Toronto police think they’ve caught a serial killer.
As another high-profile murder investigation is carried out in the provincial capital following the surprising deaths of billionaire couple Barry and Honey Sherman, police are trying to figure out just how many people Bruce McArthur, 66, may have killed around the city’s gay village ― or elsewhere.
The accusation follows years of dark rumors haunting the area over a series of unexplained disappearances, as McArthur and some of his alleged victims were found to have ties to the gay community.
“We are validated in our concerns, but there’s no joy to be had in that,” community activist Nicki Ward told CBC News late last month, adding, “Why weren’t we listened to earlier?”
While the case has not received much attention south of the U.S.-Canada border, it’s captivated our Canadian neighbors since the suspect’s Jan. 18 arrest. Officers tailing McArthur, a landscaper, reportedly brought him into custody because they feared for the life of a young man they saw enter their suspect’s apartment. According to the Toronto Star, they found the young man tied up but unharmed.
McArthur became a target of suspicion through a pair of Toronto police investigative initiatives. Police launched “Project Houston” in November 2012 to look into the disappearances of Skandaraj Navaratnam, Majeed Kayhan and Abdulbasir Faizi, who frequented the gay village, but it concluded in April 2014 with no convictions. “Project Prism,” a police investigation centered on the deaths of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman, who both disappeared in 2017 and also frequented the village, led to McArthur.
McArthur was first charged with the deaths of Esen and Kinsman. Two weeks later, police added charges for the deaths of Kayhan, Dean Lisowick and Soroush Mahmudi. Causes of death have not been released.
McArthur is thought to have killed others. He was romantically involved in the early 2000s with Navaratnam, who disappeared from the gay village in 2010, according to CBC News, citing a friend of Navaratnam.
He has also been linked to presently unidentified remains of three different people found in planters at a suburban Toronto home where McArthur worked as a landscaper. The authorities’ search has now expanded to include other homes where McArthur worked and other disappearances in the city’s gay community.
“It’s a serial killer — alleged serial killer,” Toronto police Sgt. Hank Idsinga said at a news conference in Toronto this week.
“It certainly encompasses more than the gay community. It encompasses the city of Toronto,” he added.
Idsinga told CBC News on Saturday that there was “no truth” to a rumor that McArthur had cannibalized his alleged victims.
The search may be complicated by McArthur’s transient history. A native of a small Ontario town, he worked as a traveling salesman in the 1980s and 1990s hawking socks and underwear to stores across the province, according the National Post, a Canadian publication. He was married for three decades before coming out as gay, leaving his wife behind to move to Toronto proper around 2000.
He has one prior conviction, per the National Post, for assaulting a man with a metal pipe, and he reportedly declared bankruptcy in 1999. As part of his assault conviction, he was barred from Toronto’s gay village and prohibited from spending time with male sex workers, the Toronto Star reported.
Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters this week that the investigation would “bring comfort to people who are very worried about this whole series of events, across the city, and in particular in the LGBTQ community.”