Bruce McArthur pleads guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder
TORONTO — A serial killer sexually assaulted many of his victims, all men from Toronto’s gay village, before murdering them and hiding their remains around a property where he worked as landscaper.
Bruce McArthur, 67, pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder in the deaths of eight men who went missing between 2010 and 2017.
“Mr. McArthur intended and caused all of their deaths,” said Crown attorney Michael Cantlon. “After he murdered the men, Mr. McArthur, in an effort to avoid detection, dismembered their bodies.”
McArthur, who appeared in court wearing a black sweater over a collared shirt, looked straight ahead of him, saying “guilty” repeatedly when asked how he was pleading to each count. Members of the victims’ families and the city’s LGBTQ community packed the courtroom.
Police arrested McArthur a year ago and eventually charged him in the deaths of Selim Esen, An-drew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Ab-dulbasir Faizi, and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.
Prosecutors laid out previously unheard details about the case in court Tuesday, saying investiga-tors found victims’ belongings in McArthur’s home, including a bracelet owned by Navaratnam, jewelry that belonged to Lisowick and a notebook that belonged to Esen.
They also found a duffel bag containing duct tape, a surgical glove, rope, zip ties, a bungee cord and syringes that belonged to McArthur in his bedroom. Items with victims’ DNA and the murder weapon used in two cases were also found in McArthur’s van.
Many of the killings involved sexual assaults and ligatures, Cantlon said, adding that some also included confinement with ropes.
He said several of the slain men had also been “staged” but did not elaborate on what that entailed. The term is typically used to suggest a body has been repositioned for a specific purpose, such as hampering an investigation.
McArthur buried his victims’ remains in planters at a home where he worked as a gardener and in a ravine next to the property, Cantlon said.
Karen Fraser, one of the home’s owners, said she can’t reconcile the energetic, enthusiastic man who worked on her property with the killer he turned out to be.
“The man I knew actually didn’t exist,” she said outside court. “This is someone else entirely.”
She recalled meeting two of the victims when McArthur brought them to her home and said she would forever be haunted by those encounters, though she would not specify which men they were.
Fraser said that for her, there would be no closure. “I’m not big on forgiveness...Terrible things were done,” she said.
First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. A sen-tencing hearing for McArthur is scheduled for Feb. 4, when the court is expected to hear from those affected by the killings.
Some expressed relief at McArthur’s plea, but said nothing can bring back the men he killed or un-do the harm he caused.
“These losses have forever changed the lives of families, friends, loved ones and have left our communities shaken and aggrieved,” said The 519, an organization serving Toronto’s LGBTQ communities. “The fact that it remained unknown and unseen for so many years is its own incon-ceivable tragedy.”
Toronto police Det. David Dickinson said the investigation continues.
“If there were mistakes made or lessons learned, absolutely we should learn from them,” he said.
The LGBTQ community had long said someone was targeting men who were vanishing from the city’s gay village.
In November 2012, police launched Project Houston to investigate the disappearances of 42-year-old Faizi, 40-year-old Navaratnam and 58-year-old Kayhan. They closed the probe in April 2014 after being unable to identify a suspect in their disappearances.
In the summer of 2017, police launched a separate investigation known as Project Prism into the disappearances of 49-year-old Kinsman and 44-year-old Esen. Within months, McArthur came on the police radar, according to court documents.
On Jan. 17, 2018, investigators uncovered evidence alleging McArthur was responsible for both Kinsman and Esen’s deaths, along with the deaths of other unidentified people.
The next day, police arrested McArthur at his apartment and charged him with the murders of Kinsman and Esen. They brought cadaver dogs the following day to a property nearby where McArthur stored his landscaping equipment.
Over the next three months, investigators made several grisly discoveries at the residential property in midtown Toronto, eventually finding the dismembered remains of seven men in large planters. The remains of an eighth man were found in a large compost pile in a ravine behind the home.
Lead investigator Insp. Hank Idsinga said the McArthur probe was the largest forensic examina-tion in the force’s history.
Forensic officers spent four months scouring McArthur’s apartment— they seized 1,800 exhibits and snapped more than 18,000 photographs of the scene. They also searched more than 100 prop-erties where McArthur worked across the Toronto area.
- Liam Casey and Paola Loriggio
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2019
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