I know Greyson is floating around here and has been waiting for this so I’m writing it up just for her (but also for all of you that are interested.)
It’s Part Two, Bitches!!!
We’re talking about Bruce McArthur, the Toronto Serial Killer making headlines right now. If you haven’t read Part One of this story, I suggest you do so to learn about who McArthur is, where he comes from and what his history was before he was arrested for being a damn serial killer. Because it’s fucking interesting and disturbing. Exactly what you want from your true crime, right?!
You can find that post here.
Before we jump back into this crazy ass story of horror and death, let’s do a small recap of where we left off last time.
It’s 2017 and Toronto’s gay village is becoming increasingly concerned about missing members of their community.
A Facebook group called Toronto’s Missing Rainbow Community was working overtime in response to the disappearance of Andrew Kinsman – a 49-year-old gay man who loved his job, his volunteer positions, his friends and his elderly cat. The Facebook group – which had a member count of 600, at the time – started connecting other missing men to Kinsman. Kinsman’s friend, Greg Downer, was at the centre of the community efforts.
The number of possibly connected missing men started at 12, but after information was received, the final total was five.
Majeed Kayhan, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman,
Project Houston Victims: Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan
Project Prism Victims: Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman
Three of the five had been the original missing persons that Toronto Police task force, Project Houston, had failed to find.
“This feeling that it had to take a white man to go missing for other people to be found is a statement of how the community was feeling at the time—and is still feeling.” – Haran Vijayanathan, the executive director of ASAAP (Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention.
At the end of July 2017, Toronto Police formed a new task force, Project Prism. They were to investigate the disappearance of Kinsman and Esen, and to look for any links between the two men and the disappearances investigated under Project Houston.
Project Prism was overseen by Detective Sergeant Michael Richmond and led by Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga (pictured), a 31-year homicide squad veteran. The project was rounded off by a sex crimes officer, and six officers from 51 Division, three of whom had been members of Project Houston.
The investigation immediately hit a roadblock because of the victims’ lifestyles – using dating apps and frequently meeting people who had not ever met before.
Understanding this issues, and that the police would face a lot of difficulty getting judicial authorizations to collect data from the servers of popular dating apps that existed outside of Canada, Downer appealed to the dating apps directly – requesting that they provide the option for users to consent to have their data released to police if they went missing. Safety hotlines were also set up for those reluctant to speak to police.
DS Idsinga is quoted as saying, “a crucial piece of evidence” was recovered related to Kinsman at the end of July because his disappearance had been reported within 72 hours. What this evidence is, remains unknown.
Over the months of August and September, police obtained production orders compelling the release of data from Google, Rogers, Bell, Telus, Royal Bank and Manulife Bank. Tracking warrants were then obtained for vehicles and phones.
Bruce McArthur, 66.
During this time, as per redacted warrants and police documents that were partially released by a judge in mid-2018, Bruce McArthur was officially identified as a suspect. In a September 8th request, McArthur was named when Project Prism asked for a judicial seal on their warrants. And a later request to seal all warrants issued between September and November noted “the investigation in Bruce McArthur.”
In October, further orders were granted for information Yahoo, Air Canada, additional banks and Pink Triangle Press – an LGBT publisher.
“I can’t help but wonder if Bruce McArthur said, ‘You know what? These are the people that no one’s going to pay attention to, so this makes my life easier.” -Vijayanathan
On October 3rd, plainclothes officers arrived at Dom’s Auto Parts in Courtice, Ontario, 70 kilometres northeast of Toronto. They were looking for McArthur’s 2004 Dodge Caravan, canvassing business for the purchaser. Dominic Vetere, the owner of Dom’s Auto Parts, confirmed he purchased the van on September 16. Police were more than relieved to find that Vetere had yet to strip the van for parts, finding it intact.
The van was towed, and a copy of the shop’s surveillance video showing McArthur visiting the shop was also taken by police. Vetere later said that police had told him they had found trace amounts of blood in the vehicle.
On December 4, Project Prism was granted a general warrant for McArthur’s apartment. According to sources, police covertly entered McArthur’s apartment and cloned his computer’s hard drive. It was the very next day that Project Prism issued a warning to the gay community to be wary of dating apps, urging users to exercise extreme caution when meeting someone new.
In a news conference that took plan on December 8, investigators with Project Prism detailed their progress, saying they had completed 62 witness interviews, 28 judicial authorizations, and assigned 308 actions of which 225 had been completed. However, despite their searches, and utilizing resources from canine units and drones, they said they had no evidence to link the disappearances of the five men.
But just one month later, a break came in the case after working 15-hour days with no time off, an even completing a 72-hour stretch of intensive investigation. Soon after, on January 17, two pieces of evidence came to light that directly connected McArthur to the disappearances of Kinsman and Esen. Round-the-clock surveillance immediately started on McArthur with instructions to arrest McArthur immediately if he was observed “alone with anyone.”
Only one day later, a young man entered McArthur’s Thorncliffe Park apartment.
Believing the young man’s life was in definite danger, police officers stormed McArthur’s apartment and apprehended him. Inside, according to a source close to the investigation, the young man was found tied to a bed. He was scared, but not injured.
