and were often of Middle Eastern or of South Asian decent, some had struggled with addiction issues or homelessness and most had frequented Toronto’s Gay Village but some were openly gay. Toronto’s Gay Village, often called The Village, sits on the intersection of Wellesley and Church.
The break in the case came when Andrew Kinsman was murdered. Andrew had an entry in his diary marked “Bruce” on the 26 June 2017, the day he disappeared. Video surveillance caught footage of a car that was linked back to McArthur.
Police placed McArthur under surveillance whilst they tried to gain more evidence and investigate further however they were under strict instructions to take evasive steps to arrest him if he was seen entering his apartment with anyone who could fit the profile of a potential victim. In January 2018, a man only identified as “John” to protect his identity, was seen entering McArthur’s apartment with him. Reports say that McArthur had told John that he wanted to “try something different” and handcuffed him to bed and tried to suffocate him with a bag over his head. The articles say that it was in this moment that the police knocked down the door and whilst unsure how close it was, it is portrayed that McArthur was in the middle of attempting to murder John when the police arrived and ultimately saved John’s life.
John fitted the profile of McArthur’s potential victims – he had immigrated from the Middle East to Canada five year prior and his family did not know that he was gay. There were text messages between McArthur and John which revealed that they had met on a gay dating app and had discussed keeping their affair secret.
It became clear that McArthur specifically targeted people who were vulnerable or where there was secrecy surrounding their sexuality and therefore their plans to meet with McArthur. As a result when these men were going missing, the media and police paid very little attention to them as they were members of a marginalised community.
At the trial, the evidence was so horrifying that the prosecutors took the unusual step of waring the court that attending this trial could affect their mental health. During the trial it was revealed that he had strangled and dismembered his victims. They also found pictures of the victims taken by McArthur after he had committed their murders and found hair in ziploc bags.
Most damning was the discovery of a USB stick in McArthur’s home which contained nine folders with named after the eight victims names and the last folder was named “John”. This last photo contained photos of John that were dowloaded the same day that McArthur murdered Andrew Kinsman. It is likely that McArthur murdered Andrew then went straight online to find his next victim. The other folders contained pictures of the other murdered men.
McArthur had had a few run-ins with the police prior to these murders and the Crown successfully argued that a 2003 conviction for assault should be taken into account in the sentencing considerations. This was to portray that McArthur was a violent man and had a history of being violent.
McArthur’s defence attorney agreed that the crimes warranted the most serious consequences but he argued that the lack of even a faint hope of parole for such a long time was unnecessarily harsh and given his age, and the fact that he pleaded guilty, should taken into consideration for sentencing provisions. Further, it was revealed in court that the police had an opportunity to detain him in 2016 when he was accused of attempting to strangle a man in his van and was interrupted. McArthur was released without charge. The police dismissed the suggestion that they could have acted sooner saying that they have the luxury fo hindsight now and that didn’t know at the time.
Chillingly, although McArthur pleaded guilty to the eight charges of first degree murder, the presiding judge commended that it is highly unlikely he will ever be released on parole and is quoted as saying“Although McArthur has taken responsibility for his actions, there is no evidence of remorse”. After passing the sentence, the judge described his behaviour as “pure evil” and said that he would have kept killing if he had not been caught.
This case highlights the relationships between the police and the LGBTQI+ community in Toronto. The police are acknowledging that they have to rebuild trust with the city’s LGBTQI+ community and have pledged an inquiry into how missing person’s cases are handled. However, the community in Toronto were rightfully shocked and furious when the details of McArthur’s crimes came out. Between 2010 and 2017 gay men had been disappearing in alarming numbers from the gay village in Toronto and many people had suspected a serial killer for a while ut they were either treated as missing persons cases or they were not investigated at all. One of the reports say that long simmering tensions with the police in Toronto boiled over, they wanted to know why their fears hadn’t been taken more seriously and some argued that the police were too slow to warn the community that there was a potential active serial killer and that as a result lives could have been saved. To compound matters, the police appeared to put some blame on the community for the killings. The police chief, Mark Sanders, told reporters that they might have caught McArthur sooner if residents of the gay village been more forthcoming, going on to say that they knew people were missing and that they didn’t have the right answers but nobody was coming to us with anything. The police are actually banned from participating in the gay pride parade in Toronto.
In a move that some might consider an acknowledgment of the neglect of the gay community in Toronto, the police announced that they were reopening 25 cold cases, all murders associated with Toronto’s gay village. Some of these cases are as old as 1975.
The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/08/canada-toronto-serial-killer-bruce-mcarthur-sentenced
BBC News – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47123372
The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/23/bruce-mcarthur-toronto-gay-serial-killer