Bruce McArthur en­tered the same plea in the mur­ders of eight men: GUILTY

THE VIC­TIMS Ma­jeed Kay­han, 58 Soroush Mah­mudi, 50 Dean Lisow­ick, 47 Se­lim Esen, 44 An­drew Kins­man, 49 Skan­daraj (Skanda) Navarat­nam, 40 Kirush­naku­mar Kana­garat­nam, 37 Ab­dul­basir Faizi, 42

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - WENDY GIL­LIS CRIME RE­PORTER

Packed court hears grim de­tails of killer’s pat­tern of hold­ing on to vic­tims’ me­men­tos

The bracelet worn by the first man he killed. Jewelry be­long­ing to an­other vic­tim. The note­book kept by yet an­other.

Serial killer Bruce McArthur held on to items that be­longed to men who, one by one, be­gan to go miss­ing from Toronto’s Gay Vil­lage — vic­tims whose lives McArthur ad­mit­ted he ended in a mur­der­ous spree that be­gan nearly a decade ago.

“Guilty,” McArthur ut­tered eight times in On­tario Su­pe­rior Court Tues­day, once for each count of first-degree mur­der he faced in deaths rang­ing from 2010 to late 2017.

McArthur, 67, frail and ex­pres­sion­less, stood as the names of his vic­tims were read out into a down­town Toronto court­room, tense and packed with griev­ing fam­ily and friends, mem­bers of Toronto’s LGBTQ com­mu­nity, and Toronto po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors who first nar­rowed in on the self-em­ployed land­scaper and grand­fa­ther in late 2017.

Those of­fi­cers lo­cated the vic­tims’ be­long­ings when they en­tered his Thorn­cliffe Park apart­ment just over a year ago, their dis­cov­ery part of the rev­e­la­tions con­tained in a brief sum­mary of ev­i­dence Crown prose­cu­tor Michael Cant­lon read out in court.

Also found by po­lice was a clue in the cal­en­dar be­long­ing to McArthur’s fi­nal vic­tim, An­drew Kins­man. Writ­ten on June 26, 2017, the day Kins­man went miss­ing: “Bruce.”

En­tered be­fore Jus­tice John McMa­hon Tues­day morn­ing, McArthur’s guilty plea is the be­gin­ning of the end of a dis­turb­ing and un­prece­dented case that un­folded amid a sprawl­ing in­vesti- gation that brought praise and crit­i­cism to Toronto po­lice.

“We un­for­tu­nately can never bring these men back.

“But I’m hop­ing that we can start bring­ing some clo­sure to the fam­i­lies and to the com­mu­nity,” Toronto po­lice Det. David Dick­in­son, who led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion that cul­mi­nated in McArthur’s ar­rest, told re­porters out­side court Tues­day.

Em­pha­siz­ing the role vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and friends played in iden­ti­fy­ing McArthur as the killer — and the trau­matic toll of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion on ev­ery­one in­volved — Dick­in­son called the plea “the best pos­si­ble out­come,” avoid­ing a lengthy trial.

“We did this be­cause we wanted an­swers too and I hope we brought some clo­sure,” Dick­in­son said of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But why McArthur com­mit­ted his crimes may al­ways be among the unan­swered ques­tions.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever know why,” Dick­in­son said.

Al­though the new ev­i­dence pre­sented in court Tues­day was lim­ited — a more ful­some set of facts will be read out at sen­tenc­ing sub­mis­sions be­gin­ning next week — Cant­lon re­vealed that six of the eight killings were sex­ual in na­ture. Some of the deaths in­volved a lig­a­ture and con­fine­ment, as well as “stag­ing,” which was not de­fined in court but is gen­er­ally un­der­stood to in­volve a body be­ing posed af­ter a killing.

Serial killers will some­times pose and pho­to­graph vic­tims to “de­lib­er­ately shock” in­ves­ti­ga­tors and the pub­lic, but also for their own grat­i­fi­ca­tion, said Jooy­oung Lee, a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Toronto who teaches a course on serial killers.

“There’s usu­ally some kind of per­verse sat­is­fac­tion in hu­mil­i­at­ing a per­son’s mem­ory by ma­nip­u­lat­ing their body in that kind of way,” he said.

He added it is com­mon for or­ga­nized serial killers to take a me­mento or sou­venir from their vic­tims, as McArthur did.

