Landscaper charged with murders of missing men; Police believe there may be more victims
Chris Herhalt, CP24.com
Published Thursday, January 18, 2018 12:57PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 18, 2018 9:06PM EST
A 66-year-old landscaper has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two men who were reported missing last year from the downtown Toronto area.
The landscaper, who hails from Thorncliffe Park, is also suspected of murdering other men who have disappeared from the city.
Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga said that the suspect was taken into custody Wednesday morning after police came across unspecified evidence that gave investigators a “significant” break.
That evidence led to the murder charges in connection with the disappearances of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman.
Police were investigating the disappearances of Esen and Kinsman as part of “Project Prism.” The two men disappeared within 45 days from each other from the downtown area.
Esen, 44, was last seen in mid-April in the Yonge and Bloor area and Kinsman, 49, was last seen in late June near his home in the Parliament and Winchester streets area.
The suspect, who is said to be the owner of landscape company “Artistic Design” reportedly had sexual relationship with Kinsman, but the relationship between the accused and Esen is not yet clear, Idsinga said.
McArthur was known to use dating apps and websites that were also used by Esen and Kinsman.
The bodies of the missing men have not yet been found.
“We also believe he is responsible for the deaths of men we have not yet identified,” Idsinga said. “At this stage we are most concerned with identifying other victims of Mr. McArthur.”
He said he had “a pretty good idea of what cause of death” was for both men, but declined to elaborate.
Police did not want to label the accused a serial killer.
“It’s a media definition for serial killer,” Idsinga said. “I’m telling you that he has killed at least two people and there are more victims.”
He added that police have been investigating McArthur for “several months now,” and that he was also known to frequent the Church and Wellesley area.
Investigators previously said both men frequented the Church- Wellesley Village neighbourhood. They also said previously that they did not believe the two disappearances were linked in any way.
On Thursday, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders defended his prior comments on Dec. 8, 2017 where he said there didn’t appear to be a connection between the disappearances of the missing men. He said that is what the evidence suggested to police at the time.
“In policing what we do is follow the evidence and what I said at the time that I said it was accurate at the time.”
The initial reports of both men’s disappearances prompted a great deal of concern from residents of Church-Wellesley Village.
Groups of local residents initiated searches of the central area of Toronto in a bid to locate the men.
Saunders said Thursday that the activities of residents of the neighbourhood contributed greatly to the investigation.
“It is their level of cooperation and information-sharing that has allowed us to reach this conclusion,” he said.
Police have said they are also looking into another investigation dubbed “Project Houston” which is looking into the disappearances of three other men in the area of the Gay Village since 2010 but have said in the past the two probes are not connected.
Idsinga said Thursday that they are now looking to see if there’s a connection between this case and the missing men identified in the Project Houston case.
“We do have some evidence which leads us to believe there are further victims. We aren't able at this time to identify those victims based on the evidence we have. It's a work in progress, we hope to get there,” he said. “We are aware of the other missing men from the village and we're trying to identify whether they may have become victims (sic) as well.”
Investigators searched four properties in Toronto and one in Madoc, Ont., about 220 kilometres away, in connection with the investigation.
Idsinga identified the suspect as Bruce McArthur, 66.
McArthur is expected to appear in court at College Park on Friday at 10 a.m.
In the Village neighbourhood, two residents speaking to CTV News Toronto expressed concern at the length of time it took police to figure out what happened to Esen and Kinsman.
“I’m glad somebody’s been caught and I hope that in the future the police will take these issues more seriously because it certainly wasn’t taken as seriously we had hoped in the beginning,” one area resident said.
Another said the arrest was “re-assuring,” since “it’s been a long time for these guys being missing and it’s good they finally got someone.”
A close friend and former roommate of Kinsman, Ted Healey, told CTV News Toronto he is “happy, angry and upset” at the news that someone has been charged with Kinsman’s death.
He said the arrest brings a measure of closure, as Healey led many efforts in the community to try and locate Kinsman over the last few months.
“I’m just glad this is starting to end.”
Police were seen combing an apartment suite on the 19th floor of a building at 95 Thorncliffe Park Drive, where it is believed McArthur lives.
Residents of the building described McArthur as friendly and helpful.
“He helped me a couple of times when I was pregnant and helped me when the elevators weren’t working and he seemed like a really nice guy,” resident Emily Everett said.
Another resident, Tamasin Ashby, said McArthur “always chatted to people.”
“I actually only ever saw him by himself.”
Residents said McArthur had lived in the building for about 10 years.
Upon hearing of the news, ward councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam called the arrest “shocking and upsetting, but also a validation to many in the community.”
“Recent missing persons cases have seen friends, families, and strangers organize search groups, convene meetings, and provide police with any evidence available,” Wong-Tam said. “That effort and those leads helped Project Prism make today's arrest and charge McArthur with the murder of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen.”
“With this progress and ongoing investigation, I am hopeful that more information will come forward in the coming days and help everyone begin to heal. A horrible force has been at work and, today, is behind bars. Both the community and the Police Service deserve our thanks today for their dedication and ongoing efforts to make the community safer.”
The 519 Community Centre issued a statement offering its sympathies to those mourning the lose of Esen and Kinsman.
"It is a tragic day for the LGBTQ community, our neighbourhood and the city."
"The 519 stands with and by the community in this time of grief and grave concern, and offers our deepest condolences to the families and friends of Andrew and Selim. In support of our communities, we are mobilizing our resources, reaching out to community members and partners to offer and coordinate support to communities in this difficult time," the organization said.