Toronto police interviewed alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur years before he was arrested, CBC Toronto has learned.
A police source close to the investigation says officers talked to McArthur as part of a divisional investigation that was not connected to either Project Houston or Project Prism.
Those two investigations were launched in 2012 and 2017, respectively, in response to the mysterious disappearances of several men from Toronto's Gay Village.
No police officers connected to Project Houston, Project Prism or the current investigation were involved, according to the source. The meeting took place sometime between 2014 and 2017.
Earlier Wednesday, the Toronto Star reported that McArthur was brought in for questioning in 2014, while the Globe and Mail said an interview happened in 2013.
The Toronto police professional standards unit has since launched an internal investigation into the matter, though the force has not confirmed if an interview with McArthur did, in fact, take place.
"After McArthur's arrest, officers became aware of information that was related to a separate incident that occurred after Project Houston and before Project Prism, said spokesperson Meaghan Grey in an email.
"Information was brought forward by our investigators that was concerning. That information was referred to professional standards and, as early as yesterday [Monday], an investigation was started," she said.
McArthur interview a 'best kept secret'
Reports that McArthur may have been interviewed years before his arrest have fuelled suspicions of police inaction in Toronto's LGBT community.
"This is not surprising," said prominent local activist Nicki Ward.
"It was well known that McArthur was dating one of the victims," she said. "It would be amazing if [police] had not interviewed such a person of interest."
Ward went on to call an earlier McArthur interview "the best-kept secret" in Toronto's tight-knit LGBT community.
While Toronto police began investigating the disappearances in 2012, the force has been criticized for dismissing the community's concerns about a possible serial killer.
Detectives have since used that term to describe the 66-year-old self-employed landscaper, who was arrested in January and now faces six charges of first-degree murder.
Many of his alleged victims were men who disappeared from the Gay Village.
Tory to seek public inquiry
Toronto Mayor John Tory released a statement Wednesday saying he was "deeply disturbed" by the latest revelations in the McArthur case.
He said he has already led the Toronto Police Services board through the "preliminary steps" to make sure that results from an internal investigation into how the TPS handles missing persons cases — described by Saunders back in December as a way for police to "learn, grow and develop" — are made public.
He also said that he plans to move a motion through the TPS board to launch an external review of the same issue, something demanded by the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention in January.
Finally, Tory says he will ask the province to "consider holding a public inquiry" into the McArthur case following any criminal proceedings.
Correction : An earlier version of this story said Project Prism began in 2015. In fact, it was launched in 2017.(Mar 07, 2018 12:34 PM)