Based on the blood evidence found in the confiscated van, police came to McArthur’s arrest armed with multiple extensive search warrants. Evidence found in McArthur’s apartment prompted investigators to charge McArthur was two counts of first-degree murder in the presumed deaths of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen. Though their bodies had not been found, DS Idsinga said police had a “pretty good idea” of how they had died. He also said he was satisfied that there was enough evidence to see murder convictions in the end, even without any bodies.
A source close to the investigation said that photographs of the alleged victims were found in the search of McArthur’s residence and this is was led to such swift charges. It was reported by multiple news outlets, citing sources, that grisly and graphic photos of McArthur’s alleged victims near death, or dead, were found on his computer.
He had kept the photos as trophies.
While the warrant was executed to search McArthur’s residence, five other warrants were executed to search properties associated with McArthur’s landscaping business: four residences in Toronto, and one 9-acre property about 200 kilometres away in Madoc, Ontario. The Madoc home and one Toronto home were owned by Roger Horan, a landscaped and friend of McArthur’s. Another property searched belonged to McArthur’s former long-time boyfriend. These three properties were released back to the owners a week later.
Of greater concern to investigators was 53 Mallory Crescent, a home in the Toronto neighbourhood of Leaside.
The homeowners had an agreement with McArthur. He would tend their yard in exchange for storage space in their garage.
The Leaside homeowners were barred from their residence that day so investigators could conduct a thorough investigation of the property that extended back to a ravine. The search, aided by cadaver dogs and members of the heavy urban search and rescue team, saw two large planter boxes wrapped up and taken away.
Ron Smith and Karen Frasier, owners of the Leaside home.
Police released an announcement on January 29, saying that they had found skeletal remains of at least three people in the seized planter boxes. The remains had not yet been identified, but investigators felt they had enough evidence to charge McArthur with three additional counts of first-degree murder in the presumed deaths of Majeed Kayhan, a Project Houston subject, Soroush Mahmudi, who disappeared in 2015, and Dean Lisowick, a homeless man who was never reported missing.
It was at this time that DS Idsinga confirmed they were treating this investigation as that of a serial killer who had concealed evidence by burying it across the city. He said the case was “unprecedented”, with hundreds of officers involved and 30 properties to be searched. With the Ontario Provincial Police, the province’s forensic pathology services and the Centre for Forensic Sciences aiding in the searches of the properties, former homicide detective, Mark Mendelson said the investigation would become “the largest Toronto has ever undertaken.”
Western University Professor Michael Arntfield, a criminologist, noted that the method of disposal of his victims suggested a sophisticated serial killer who had developed his craft over a long period of time. And because most serial killers begin killing in their 20s, that we shouldn’t be surprised if McArthur’s crimes date back several decades.
If this is true, it would make McArthur that longest running serial killer on record, anywhere in the world. (We’re #1! We’re #1!)
On February 8, investigators announced that they had found the remains of three more people in more planters at the Leaside residence. One of those three people was identified through fingerprints to be Andrew Kinsman.
Additional planter boxes were seized from across the city, other residences saw a forensic presence. The Leaside home became “ground zero” for police and forensic investigators who set up a command post on the property and spent close to a month investigating the area; bringing in heaters in tents to combat the frozen ground, and completing an excavation of two sewage lines. On February 11, the search of the house and property was completed and released back to the owners, who asked that police leave up their crime-scene tape to deter reporters by whom they were feeling increasingly harassed.
On February 23, a sixth count of first-degree murder was charged against McArthur after dental records identified the remains of Skandaraj Navaratnam, another subject of the Project Houston task force. Mahmudi’s remains were also conclusively identified at this time. Both sets of remains were found in planters at the Leaside home.
After exhausting all options to identify a set of remains found in the planter boxes, police held an unprecedented press conference on March 5 were they released an “altered” photo of a deceased man in the hopes that the public would be able to help. Police received over 500 tips regarding the photo and found 22 of them to be credible, requiring additional investigation. During this press conference, they also announced that the seventh set of remains had been recovered from the Leaside planters.
A month later, McArthur was charged with a seventh count of first-degree murder in the death of Abdulbasir Faizi, whose remains were one of the first found but last to be identified. With this charge, McArthur was officially now charged with the deaths of all three men from the Project Houston investigation, as well as both the other two men (Kinsman and Esen) who rounded out the five men connected by the members of the Facebook group, Toronto’s Missing Rainbow Community.
“The community already made the link before the police did,” says Vijayanathan. “At least in a more public way.”
McArthur was now charged in the deaths of all six remains identified, as well as the death of Majeed Kayhan who’s remains had yet to be found. And police still had the remains of the unidentified man but had yet to press charges without an identity.
That changed on April 11, when McArthur was charged with an eighth count of first-degree murder in the death of Kirushan Kumar Kanagaratnam, the man whose picture police had released in a plea for help. However, police said that his identity was not confirmed through any of the tips generated, but with the help of an undisclosed international agency. Kanagaratnam was a Tamil asylum-seeker under a deportation order. He was never reported missing. His last known contact with family was August 2015, and police believe he was killed sometime between September 3 and December 14 of that same year.
