A Canadian man accused of sexually assaulting, killing and dismembering eight men over several years has pleaded guilty to their murders, in a case that has shaken Toronto’s gay community.
- Bruce McArthur, 67, killed eight men between 2010 and 2017
- Most of his victims lived on the margins of society
- Police have been criticised over how they handled the case
Bruce McArthur, a 67-year-old landscaper, was arrested last January, and most of his victims — some of whose remains were found on a property where he worked — had ties to the Gay Village area in downtown Toronto.
Toronto police have been criticised by some in the LGBTQ community for taking years to solve the disappearances dating back to at least 2010 in the Gay Village neighbourhood.
Police last year found the remains of seven of the men in large planters at a property where McArthur had worked and used as storage.
The remains of the eighth victim were found in a ravine behind the same property in midtown Toronto.
The victims (from top left): Selim Esen, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick and Abdulbasir Faizi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Kirushna Kanagaratnam and Majeed Kayhan. (Toronto Police Service)
Prosecutor Michael Cantlon said the cases ranging from 2010 to 2017 involved sexual assault or forcible confinement, and said the bodies were hidden and dismembered. Several of the victims were apparently strangled.
McArthur moved to the Toronto area around 2000 and previously lived in a suburb where he was married, raised two children and worked as a traveling salesman of underwear and socks.
His landscaping business was small, but he periodically hired workers, including a 40-year-old man who disappeared in 2010.
The victims fit a pattern: Most were of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and lived on the margins of Canadian society, their disappearances attracting little attention.
One victim hid the fact he was gay from his Muslim family, another was a recent immigrant with a drug problem. Another alleged victim was homeless, smoked crack cocaine and worked as a prostitute.
Police found the remains of seven of the men in planters at a property where McArthur worked. (AP: Chris Young/The Canadian Press)
But then Andrew Kinsman vanished. The 49-year-old LGBQT activist and former bartender in Toronto had many friends.
When he suddenly went missing the day after Toronto’s gay pride parade, his friends noticed quickly, and so did the police.
Police set up a second special task force to look into the disappearances of men in the Gay Village shortly after Mr Kinsman went missing.
He was last seen on a surveillance video getting into McArthur’s van on June 26, 2017, and his DNA was later found inside, as was the ligature with which he was apparently strangled.
‘A shuffling, broken man’
Family and friends of the victims were in court to hear McArthur’s plea. (The Canadian Press via AP: Alexandra Newbould)
Karen Fraser, who lives at the home where McArthur stored the body parts, said he was evil, but had not known that version of him.
McArthur worked at the home for 10 or 12 years for Ms Fraser and her husband. He used the home as storage for his landscaping business and would often visit the garage several times a day.
“Terrible things were done,” she said. “This is just a shuffling, broken man. As he should be.”
Ms Fraser, who said she had met two of the victims, said she didn’t see any remorse in McArthur in court, only a blank face.
“I never saw a temper. Just a happy guy. You would never ever think. I believe all his other clients said the same.”
Toronto police Detective David Dickinson called the guilty pleas the best possible outcome.
Asked if there should be a public inquiry, Detective Dickinson said if police made mistakes in the investigations, they should learn from them.
Haran Vijayanathan, a community activist and the executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention in Toronto, said there was a sense of relief among the families after the guilty plea.
“But there is also confusion and questions as to why,” he said.
Sentencing will take place on February 4, with victim-impact statements on the same day.