The dismembered remains of at least 6 people have been found stuffed in flower planters outside a Toronto home where a suspected serial killer accused of targeting gay men stored his landscaping equipment.
Bruce McArthur, 66, of Toronto, is thus far charged with only five counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of five missing men, according to the Toronto Police Service. Investigators believe, however, that there may be many more victims hidden in landscaping projects the self-employed McArthur did for clients throughout Toronto.
“I do anticipate more charges being laid,” Toronto police Detective Sgt. Hank Idsinga told CBC Toronto Thursday. Idsinga is the lead investigator on the case, which he described as “unprecedented.”
A man was found alive and tied to McArthur’s bed in his Thorncliffe Park apartment at the time of his Jan. 18 arrest, CP24 in Toronto reported. Police officers who had McArthur under surveillance in the disappearances of multiple men saw the man go into his apartment with him and, believing him to be in danger, forced their way inside.
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The man was uninjured when he was found, the news station reported.
So far, the remains of just one man, Andrew Kinsman, have been positively identified, CBC Toronto reported Thursday. Kinsman, 49, had a sexual relationship with McArthur, police officials said at the time of McArthur’s arrest.
McArthur is also accused of killing Majeed Kayhan, 58, Selim Esen, 44, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Dean Lisowick, 47.
Esen was reported missing in April 2017 and Marmudi was reported missing in August 2015, police officials said. Lisowick was never reported missing, but investigators believe he was killed between May 2016 and July 2017.
Kayhan, who has been missing since October 2012, was one 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. Toronto police investigators in 2012 established Project Houston, a task force that sought to solve their disappearances, but it was disbanded after 18 months, the Toronto Star reported.
McArthur’s arrest came as the result of another task force called Project Prism, according to police.
The Star reported that the other two men who vanished from Gay Village, Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, and Abdulbasir Faizi, have not been listed as victims of McArthur. Navaratnam, who has been missing since September 2010, has been connected to the alleged serial killer, however, and Faizi’s abandoned car was found a short distance from McArthur’s home.
Faizi vanished three months after Navaratnam disappeared.
Members of Toronto’s gay community have taken issue with news stories in which acquaintances of McArthur’s described him as a “jovial” fixture of the Gay Village community.
“The depictions of this man as a ‘jovial’ ‘grandfather’ who dressed up as Santa but had this ‘penchant’ for serial killing is gross,” a post on Toronto Pride’s Facebook page stated. “Where’s his mugshot in these articles? Seemingly, this media rule only applies to indigenous, street-involved and black people.”
McArthur did not live at the home on Mallory Crescent where the human remains have been found. Owners Karen Fraser and her husband allowed McArthur to store his equipment at their home in exchange for mowing and general upkeep of their lawn, Fraser told CBC Radio’s “As It Happens” program.
Fraser said that police showed up at their home the morning of McArthur’s arrest with a search warrant and gave them 20 minutes to leave the property.
“I was so horrified,” Fraser said, according to CBC Toronto. “Every aspect was more horrifying and I just … it was really hard to take.”
Fraser said that, along with his equipment, McArthur stored planters at their home, including two large, heavy ones in the backyard. Those planters, where police apparently found body parts of three of the victims, were there for two years, she said.
“They would come and go,” Fraser said of McArthur’s planters. “If they were going to stay long enough, he often put some plants in for us. And then, when a client wanted them, off they would go.”
Investigators using dogs and ground-penetrating radar found areas in the home’s yard where dirt had been disturbed. Idsinga told CBC reporters that law enforcement was using heaters to warm the frozen ground.
“There’s a tent out back. It’s a very large tent,” Idsinga said. “We have some heaters there and we are thawing the ground there.”
Excavation of the area was anticipated to begin late last week. It was unclear when the Frasers, who are staying with friends, would be allowed back into their home.
Meanwhile, investigators continued searching more than 30 other properties on which McArthur may have done landscaping work in the Toronto area.
Idsinga said the planters where the remains were found were among more than a dozen planters removed from multiple locations after police dogs detected the possible presence of human decomposition. Officials anticipate that it could take months to identify all the remains found.
The detective refuted rumors that McArthur was suspected of cannibalizing his alleged victims.
“There’s no truth to that at all,” Idsinga told CBC Toronto in an email.
CBC Toronto confirmed that detectives have interviewed at least three other men who dated McArthur, but stopped because they were not comfortable with some of the sex acts he wanted them to participate in.
Fraser told “As It Happens” that she was shocked when McArthur, who she’s known for nearly 10 years, was arrested. She described him as a kind and helpful man who often helped with the charity work she and her husband did.
She said sleep has been elusive as she has thought about the missing men, many of whom were immigrants to Canada.
“I picture these men, glad to be making friends,” Fraser said. “They found a community. They really think that their new life is going to be maybe more than they ever dreamed possible, and then that someone took advantage.
“The terror, the horror. That’s what I have real trouble with.”
The Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto held a candlelight vigil Sunday night for the five men McArthur has been charged with killing. Rev. Sandra Morris lit a candle for each man, but also lit a sixth candle, CP24 reported.
The sixth candle was a reminder of victims not yet found or identified.
“We also remember that there are others still missing and there may be more victims before this nightmare ends,” Morris said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, who attended the vigil, said he hoped the service could begin the long healing process.
“These horrific crimes have shocked and shaken the Church and Wellesley community and all of Toronto,” Tory wrote on Twitter. He also shared photos from the vigil.
Rev. Jeff Rock, the church’s senior pastor, said the regular Sunday service was cancelled so the community could come together to mourn the victims.
“(There are) a lot of unsettled feelings in people’s hearts, and still a lot of unanswered questions,” Rock told the news agency. “We open up our doors and invite not only the LGBTQ community, but the wider community, recognizing that the entire city of Toronto and the country … are realizing the horrors as the news comes out day by day.”
As the excavation of the Frasers’ Mallory Crescent property gets underway, police investigators are combing through McArthur’s cellphone and computer and any other electronic devices that could offer clues about how he sought out his alleged victims. CBC Toronto reported that the suspected killer’s Facebook profile, which has been disabled, detailed his nights out, parties, vacations and more.
Several younger men, many of whom appeared Middle Eastern or South Asian -- like some of McArthur’s alleged victims -- showed up in his photos, the news agency reported. He also had profiles on multiple dating sites, including manjam and silverdaddies.
His user name was often a variation of the nickname “silver fox.”