“They en­joy the mem­ory and they re­live the mem­ory and it feeds this fan­tasy life that’s quickly spi­ralling out of con­trol,” he said. “It’s some­thing they can re­fer to and go back to in the in­terim be­tween dif­fer­ent kills.”

Af­ter the mur­ders, McArthur dis­mem­bered the bod­ies “to avoid de­tec­tion,” Cant­lon said, dis­pos­ing of body parts at a pic­turesque Lea­side home where McArthur had worked as a gar­dener.

Po­lice also found a duf­fel bag be­long­ing to McArthur that con­tained duct tape, a sur­gi­cal glove, zip ties, a black bungie cord and sy­ringes, court heard.

McArthur ad­mit­ted to killing: Kins­man, 49; Se­lim Esen, 44; Ma­jeed Kay­han, 58; Soroush Mah­mudi, 50; Dean Lisow­ick, 47; Skan­dara j (Skanda) Navarat­nam, 40, Ab­dul­basir Faizi, 42, and Kirush­naku­mar Kana­garat­nam, 37. Many of the vic­tims had ties to the Gay Vil­lage and were of South Asian or Mid­dle Eastern des­cent.

Prior to his ar­rest, McArthur was known as a skilled land­scaper who had a wife and two chil­dren be­fore com­ing out as gay and mov­ing to Toronto from Oshawa. Reached by the Star shortly af­ter the plea was de­liv­ered, McArthur’s sis­ter Sandra Bur­ton said she had no com­ment.

First-degree mur­der car­ries an au­to­matic life sen­tence with no chance of pa­role for 25 years. A con­cur­rent sen­tence would see McArthur first be­come el­i­gi­ble for pa­role at 25 years; a con­sec­u­tive sen­tence could push his el­i­gi­bil­ity far into the fu­ture.

Next week’s pro­ceed­ings, ex­pected to last three days, will also in­clude at least two dozen vic­tim im­pact state­ments.

Ac­cept­ing the plea af­ter en­sur­ing McArthur un­der­stood what he was do­ing, McMa­hon called the case “a ter­ri­ble tragedy.” The judge told the court that the only is­sue to be de­cided at McArthur’s sen­tenc­ing is whether his pa­role in­el­i­gi­bil­ity pe­riod will run con­cur­rently or con­sec­u­tively.

Ei­ther way, it’s un­likely McArthur will ever be re­leased from prison, ac­cord­ing to one crim­i­nal de­fence lawyer.

“Some­one who is found guilty of mul­ti­ple mur­ders is never likely to be re­leased into the com­mu­nity, re­gard­less of what

the pa­role in­el­i­gi­bil­ity is set at,” said crim­i­nal de­fence lawyer Daniel Brown, who is not in­volved in the case.

“Cer­tainly his age could be a fac­tor in de­cid­ing whether or not he’s a con­tin­u­ing risk to the com­mu­nity if re­leased, but the grue­some na­ture of the crimes and the num­ber of homi­cides alone will likely keep him be­hind bars for the rest of his life.”

McArthur was 58 at the time of his first mur­der in 2010 — an anom­aly among serial killers, who are typ­i­cally much younger men.

Be­fore his ar­rest, McArthur had one prior con­vic­tion for a 2001 as­sault on a male sex worker in the Gay Vil­lage, strik­ing him with a metal pipe. McArthur turned him­self in and pleaded guilty to as­sault with a weapon and as­sault caus­ing bod­ily harm.

At the out­set of the 2017 po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into McArthur, scores of of­fi­cers were brought in from po­lice ser­vices across On­tario to search prop­er­ties across the Greater Toronto Area, many owned by clients of Artis­tic De­sign, McArthur’s land­scap­ing com­pany.

Po­lice quickly nar­rowed in on just one prop­erty, a res­i­dence at 53 Mal­lory Cres., where they dis­cov­ered dis­mem­bered, skele­tal hu­man re­mains buried in- side large planters and in a forested ravine im­me­di­ately be­hind the Lea­side home.

Karen Fraser, who lives in the Mal­lory Cres. house, told re­porters af­ter Tues­day’s court ap­pear­ance that “sur­real” is the best word to de­scribe the past year. The man she saw shack­led in court Tues­day morn­ing was not the same per­son who tended her gar­den and stored tools in her garage in a years-long ar­range­ment, she said.

