The lead investigator in the case of serial killer Bruce McArthur has left the homicide unit, traded in his laptop, suit and tie and will now be working in the service’s canine unit.

Following a year and a half of investigating the gruesome details linked to Toronto’s worst killer, the 38-year-old, who has been working in homicide for the past five years, said it was time for a change.

“(Working in the homicide unit) has its stressful moments,” Sgt. David Dickinson said. “I think it’s just time to change it up and it might be a little therapeutic relief.”

McArthur was handed a mandatory life sentence for brutally murdering men with ties to Toronto’s gay village between 2010 and 2017. The 67-year-old former landscaper will be eligible to apply for parole at the age of 91.

McArthur pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder on Jan. 29 in the deaths of Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam. The remains of all eight men were found in large planters and in a ravine at a Leaside home where McArthur stored tools for his landscaping business.

As McArthur pleaded guilty, Crown attorney Michael Cantlon provided a basic overview of the eight men’s deaths saying many of them were “sexual in nature.” Cantlon said there was evidence of “staging” and “confinement” in the killings.

Cantlon also said officers located items that belonged to the victims in McArthur’s possession and found a duffle bag that contained duct tape, a surgical glove, rope, zip ties, a black bungee cord, and syringes inside his bedroom at his Thorncliffe Park apartment.

The arrest of McArthur in January 2018 was the culmination of two separate police investigations. The investigations, dubbed Project Houston and Project Prism, looked into the disappearances of men within the city’s gay village.

Following McArthur’s guilty plea, Dickinson spoke to reporters outside of the courthouse. He noted that there was no deal or offer made to McArthur by investigators that would induce him to plead guilty to the murder charges.

“It has been a long and traumatic process and many made the difficult decision to attend in person today,” he said at the time. “Our thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones and the community as a whole.”

“We, myself and the investigative team, are pleased that 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.”

Speaking with CTV News Toronto on Monday about his decision to leave the homicide unit, Dickinson said the criticism the service faced in this investigation was difficult to deal with.

“One of the toughest moments we had was post-arrest when there was a lot of criticism about our investigation or the fact that people believed that we potentially jeopardized their safety by, as they said, leaving him out there,” he said. “It was tough to hear that because all we did for months was try to protect the public.”

Dickinson spoke with McArthur following his arrest but did not want to get into the specifics of their interactions.

“He’s polite, he’s inquisitive,” he said. “He was interested in the investigation, interested in how we got the evidence we did.”

The head of the homicide unit and the major case manager in the McArthur investigation Insp. Hank Idsinga told CP24 on Monday that Dickinson’s departure from his team is a great loss.

“He was given the oppourtunity last summer and he had some decisions to make and he decided he is young enough and he’s got enough time where there are some things he wants to do in his career before he gets himself promoted again and gets himself back into the role of detective sergeant in homicide if he ever wants to come back to homicide,” Idsinga said. “One of the things he wanted to do was work with the dogs and we’re sad to see him go and it’s a loss to our office and we wish him all the best.”

When asked if he believed Dickinson’s decision was inspired by the toll of working on homicide cases, Idsinga said “I’m sure that plays a part in it as well.”

“You are looking at material that nobody wants to look at but it comes with the job and if that’s part of the job then that’s what we have to do,” he said.

While McArthur is officially behind bars now, Idsinga said investigators are continuing to review cold cases that “may or may not be linked” to the now-convicted serial killer.

“It’s definitely a big relief and we’re happy with the end result obviously and we’re very proud of the work and the product that was put before the court in the form of a case of a very meticulous, lengthy investigation,” he said. “(There were) eight charges – the most serious charges in the criminal code – and a guilty plea to those, which is very unusual but very satisfying.”

Idsinga said he does not have any regrets in how the investigation was handled.

“Of course we all wish we could have caught him sooner… but we are happy with the end result.”

Dickinson will officially start as a full-time officer with the K-9 unit next Monday but he will continue to follow up on his ongoing homicide investigations. In the switch, he will become a sergeant rather than a detective.

Sgt. John Rose, who is responsible for the coordination of officers in the K-9 unit and cadaver dogs, said Dickinson is a great addition to their team.

“Anytime we have someone who has an extensive investigative experience like Dave that brings a lot of strength to our team here,” he said. “He also has a lot of experience working in other teams and he is an experienced officer in general so anytime we are able to get somebody like that here it helps the unit and enhances the support we give to front-line guys.”

“We put them through all the skills that we need to have the dog established by the time of graduation; obedience, tracking, searching, and a bunch of other things that we need the dogs to have under their belts.”

The training period for officers in the unit is 75 days, according to Rose.