Toronto police investigators on Monday released a gruesome image of a dead man they believe was a victim of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur, calling the release a last-resort effort to identify the man.
They also revealed that they have discovered dismembered remains of a seventh victim in the case. The body parts, like those of six other men, were found hidden in large potted plants confiscated from a home where McArthur, 66, stored his landscaping equipment.
Detective Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the lead investigator on the McArthur case, said during a news conference Monday that he did not want to release the image, which he acknowledged that some viewers would find disturbing.
“The release of evidence by the Toronto Police Service has to strike a balance between the public interest and the fair court process due to Mr. McArthur,” Idsinga said. “We solve many crimes through the release of evidence to the media.”
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Idsinga said that thus far, the police agency’s investigative techniques have been unsuccessful in identifying the dead man. He urged those who saw or shared the image to be considerate toward those who might know the victim.
“I would ask the media to be mindful that by broadcasting this picture, a family member or friend, not realizing that their loved one is deceased, may come to that realization from the moment they come to view the picture,” Idsinga said.
The photo, unveiled to silence from reporters, shows a bearded, dark-skinned man in a gray T-shirt, his eyes and mouth partially open. He appears to fit the physical profile of several of McArthur’s suspected victims.
Idsinga refused to say how investigators came to possess the photo, which was digitally cleaned up to make it presentable to the public. The Toronto Star reported, however, that sources said detectives uncovered “reams of evidence” in the case, including images linked to McArthur.
Mark Valois, a former Toronto homicide detective, told the Star that the photo, if obtained from McArthur, could potentially be a “trophy” kept by the suspected serial killer to relive the crime.
“It wouldn’t surprise me,” Valois told the newspaper. “There very well could be photographs of some victims.”
The Star also reported that photos like the one released Monday could help explain how investigators have been able to name six alleged McArthur victims, even though not all the remains found in the case have been positively identified.
Of the six men McArthur, who was arrested Jan. 18, is charged with killing, only remains of Andrew Kinsman, 49, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, have been positively identified. Kinsman, a former boyfriend of McArthur’s, was identified through fingerprints.
Mahmudi and Navaratnam, who also reportedly dated McArthur before his 2010 disappearance, were identified through dental records.
McArthur is also charged with killing Majeed Kayhan, 58, Selim Esen, 44, and Dean Lisowick, 47, though it is not yet known if they are among the victims discovered dismembered and buried in planters.
Police confiscated planters from more than 30 properties where McArthur had done landscaping work, though remains have only been found in the planters kept at the Mallory Crescent home where he stored his equipment. The homeowners allowed McArthur to keep his equipment on their property in exchange for the upkeep of their own lawn.
Idsinga told CTV News last month that McArthur’s Thorncliffe Park apartment is also considered a crime scene. Investigators believe some of the victims were killed there.
A man was found alive and tied to McArthur’s bed in that apartment at the time of his Jan. 18 arrest, police said. Officers who had McArthur under surveillance in the disappearances of multiple men saw the man go into his apartment with McArthur and, believing him to be in danger, forced their way inside.
The man was not harmed.
Navaratnam and Kayhan were two of three men who went missing from Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village area, a predominantly gay downtown neighborhood that is also known as Gay Village. A third man, Abdulbasir Faizi, has not been named a victim of the suspected serial killer, though his abandoned car was found a short distance from McArthur’s home.
Idsinga reiterated during the news conference that the charges involving specific victims do not necessarily correspond to the remains found. He declined to give details of the evidence that led to each murder charge.
The seventh set of remains has not been connected to the man in the photo, Idsinga said. He pointed out that the remains found thus far were in varying states of decomposition.
“Doctors from Ontario Forensic Pathology Services have been doing some very difficult and time-consuming work in attempting to reconstruct these remains and identify them,” Idsinga said. “(The doctors) have been working tirelessly for weeks to put this very crucial part of the case together.”
Tests are ongoing in attempts to identify the rest of the remains, he said.
Reporters asked how unusual it was for detectives to release a photo of a victim’s body during an investigation.
“I’ve never done this, and I do it with great hesitation,” Idsinga said. “It’s obviously a key piece of evidence that we have, that we’re releasing, but we do feel that by releasing it, hopefully we can identify him and close off that area of investigation.”