Police admit they nearly missed evidence with alleged gay ‘serial killer’
Police say a Canadian gardener charged with the deaths of five men could have still been loose today had a crucial piece of evidence not been uncovered.
Bruce McArthur, a freelance landscaper, stands accused of killing at least five men and disposing of their bodies in the gardens of wealthy clients.
The 66-year-old was apprehended by police after his home was raided early February, where they discovered a man in restraints.
Sources told CBC that officers believed the man to be in imminent danger at the scene, and subsequently arrested McArthur.
Police admitted to The National that had one victim been reported missing later, they might not have tracked down McArthur.
“Andrew Kinsman was reported within 72 hours,” said Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga, referring to one of five men McArthur is charged with killing. “A crucial piece of evidence was uncovered because of that immediate reporting.
“If he had been reported seven or eight days after he disappeared we wouldn’t be here today,” Idsinga said.
“You stop when the evidence stops,” he added. “You can’t leave these families out there wondering.”
McArthur is said to have met the men on gay dating apps under the screen names ‘silverfoxx51’ and ‘Bear411’ while driving around Toronto in his white van.
He appeared in court for the first time last week via video link wearing an orange jumpsuit.
He spoke only to state his name and stared into the video camera broadcasting his image in a crowded courtroom.
The news has shocked Toronto and its LGBT community – a city that prides itself on diversity.
All five of the men who were killed have connections to the city’s gay village.
McArthur is said to have contacted men using gay dating apps, among other methods.
In one online SilverDaddies bio, the alleged murderer described himself as “a bit shy until I get to know you, but am a romantic at heart,” while adding that most men are “so far away”.
Images found online show the alleged multiple murderer dressed as Santa Clause in a local shopping centre, posing for photos with babies and young children.
McArthur’s Facebook profile indicates he was a Santa at Scarborough’s Agincourt Mall, northeast Toronto, for at least 2015 and 2016.
An Instagram photo from a shopper appears to show him also playing the role of Santa as recently as last Christmas.
In 2015 he posted a photo of himself with the caption “Back in the Santa Chair for another year.”
Agincourt Mall said that “there were no reported incidents by customers or by store and Mall employees during his time at the Mall.”
He also posted pictures of his cats, children and grandchildren on his Facebook page, according to Vice.
Dismembered remains of bodies were found by police in planters at wealthy properties linked to McArthur, sparking a search for more remains at dozens of houses where he had been employed.
McArthur faces murder charges over the deaths of Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi and Dean Lisowick, who disappeared from Toronto between 2012 and 2017.
Police believe there are potentially more victims whose names have not yet been released.
Police have also spoken to other men who had sex with McArthur.
The investigation has raised fears among the city’s LGBT community.
Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga Hank confirmed that a “common thread” was that the victims “were from the gay village, or associated to the gay village”.
However, he declined to say if the victims had been lured to McArthur for hook-ups, insisting: “I’m not going to get into specifics about what their relationship was with Mr McArthur at this time.”
He added: “I can’t get too specific on that right now. The last two victims we’ve identified don’t quite fit the profile of the earlier victims. We don’t know how many more victims there are going to be but it certainly encompasses more than the gay community – it encompasses the city of Toronto.”
Idsinga added: “We know that many in the community are struggling to understand and process these developments. We would encourage you to talk to your friends and love ones.
“Our LGBTQ liaison officer and the service’s LGBTQ community consultative committee are available to anyone who requires support.
“We’re cognisant that people’s families may not know that they frequent the village in Toronto. They could come from anywhere in the [wider area], if they come into Toronto for an event such as Pride and then get reported missing. That’s obviously something we have to look at.”
Reading from a statement, he said: “On January 17, investigators uncovered evidence that provided them with grounds to believe that Mr McArthur was not only responsible for the death of Andrew Kinsman, but the death of Mr Essen.
“Further evidence was uncovered which led investigators to believe that Mr McArthur was responsible for the deaths of other, unidentified victims. On Thursday, January 18, Mr McArthur was arrested by Project Prism, and charged with two counts of First Degree Murder.”
The police detective added that the force was dedicating “unprecedented” resources to the case.
He said: “We’ve never seen anything quite like this with the number of crime scenes that we have to process.”
Police may face questions themselves, as probes about suspicious disappearances in the gay village date back to 2012.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-2021, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637).