Bruce McArthur: 'Jolly' man turns out to be one of Canada's worst serial killers

Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur appears in Toronto court

There will be no trial in the gruesome murders of eight men who disappeared in Toronto between 2010 and 2017.

Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in their deaths before Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice on Jan. 28, a little over a year after his arrest.

McArthur, then 67, was initially arrested on Jan. 18, 2018 in connection with the disappearances of Andrew Kinsman, 49, and Selim Esen, 44.

Toronto police had evidence they said implicated McArthur in the men’s deaths. Both had ties to Toronto’s Gay Village. When police arrested McArthur in his home, he had a young man tied up in his bedroom. The man was unharmed.

Throughout 2018, police uncovered enough evidence in the city’s largest ever forensic investigation to charge McArthur with the deaths of six other men: Majeed Kayhan, 58; Soroush Mahmudi, 50; Dean Lisowick, 47; Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Abdulbasir Faizi, 42, and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, 37, a Sri Lankan asylum seeker.

McArthur faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole for at least 25 years. The Crown could seek consecutive parole ineligibility terms of 25 years for some of his crimes, or ask for concurrent time. Either way, McArthur will remain in prison at least until he is 91 years old.

Sentencing will begin with victim impact statements on Feb. 4. In the meantime, here are some of the key details from the case.

Common denominators

Most of McArthur’s victims had ties to Toronto’s Gay Village and were men of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent. Many were large in stature. All were younger than him.

The court heard on Tuesday that most of the murders were sexual in nature, and that McArthur staged the victims’ bodies afterward.

McArthur also kept trophies from his victims: a bracelet belonging to Navaratnam, a piece of jewelry belonging to Lisowick.

These are the men Bruce McArthur is alleged to have murdered, clockwise from the top left,  Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Abdulbasir Faizi, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam. (Photo from CBC)
The warning signs

McArthur turned himself in to police in October 2001 after beating a man with metal pipe inside the man’s Gay Village apartment. In early 2003, he pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm. As part of a sentence of two years less a day and three years’ probation, he was barred from the Village and from having contact with male sex workers.

Between 2010 and 2012, three men — Navaratnam, Faizi and Kayhan — with ties to the Church-Wellesley community disappeared. Police launched a special investigation called Project Houston into their disappearances, but McArthur was never a suspect.

McArthur landed on police radar several years later, in 2016, after a man alleged McArthur strangled him during an otherwise consensual sexual encounter. Police questioned McArthur and let him go.

Between 2014, when police concluded Project Houston and 2016, when they questioned McArthur, McArthur killed Mahmudi and Kanagaratnam.

In the two years after police questioned and released McArthur, Lisowick, Esen and Kinsman would disappear, raising suspicion among members of Toronto’s Gay Village community that a serial killer was in their midst.

Police dismissed those concerns up until 10 days before McArthur’s arrest.

Kinsman was McArthur’s last known victim. The court heard on Tuesday that police found an entry in Kinsman’s calendar for June 26, 2017, the day he disappeared into McArthur’s van. It read “Bruce.”

Tracking McArthur

As reported by CBC and the Toronto Star, police began tracking McArthur months before his arrest.

As early as September 2017, police had issued a production order to Bell Canada as part of their investigation into McArthur.

Weeks before they arrested him, police were cleared to enter McArthur’s home while he was out, and cloned his computer hard drive.

The court heard on Tuesday that during a search of McArthur’s bedroom, investigators uncovered a duffle bag containing duct tape, a surgical glove, rope, zip ties, a black bungee cord and syringes, all of which belonged to McArthur.

On the day he was arrested, police monitoring McArthur’s movements watched a young man enter his apartment.

They decided to intervene, and, on entering McArthur’s home, found the man tied up but unharmed. That was when they arrested McArthur.

The Leaside residence

McArthur, a self-employed landscaper, provided free gardening services for the owners of the Leaside property where his victims’ remains were uncovered after his arrest.

In exchange, he stored his landscaping tools in a shed on the property.

A Toronto Police Command Vehicle sits in July 2018 in front of a home where investigators have discovered human remains in connection with Bruce McArthur, who has pleaded guilty to eight murders

Faizi’s car was found blocks away from the home shortly after his disappearance in 2010, but McArthur was not considered a suspect at the time.

After McArthur’s arrest, the home at 53 Mallory Cres. became the site of Toronto’s largest forensic investigation to date.

Throughout 2018, police excavated large planters on the property as well as a ravine in the back of the property. During their investigation police recovered the scattered, skeletal remains of all eight of McArthur’s victims.

A “jolly” man

McArthur’s now-deleted social media profiles projected the image of a jovial man who vacationed in sunny beach destinations, appreciated animals and maintained close ties with his family. He has a son and daughter with an ex-wife.

For several years, he played the role of mall Santa at Agincourt Mall during the holiday season.

Bruce McArthur photographed at Niagara Falls. (Photo from The Canadian Press)

CBC reports that an acquaintance of McArthur’s said McArthur struck him as jolly, pleasant, courteous and straight-laced.

There was nothing jovial about McArthur as he pleaded guilty to murdering and dismembering eight men on Tuesday.

McArthur, officially one of Canada’s worst serial killers, murmured his plea before Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice with his head slightly bowed, frowning and paunchy in a black sweater and a plaid collared shirt.

“You understand you will have to serve at least until you are 91?” the judge asked him.

McArthur’s “yes” was barely audible.