Kept one man’s bracelet, another’s piece of jewelry, another’s notebook. As predators often do — save trophies as artifacts, to relive the thrill.
A length of leather lacing.
“Staged” them before disposing of them — tableaux of the dead, as a homicide investigator told the Star.
There are likely photos, although that detail hasn’t been officially confirmed yet.
“I don’t know if he took photographs,” said Karen Fraser, on whose property most of the remains were found, buried in those pots by the man she’d hired as a landscaper. “I imagine he did. I believe that’s what they said, otherwise they wouldn’t know.”
Gruesome details that will be put before the court at McArthur’s sentencing hearing that begins on Feb. 4.
Horrors only hinted at Tuesday by the Crown, Michael Cantlon, as he read into the record a brief agreed statement of facts. The victims’ DNA found here and here and here. Traces of one victim’s blood in McArthur’s van, another victim’s DNA on McArthur’s coat, in McArthur’s apartment, on a murder weapon.
Retrieved from McArthur’s apartment: rope, duct tape, a surgical glove, zip ties, a black bungee cord and syringes.
With a dozen police officers sitting in two rows directly behind the dock, surrounding McArthur, Cantlon presented a cursory sketch and timeline of the killings. And, repeatedly, uttered the phrase: “’This murder was sexual in nature.”
Where once McArthur was said to be hale and energetic, he’s now a husk of a man in droopy trousers and black knit sweater over plaid flannel shirt. So much weight has fallen off since he was arrested just over a year ago — exactly a year ago, to the day, when he was charged with the murder of three more victims, following the initial two, and three more yet to come. For a while there, it seemed like they just kept coming, the disappeared and the slain.
Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam.
Aged 37 to 58.
Most of them of an ethnic type, some of them deeply in the closet, two of them never even reported missing. But their vanishing had been noted, had struck fear in the Gay Village, long before police investigators doubled down on their efforts to determine what had become of the men, even as the police chief publicly declared there was no evidence of a serial killer on the prowl.
Project Houston became Project Prism became the intense investigative probe, led by Insp. Hank Idsinga, head of Toronto’s homicide unit, and Det. David Dickinson, both of whom have lived with these ghastly crimes for 18 months. Murder-hardened yet the killings — an unchecked rampage across nearly a decade — have seeped into their souls.
“It has been a long and traumatic process and many made the difficult decision to attend in person today,” Dickinson told reporters outside the University Ave. courthouse afterwards, referring particularly to the grieving families. “Our thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones, and the community as a whole. We would not be here if not for the assistance provided during this investigation by all of them.”
The now-67-year-old McArthur may have methodically dispensed with the victim remains, swept them under a rug of dirt, but there’s little evidence he took any great pains to hide his preying; had been seen often in the company of men who subsequently just got gone. Was even interviewed by police at one juncture, after a man reported that McArthur had tried to strangle him during an otherwise consensual sexual encounter.
But it took cunning, it now appears, to have sought out victims who were largely isolated, many strangers in a strange land. Emboldened to the point that he took at least two of them to Fraser’s house on Mallory Cres., to view his landscaping work, introduced Fraser to them.
“Very pleasant, very nice men,” Fraser described them. “The second man, very lost, obviously not adapting to Canada very quickly. Difficulty finding his way. The other man seemed really at ease with his new life.”
She would not identify which of the men had come to her home.
“I never knew if he was bringing friends to see what he did for a living, or because they were visiting. Others did work for him and that’s why they were there.”
Like family members who came to court Tuesday, Fraser decided she had to witness the proceeding, see it through to the end, or near-end.
What she didn’t see in McArthur’s face, as he stood and acknowledged to Justice John McMahon that he understood the consequences of pleading guilty to first-degree murder — automatic life sentence — was any speck of remorse.
“I just saw a blank face. But what does remorse look like?”
Still, a man so drastically changed from the one she’d known, in days of ignorance. “I knew a man who was always energetic, enthusiastic, always eager to get on to the next thing. This is just a shuffling, broken man. As he should be, as he should be.”
Fraser and her partner have no intention of moving away from a house that had been turned into a slapdash morgue of cremains, the exterior property dug up over a period of months, cadaver dogs sniffing out the stench of death. And she grapples with the memory of the victims. “Just thinking about the last moments of those men. It comes to me quite often, particularly the two that I met, briefly. I am haunted by that.
“They’re not just on a list or a photograph. They were people standing in front of me.”
As McArthur was standing, and luring, all those years, in plain sight, until he finally became a subject of police surveillance. They surreptitiously entered his apartment in late December, 2017, cloned his computer. Not till a month later, however, after police uncovered evidence that “pushed the case over the edge,” as Idsinga would say, was McArthur actually arrested, cops acting after they observed a young man entering McArthur’s apartment — finding that potential victim tied up but unharmed.
Four months investigators spent, turning that apartment inside out, seizing 1,800 exhibits, taking more than 18,000 photographs, largest forensic investigation in Toronto’s history.
For this one pathetic man and his trail of ruin.
Even still, investigators continue to sift through dozens of cold cases, seeking a fingerprint of McArthur’s monstrosity. Police don’t believe there are other victims. But who knows?
“This is not over,” said Dickinson. “I’m not sure if there’s a day that will go by that I won’t make a note in my book. This investigation will continue and we’ll continue to look at any other possible connections that anyone may have had with Bruce McArthur.”
Throughout the Gay Village Tuesday, frozen in by winter, there was no palpable sense of relief or conclusion. Maybe that came a year ago, with McArthur’s arrest. The guilty pleas might be a balm but the body politic of Toronto’s gay community has been deeply wounded, pierced to the bone.
They were, for such a long time, left on their own, in dread of an unknown predator — the very idea of a serial killer discredited.
“I’m not saying it’s a win,” Dickinson emphasized, when the question was put to him in a clumsy manner. “Bruce McArthur has pled guilty. I’m not considering it a win. It’s the right outcome.”
But why? What drove this enigma of a killer to such predation and perdition?
Dickinson: “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if we’ll ever know why.”
Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno