TORONTO — The family of a man allegedly murdered by accused serial killer Bruce McArthur is calling for a public inquiry into the police investigation of several men who went missing from Toronto's gay village.
Selim Esen's brother issued the demand after a brief court hearing for McArthur on Friday, where his case was put over until July 23 as prosecutors said they had handed over all their evidence to the defence.
McArthur, 66, is charged with the first-degree murder of eight men, most of whom went missing from Toronto's gay village.
Esen's brother, who flew to Toronto from his home in the U.K. to attend McArthur's hearing, said he didn't think police had taken the 2017 disappearance of his sibling, or other similar cases, seriously.
"I want to see if there is a possibility of a public inquiry," Omer Esen told reporters. "It will be useful for the future so situations like this don't happen again."
An external review of how Toronto police handle missing persons cases is in the works but it is not set to probe issues specific to McArthur as his criminal proceedings are ongoing.
Ontario's attorney general said earlier this year that it was reviewing a call from Toronto's mayor for a public inquiry into police handling of missing person's cases, and that the government would maintain an open dialogue on next steps after McArthur's criminal proceedings had concluded.
Members of the city's LGBTQ community have criticized police for their response to disappearances from the city's gay village — a view echoed by Selim Esen's family.
"It is deeply worrying to see that it took years for the authorities to act upon the cases of missing persons reports," a one-page statement handed out by Omer Esen said.
The statement, written by Omer Esen and another brother, offered a fuller picture of Selim Esen's life. The siblings described their younger brother as a curious, independent, open-minded man who came to Canada from Turkey in 2013 so he could marry his boyfriend.
"His tender and kind humanity came before everything else," the statement said. "He thought, believed, felt and lived free as a bird, beyond any borders and any boundaries."
The Esens grew up in Turkey, where Selim Esen obtained university degrees in sociology and philosophy, the statement said. But he found it difficult to be a gay man in his home country, where he felt he had to behave a certain way, his brothers said.
Before coming to Canada, Esen spent nearly three years in Australia, then returned to Turkey to get a postgraduate degree in philosophy, with hopes of becoming a teacher, his family said. Once in Toronto, he completed a course on counselling so he could "provide help and support to people in the local community," the statement said.
Omer Esen said he last spoke to his younger brother about two years ago over the phone and through emails, and said that he was supportive of Selim Esen's lifestyle.
"We find it hard to come to terms with our youngest brother's death," Omer Esen and his other brother wrote in their statement. "He was too young to leave us. He had things to do, friends to make, flowers to grow in hearts, life to share."
As recently as six weeks before McArthur's January arrest, members of the Toronto police, including Chief Mark Saunders, said there was no indication the disappearances of several men from the city's gay village were the work of a serial killer.
McArthur is alleged to have killed Esen, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam. Police allege the self-employed landscaper buried the remains of several victims in planters at the home of a client.
Peter Goffin , The Canadian Press