“I’m not big on for­give­ness and I’m not big on clo­sure. Ter­ri­ble things were done,” she told re­porters.

Be­fore his ar­rest last Jan­uary, McArthur was a fa­mil­iar face in Toronto’s Church and Welles­ley area, known as the Gay Vil­lage. He was reg­is­tered on male dating sites, post­ing on one that he en­joyed find­ing a guy’s “but­tons and then push­ing them to your lim­its.”

His ar­rest fol­lowed long-held sus­pi­cion within Toronto’s Gay Vil­lage that a serial killer had been prey­ing on their com­mu­nity, con­cerns de­nied by Toronto po­lice up un­til weeks be­fore McArthur was charged. Many within the LGBTQ com­mu­nity and beyond have raised con­cerns that the suc­ces­sion of miss­ing peo­ple from the Gay Vil­lage was not suf­fi­ciently in­ves­ti­gated.

Af­ter the dis­ap­pear­ances of McArthur’s first three vic­tims — Navarat­nam, Faizi and Kay­han — Toronto po­lice launched a probe called Project Hous­ton in 2012. McArthur was ques­tioned by po­lice around the time of this probe, po­lice sources told the Star, but the ini­tia­tive ended in 2014, with no ar­rests.

Mount­ing ques­tions about po­lice han­dling of the case led to calls for a pub­lic in­quir y, prompt­ing the Toronto po­lice board to last year bring on for­mer On­tario Court of Ap­peal Jus­tice Glo­ria Ep­stein to lead an in­de­pen­dent re­view ex­am­in­ing Toronto po­lice’s han­dling of miss­ing per­son’s cases.

Stress­ing that the de­tec­tives in the case did an “amaz­ing job,” Haran Vi­jayanathan, the ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of com­mu­nity group Al­liance for South Asian AIDS Pre­ven­tion, said po­lice none­the­less need to ex­am­ine how McArthur was able to qui­etly kill men un­de­tected for so long.

“Why did it take 10 years? I think the chal­lenge still re­mains for me, how do front-line of­fi­cers get the sup­ports that they need to do their job bet­ter so that we find peo­ple sooner rather than later,” he told re­porters out­side court.

Candace Shaw, a neigh­bour and friend of Kins­man, said po­lice have “some soul search­ing to do” about how they ap­proach miss­ing per­sons cases and in­ter­act with mem­bers of the LGBTQ com­mu­nity, who had long-stand­ing con­cerns about a pos­si­ble serial killer. Reached at home Mon­day be­fore McArthur’s court ap­pear­ance, Mah­mudi’s wife, Fa­reena Mare­zook, said she was hop­ing for a plea, which would put an end to a hor­rific or­deal she’s lived through this past year.

“I feel re­ally weak. I’m not sleep­ing and I get sick,” she said.

Lou Locke, Faizi’s for­mer boss at a Mis­sis­sauga in­dus­trial print­ing com­pany, said see­ing Faizi’s pic­ture on the news was a “sad re­minder of what hap­pened to our friend.” He de­scribed McArthur’s guilty plea as the “ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse.”

“It’s been hard enough on the fam­i­lies,” he said.

“Jus­tice is be­ing served,” said Jean-Guy Cloutier, a friend of Navarat­nam. “It still doesn’t bring Skanda back though.”

Toronto po­lice will con­tinue to probe his­toric mur­ders look­ing for any con­nec­tion to McArthur, who grew up on a farm in small-town On­tario and, in the late 1970s, worked alone as a trav­el­ling sales­man — but no links have been an­nounced by po­lice.

Asked if there is an end in sight to the McArthur in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and the on­go­ing re­view of cold cases, Dick­in­son was uncer­tain. “Maybe one day down the road. But it’s not end­ing any time soon.”

ALEX TAVSHUNSKY

Bruce McArthur is shown at Tues­day’s hear­ing, where he pleaded guilty to eight charges of first-degree mur­der.

RICHARD LAUT­ENS PHO­TOS TORONTO STAR

Karen Fraser said the man she saw in court Tues­day was not the same per­son who looked af­ter her gar­dens over the years.

Lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor Det. David Dick­in­son called the plea, which avoided a lengthy trial, “the best pos­si­ble out­come.”

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