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Bruce McArthur pleads guilty to 8 counts of first-degree murder
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2019 7:20AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 29, 2019 4:33PM EST
The man accused of killing eight men over a seven-year period and hiding their dismembered body parts on a property in Leaside has now pleaded guilty to all of their murders.
On Tuesday morning, Bruce McArthur, a 67-year-old former landscaper and mall Santa Claus, spoke quietly as he pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in a crowded Toronto courtroom filled with the family and friends of his victims.
McArthur’s arrest, which occurred a little more than a year ago, was the culmination of two separate police investigations into the disappearances of men from the city’s gay village.
In 2012, the Toronto Police Service launched Project Houston to investigate the disappearances of Abdulbasir Faizi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, and Majeed Kayhan.
The investigation was shut down in 2014 after detectives were unable to identify a suspect or confirm if their disappearances were a result of foul play.
A separate investigation, dubbed Project Prism, was launched in August 2017 to probe the circumstances surrounding the disappearances of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen, Months later, on January 18, McArthur was arrested and charged in connection with the murders of both men.
Police later identified six other victims of McArthur, including the three missing men from Project Houston.
Investigators discovered the remains of all eight men in large planters and in a ravine behind a property on Mallory Crescent in Leaside where McArthur stored tools for his landscaping business.
In a brief statement of facts read aloud during McArthur’s court appearance, Crown attorney Michael Cantlon provided a basic overview on the murders of each of McArthur’s eight victims.
Many of the murders 'sexual in nature,' Crown says
The men, who were killed between 2010 and 2017, were all murdered in Toronto.
Many of the murders were “sexual in nature,” Cantlon said, and there was evidence of “staging.” In some of the cases, Cantlon said ligatures were used and there was evidence of “confinement.”
McArthur also held on to some of the victims’ belongings, which were later found by police during a months-long search of his Thorncliffe Park apartment.
Officers also found a duffle bag containing duct tape, a surgical glove, rope, zip ties, a black bungee cord, and syringes inside McArthur's bedroom.
The DNA of some of the victims was found inside McArthur’s van.
According to the agreed statement of facts, it is believed that 40-year-old Skandaraj Navaratnam was murdered around Sept. 6, 2010. Navaratnam’s DNA was found on a piece of leather-lacing inside McArthur’s van and a bracelet belonging to the victim was also located in McArthur’s apartment.
The court heard that Abdulbasir Faizi, 42, was killed around Dec. 29, 2010 and Faizi’s abandoned vehicle was found near a home that McArthur had access to at the time of the murder.
It is believed that 58-year-old Majeed Kayhan was murdered by McArthur around Oct. 18, 2012.
More than two years later, around Aug. 15, 2015, McArthur killed 50-year-old Soroush Mahmudi, whose DNA was found on a coat in McArthur’s van. That same coat, the Crown said, was connected to the staging of other victims.
Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 32, was believed to be murdered by McArthur around Jan. 6, 2016 and later that year, around April 23, 43-year-old Dean Lisowick was killed. A piece of Lisowick’s jewelry was later found in McArthur’s apartment.
Selim Esen, 44, was murdered around April 16, 2017, the court heard Tuesday. The weapon used to kill Esen was later found in McArthur’s van and the victim’s notebook was later discovered in McArthur’s apartment.
Cantlon said the last victim, 49-year-old Andrew Kinsman, was murdered around June 26, 2017. He said that on a calendar belonging to Kinsman, there was an entry titled “Bruce” on the day he disappeared. Video surveillance footage obtained from outside Kinsman’s home showed Kinsman getting into McArthur’s van that same day. Kinsman’s DNA was found inside McArthur’s van along with the murder weapon, which also contained Kinsman’s DNA.
Cantlon said McArthur dismembered all eight of the men and disposed of their bodies at the Mallory Crescent property “in an effort to avoid detection.”
McArthur is scheduled to return to court on Feb. 4 when victim impact statements will be filed in court and his sentencing hearing will begin. More detailed information about the murders will be disclosed over the course of the hearing.
Guilty pleas 'best possible outcome,' detective says
Speaking outside the courthouse on Tuesday, Det. David Dickinson, the lead investigator in the case, said he hopes the guilty pleas bring some sort of closure to the family and friends of the victims.
"It has been a long and traumatic process and many made the difficult decision to attend in person today. Our thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones and the community as a whole," Dickinson said.
"We, myself and the investigative team, are pleased that Mr. McArthur has pleaded guilty today, sparing the community and those who knew the victims a lengthy trial. I believe that this is the best possible outcome for the families and the community."
Dickinson said he does not fully know what McArthur’s motive was for the killings.
Karen Fraser, the owner of the property where the remains were discovered, said her family felt “violated” by McArthur’s actions.
“I’m not big on forgiveness and I’m not big on closure. Terrible things were done,” she told reporters outside the Superior Court of Justice on University Avenue on Tuesday.
When asked what McArthur was like when she knew him, she said the landscaper apparently had two different sides.
“We call it ‘Bruce A’ and ‘Bruce B.’ ‘Bruce A’ was a man who seemed to have made decisions about his life and was very happy with it. He enjoyed his job. He enjoyed his clients,” she said.
“(He) never got bored with the plants. He was very talented at it. He was very fond of his children. He was a great grandfather. He was the best friend, neighbour, relative that anyone could want. That was ‘Bruce A.’ ‘Bruce B,’ who was that? I don’t know.”
A statement released by The 519, an organization that advocates for the inclusion of LGBTQ communities, said the murders have left many “shaken and aggrieved.”
“The lives of eight people were lost under the most unspeakable and tragic circumstances. These losses have forever changed the lives of families, friends, loved ones … The fact that it remained unknown and unseen for so many years is its own inconceivable tragedy,” the organization said in an emailed statement.
“We feel some relief that those most impacted by his actions will be spared the grief of a lengthy trial. While there is no solace, no redemption, we believe that there can be change. The 519 stands with our communities and will continue to advocate and fight for eradicating violence in all of its forms.”
A number of people in the LGBTQ community have for years believed that a serial killer was operating in the gay village and many have been critical about the police service's handling of the disappearances.
In the wake of the criticism, the Toronto Police Service launched a missing persons unit, which is overseen by the homicide unit. There is also an ongoing external review of the handling of recent missing persons cases in the city.
Mayor John Tory released a statement Tuesday saying that he, like the public, has many unanswered questions about the investigation.
“Throughout this case, I have said our city deserves two things: justice and answers,” he said.
“That is why I was so determined to help ensure that the independent external review now underway is open, transparent and very much community driven. And it is likely the case that additional, broader examinations of these terrible events will be required.”
Agreed statement of facts: