The eight men who were murdered by serial killer Bruce McArthur
Serial killer Bruce McArthur's victims are shown in these Toronto Police Service handout photos. Top row (left to right) are Selim Esen, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick and Abdulbasir Faizi. Bottom row (left to right) are Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Kirushna Kanagaratnam and Majeed Kayhan. McArthur pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in a Toronto courtroom on Tuesday.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Toronto Police Service
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Thursday, February 7, 2019 12:51PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 8, 2019 6:50PM EST
The anguish felt by those whose loved ones were brutally murdered by Bruce McArthur was palpable as their victim impact statements were read aloud in a Toronto courtroom this week at the sentencing hearing for the admitted serial killer.
During the hearing, the friends and family of the murdered men shared memories of the lives that were cut short by unspeakable violence and described how they are coping in the aftermath of the killings.
Skandaraj Navaratnam came to Canada to help provide a better life for his family back home in Sri Lanka, his brother said.
‘Skanda,’ as his friends and family called him, was the second eldest of four siblings and was the “livewire” in his family, his brother Navaseelan Navaratnam wrote.
“Since early childhood he was a jovial character, always up for fun and enjoyed the company of his friends,” Navaseelan Navaratnam said in his statement to the court.
“Skanda was keen to give us a better life and look after my aging parents. Hence he decided to leave the shores of our motherland to pursue greener pastures.”
When he arrived in Canada, he found a “little family of misfit friends” in the city, his close friend Kevin Nash said.
“Skanda came from a family he loved to start a new life here in Canada. He was excited. He played by the rules and did what it takes; attended school so he could start a new life here,” Nash wrote in his victim impact statement.
Phil Werren, Navaratnam’s friend of nine years, described him as a “highly educated and talented man.”
“His interest in nature was something we shared,” Werren said. “He was almost unbeatable at Scrabble.”
Another friend, Jean-Guy Cloutier, wrote that Navaratnam “left a mark on everyone he met.”
He said Navaratnam loved animals, especially his husky.
“He was also an environmentalist—from protecting the forest/ jungle in Sri Lanka to making sure the recycling was done,” he wrote.
Cloutier said when his friend disappeared on Sept. 6, 2010, he never stopped searching for him.
“I would constantly look for him on the subway, on the streets,” he wrote in his victim impact statement.
Navaratnam, 40, was killed by Bruce McArthur, a man he had had an intimate relationship with sometime in the 2000s.
“When a person goes missing it brings up another level of anxiety and a loss that is hard to describe. Having someone that I loved dearly killed is another level of loss and life-changing,” Cloutier wrote. “It puts your spirit and faith into question.”
Abdulbasir Faizi, a married father of two daughters, worked as a pressman for a company in Mississauga.
On the day of his disappearance on Dec. 29, 2010, the 42-year-old left work early and called his wife to say he would be going out with a friend that night.
He was last seen at around 11 p.m. by a friend in the city’s Church-Wellesley neighbourhood.
He was reported missing by his cousin the next day.
Faizi’s 2002 Nissan was later found abandoned outside a home on Moore Avenue, a neighbourhood Faizi did not have any ties to.
At the time, Bruce McArthur was housesitting at a residence about one kilometre from where Faizi’s vehicle was located.
“My daughters suffer terribly knowing what happened to their father. They pretend to be strong in front of me- but when they are alone in their room, they take a picture of their father with them. I hear them crying constantly,” his wife Kareema Faizi said in her statement.
“They were 6 and 10 years old at the time he disappeared. They talk about the times their father would play with them and their memories of them together. That’s all they have left of him now.”
Before he was a resident of the Church-Wellesley Village who frequented the Black Eagle bar, Majeed Kayhan lived in Afghanistan.
He was 58 years old when he was killed by Bruce McArthur, a man he had known since 2003.
“My brother leaves behind many older siblings, nieces, and nephews, 2 children, 3 grandchildren who will never be able to enjoy his presence again,” Kayhan’s brother Jalill Kayhan wrote in his victim impact statement.
“Personally this has been a devastating period of my life. I still have not comprehended how this crime happened and it has consumed the majority of my thoughts.”
Police said Kayhan was reported missing on Oct. 18, 2012, by his son, who was in regular contact with his father at the time of his disappearance.
In Kayhan’s apartment, police found his pet birds, which had died after being left unattended. There were no signs of a struggle or foul play.
“We agonized over the disappearance of my brother since 2012 not being able to understand where he went and what happened to him, to finally be notified of his horrific and brutal murder,” his brother said.
“Close family members, like his children, have not been able to cope and comprehend the events that led to their father’s murder.”
When Soroush Mahmudi left his home in Iran in 1991, he went to Turkey before eventually settling in Canada. He first lived in Windsor but later came to Toronto.
In 2003, he married his wife Umme Fareena Marzook, who is from Sri Lanka.
Marzook reported her 50-year-old husband missing on Aug. 22, 2015. She feared for his safety after he did not return home for several days, she said in her written statement.
It wasn’t until 2018 that she learned of her husband’s fate.
“I was in a state of severe shock and became numb,” she said.
“I locked myself in the bedroom and cried constantly with a lot of anger (and) sadness.”
She said her husband’s death has caused both emotional and financial hardship for her family.
“I suffered from intense symptoms of shock, distress, sadness, poor appetite, insomnia, poor concentration, and flashbacks. I have terrible nightmares every night and I frequently wake up sweating and crying. These symptoms appeared to be a continuation of an emotional reaction to the trauma and grief of losing my soulmate,” she said. “My life has been turned upside down.”
Fleeing a civil war in Sri Lanka, Kirushna Kanagaratnam came to Canada aboard the MV Sun Sea in 2010. He decided to leave his home after his brother was killed.
Friends told police that Kanagaratnam, who lived in the Scarborough area, worked in a restaurant as a cleaner but had trouble maintaining steady employment and housing.
He kept in contact with people he travelled to Canada with and met with them on a weekly basis at a local convenience store.
His refugee claim was denied in April 2015 and he was scheduled to be deported the following September. The deportation did not take place as he did not report to Immigration Canada in the fall of 2015.
He was in frequent contact with his family outside of Canada before he was killed in 2016 at the age of 37.
He was never reported missing because many of those who knew him believed he was in hiding to avoid deportation.
Friend Piranavan Thangavel said he travelled on the open sea for three months with Kanagaratnam along with hundreds of other refugee claimants from Sri Lanka.
“The day we landed on the shores of Canada was one filled with indescribable joy,” he said in his victim impact statement.
“We, as refugees, fled in disgust and fear after bearing eyewitness to the widespread vile, tortuous murders and crimes against humanity during the war in 2009 in Sri Lanka. For us now to hear of such a horrible death, we who live in this world as refugees feel like there is no safety for us anywhere in the world.”
Dean Lisowick’s face “lit up” when he would talk about his daughter Emily, his cousin Julie Pearo said.
Although Lisowick had not seen his daughter since shortly after her birth in 1994, Pearo said he had always wanted to “get his life together” to be a father.
“The last few times I saw Dean he was making plans, setting goals, and doing the things needed to accomplish them,” she said.
She and her cousin were born one day apart and the two were “loyal in ways that only family can be,” Pearo told the court.
She said her cousin had an “amazing smile.”
Lisowick’s uncle Gerry Montanti wrote that Lisowick “inherited his mother’s artistic talent and was “happy to send his mom one of his paintings.”
Montanti said shortly after Lisowick’s daughter was born, he developed mental health issues and “disappeared into the streets of Toronto.”
He was murdered by Bruce McArthur in 2016 at the age of 43.
“With proper treatment, Dean’s life could have been turned around but that opportunity has been taken away from him. He will never experience the joy his daughter and grandchildren would have given him,” Montanti wrote in his victim impact statement.
In her own written statement to the court, Lisowick’s daughter Emily Bourgeois said it was a struggle growing up not knowing her father.
“I was told when I was in middle school that he was living on the street downtown somewhere and when I was in high school hanging out with my friends downtown, I always wondered if I would bump into him or even passed him and didn’t know it,” she wrote.
“Even though I never knew him, there was still a chance that maybe one day I would be able to meet him.”
She said she fears for the day when she has to explain to her own children about what happened to their grandfather.
“I will now always have to live with knowing I will never have a relationship with my father because of what happened, but I know he is now watching over me and my family,” she said.
Selim Esen was a lover of philosophy, his friends and family said.
“He had an inquisitive mind and questioned things. He stood firm for fairness and social justice. He was kind, generous, and selfless,” his family said in their written statement.
“Selim was an intelligent young person with many talents and interests. He loved nature, growing trees, textile design, managing a café among many other things.”
His friend Richard Kikot described Esen as a “romantic.”
“Selim shared with me that he would often spend nights walking the streets of the city. Not aimlessly but purposely… He believed in the power of love. When he had nowhere else to go or had been turned out from where he was, he would walk, convinced that he would cross paths with whomever it was that was to be the one,” Kikot said in his statement to the court.
“To think that that all he had walked into was an agonizing end. It was misery going over what he may have gone through.”
Kikot said that at the end of his life, Esen was not at a “high point” but was struggling.
Shortly before his death, he had moved out of his friend’s residence and had no place of his own.
He had been assigned a trustee from St. Stephen’s Community House, who provided him $10 a day to live off of.
Esen was 44 years old when he went missing on April 16, 2017.
Police believe he was picked up by McArthur in the Church-Wellsley area that night. He went to McArthur’s apartment and was never seen again.
“Our lives were shattered by the shocking news,” his family wrote. “We can’t come to terms with his savage murder. It is like part of our body is cut into pieces and will keep bleeding forever.”
Underneath Andrew Kinsman’s “gruff” exterior was generous and compassionate man who loved to bake, volunteer, and shower his cat with affection, his friends and family said.
Kinsman’s intelligence, his younger sister Shelley wrote, was evident early on in his life.
“He developed an affinity for chess at the age of four years old. He could skillfully defeat opponents that were five times his age,” she said.
Several of Kinsman’s sisters said as an adult, Kinsman genuinely enjoyed helping others.
“He wanted to make the world a better place for those struggling to survive,” his older sister Karen Coles wrote in her statement to the court. “He was a champion for the underdog.”
Kinsman’s friend and neighbour Meaghan Jeannine Marian said he was always quick to help out his housemates.
“He cared for my pet birds while I did research in China for months at a time. He did not just keep them alive; he taught them to eat green vegetables as treats and he read aloud to them daily, explaining that he knew birds needed a lot of social interaction but he wasn’t quite sure what they liked to talk about,” she told the court.
“He made me soups when a broken heart stole my appetite for months. As I studied intensively for medical school entrance exams, he fed me a steady diet of banana bread.”
Every week, she said, he baked for the volunteers at the People With AIDS Essentials Market.
Greg Dunn, one of Kinsman’s closest friends, said he and Kinsman loved to hike and go to the annual orchid shows in Toronto and Hamilton.
“We shared a love, respect, and concern for nature, for flora and fauna,” Dunn said.
Many of Kinsman’s friends have not yet been able to come to terms with the fact that the 49-year-old was murdered by someone who he had known for more than a decade.
“When I read the news online and saw the picture of the person taken into custody, I was then filled with surprise and quickly by anger. I knew this person in the photo I was looking at. I had shared drinks with that person. I had spent evenings in different bars with that person. I had even been to that person’s apartment for parties… this was not a stranger,” Kinsman’s friend Michel Paquette wrote in his victim impact statement.
His killer knew what an amazing person Kinsman was, Edward Healey wrote in his statement to the court.
“He knows Andrew was wise. He knows Andrew was kind. He knows this. So he knows what he took away from me, from all Andrew’s friends and family,” Healey wrote.
“He stole from us someone who was valuable, loved, and admired… Andrew never suffered fools. It baffles me how he managed to get Andrew to trust him.”
Marian expressed anger that her friend was murdered months after he “stoically” defeated cancer for a second time.
Dunn said he will always have to live with the “what ifs” in the wake of his friend’s death, which occurred on June 26, 2017.
“What if I had taken him camping the day he died? What if we had gone for a hike,” he wrote. “What if I had come into the city that day and we had cooked together? I have those thoughts with me for the rest of my life. Did I fail you my friend? Could I (have) done more?”
Kinsman’s sister urged people to live their lives by her brother’s example.
“The greatest tragedy is that society has been deprived of an extraordinary, quirky, and caring individual who did make a difference,” Shelley Kinsman wrote. “Let’s take what he has given us in his half century here and make a difference.”