Soroush Mahmudi, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam and Dean Lisowick.
In coordination with the forensic search at the properties around Toronto, hundreds of hours were spent searching every inch of McArthur’s apartment. They moved from room to room, meaning it was several weeks before they even touched the bedroom, where they actually expected to find the bulk to their evidence. On May 11, after nearly four months and occupying the time of ten forensic officers, the search finally concluded. More than 18,000 photographs were taken and over 1800 items were collected.
DS Idsinga said that the level of thoroughness performed was required because they believed the first murder took place eight years previously.
The searches of the Leaside home and McArthur’s apartment hold the record for the largest forensic investigation ever conducted by the Toronto Police Services.
Police began looking at outstanding murder cases, hundreds of missing-persons cases and sudden death occurrences, coordinating with other Canadian and international forces, starting in February 2018, with the understanding that McArthur’s crime could date back decades.
Police started to receive tips from around the world, including countries where McArthur vacationed.
DS Idsinga said that the investigation would take years to complete.
A police source is quoted as saying that police knew McArthur had been careful to cover his tracks everywhere he went, even abroad, using pay phones instead of cell phones and avoiding areas with surveillance cameras. The source said the police theory was that McArthur liked to target vulnerable men who did not have a fixed address or who were hiding their homosexuality from friends and family.
DS Stacy Gallant of Toronto’s cold case unit said that while active cases take precedence over old cases, she was diligently drawing up a list of possible cases that could be linked to McArthur. So far a list of 15 homicide cases linked to the gay village, and fit the general profile of the alleged victims this far, had been drawn up for further investigation.
The cold cases included a series of brutal killers of gay men in the village between 1975 and 1978, when McArthur would have been 23-26 years old and was working just a few blocks south of the village. The victims in these particular cases, all gay men, were found in their homes, naked, tied to beds, and stabbed or beaten to death in a manner described as “overkill.”
The plan was to return to 30 other properties associated with McArthur after the ground thawed, allowing cadaver dogs to operate with greater accuracy. DS Idsigna said he was interested in excavating at three particular properties, including revisiting the Leaside home. Tips flowed in, increasing the potential properties to search from 75 to 100, including some outside of the city.
By the second week of May, the searches got underway and concluded by mid-June. Police then narrowed down the list to where additional searched would be required.
One of those locations was the forested ravine behind the Leaside property. Between July 4 and 13, twenty investigators excavated the grounds, sifting through compost piles and digging up the ground, with the assistance of a canine team and a forensic anthropologist.
Every. Single. Day. of this new search, more human remains were collected.
Police sifting through the earth along the ravine of the Leaside home.
On July 20, it was announced that they had identified the remains as belonging to Kayhan. A charge for his murder had already been laid on McArthur, but his remains had not yet been found until now.
“It’s actually nice to know that they found Majeed and his family can rest and the community can rest,” said Haran Vijayanathan, whose organization has called for a review of the way police handled reports of missing gay men, several of them from South Asian backgrounds, in the years leading up to McArthur’s arrest.
Idsinga said that after this search, police had no evidence to suggest that McArthur was connected to any other deaths, but that the cold case investigation would continue.
“As far as we know the first murder took place in 2010,” Idsinga told reporters. “There’s eight victims that we’ve identified, and I hope that it remains at just eight victims.”
Waterloo Regional Police contacted Ontario’s serial predator crime investigations coordinator to inquire about McArthur in connected to the November 2002 disappearance of David MacDermott from Kitchener. Jon Riley of Meaford, Ontario, is another possible victim. He had gone to Toronto to find work in landscaping, planning to stay in a shelter in the village, and disappeared in May 2013.
If you’re looking for more information on the cold cases, The National Post did a really interesting piece of their own investigation in 186 Toronto cold cases, looking for a pattern.
In January 2018, a publication ban was ordered on all court proceedings involving McArthur, limiting what information could be printed in the media.
A judicial pre-trial was scheduled for June 20. Though it was a closed-door meeting with the Crown, defence attorneys and the judge, it is believed that the issue addressed was resolving the case without a trial – by McArthur entering a guilty plea. As of yet, this hasn’t happened.
A court sketch of Bruce McArthur’s first court appearance over two first-degree murder charges. (Courtesy of Pam Davies.)
Considering the amount of evidence that needs to be catalogued and disclosed, some worry that a trial could be years away. But a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision set new rules which will require any trial to be concluded within 30 months of the accused being charged, outside of exceptional circumstances.
Could the amount of evidence be considered exceptional circumstances?
As of right now, McArthur is detained at the Toronto South Detention Centre, being held in segregation and under constant suicide watch.
And that’s it for now! There’s been nothing breaking in the news since July, which is either a good thing or a bad thing. McArthur is not currently scheduled for any court appearances that I can find. I think at this point we’re just waiting for a trial. And what a trial that will be!
Whenever that happens, you can be sure I’ll be following it and writing about it right here.
Now that we’re all experts on the Bruce McArthur case, let’s go watch a comedy or play with puppies as a palette cleanser. This stuff can honestly be so mentally exhausting sometimes.
Until next time, Booknerds…