Toronto police have arrested 66-year-old landscaper Bruce McArthur, who has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.
McArthur was charged earlier this month with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of 44-year-old Selim Esen and 49-year-old Andrew Kinsman, before Toronto Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga announced on Monday that McArthur had been charged with three more counts of first-degree murder.
Both Esen and Kinsmen were reported missing from Toronto’s Gay Village at different times last year. There were concerns of men going missing from the area for years and fears that a serial killer was preying on the community.
The Toronto police had launched an investigation in November 2012 looking into the disappearances of three men from Gay Village. Project Houston focused around missing 40-year-old Skandaraj Navaratnam, 42-year-old Abdulbasir Faizi and 58-year-old Majeed Kayhan, according to The Washington Post.
The investigation came to a close in April 2014 after the police failed to find any suspect related to the disappearances. However, in August 2017, the police started Project Prism, which was an attempt to find the whereabouts of Esen and Kinsman.
The police discovered Kinsman had a sexual relationship with McArthur and they began to follow McArthur. They tracked down a car McArthur had sold to an auto-parts store where the store owner alleges the investigators found traces of blood in the vehicle, but this has not been confirmed by the authorities.
On Jan. 18, McArthur was arrested for Esen’s and Kinsman’s murders and on the same day the police arrived at Karen Fraser and her husband’s home with a warrant telling them to evacuate the premises. The Frasers had been allowing McArthur to store his landscaping equipment at their home in exchange for mowing and taking care of their lawn.
After finding skeletal remains of dismembered bodies in the bottom of outdoor planters, McAuthur was charged with the murders of 58-year-old Majeed Kayhan, 50-year-old Soroush Mahmudi and 47-year-old Dean Lisowick.
“Majeed Kahyan was one of the males whose disappearance was investigated by Project Houston,” Idsinga said at the press conference, according to The Washington Post. “Soroush Mahmudi was … reported missing in Scarborough by his family in 2015. Dean Lisowick was never reported as missing but we believe he was murdered between May 2016 and July 2017.”
While some of the victims shared traits such as their Middle Eastern descent or their sexual orientation, some of the other alleged victims do not fit the profile, according to Idsinga.
“It certainly encompasses more than the gay community,” Idsinga said at the press conference, according to The Washington Post. “It encompasses the city of Toronto.”
Indeed, the police do not think they have found all the victims yet and are currently checking the properties of the 30 or so clients that McArthur’s landscaping business, Artistic Design, serviced. The authorities have requested that anyone else who has had McArthur work on their property contact the police to have their garden and yard searched.
“We do believe there are more and I have no idea how many more there are going to be,” Idsinga said at a press conference, according to the National Post.
Like most individuals who discover an acquaintance is an alleged serial killer, Karen Fraser was shocked when she heard of McArthur’s arrest.
“You have to understand, he has been kind, helpful, helped with our charity work, doing floral gifts for silent auctions,” Fraser told CBC Radio. “He went above and beyond what our original agreement was to cut the grass.”
The Frasers originally wanted to give McArthur the benefit of the doubt but as the grisly details of the murders have come to light and Fraser thought of the victims, she says her faith in him has faded.
While some may have known him a mall Santa Claus during holidays, this has not been his first run-in with the law. According to the Toronto Star, McArthur was convicted of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm for an attack that occurred Oct. 31, 2001.
Part of the sentence barred him from an area including Toronto’s Gay Village and forbid him from spending time with male prostitutes after attacking a man with a metal pipe.
A possible reason why the police believe there could be more victims is that most serial killers start their killing careers in their mid to late 30s, according to forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford.
Bradford also believes an issue that can motivate serial killers to target homosexuals is their inability to come to terms with their own homosexuality.
“They act out with a gay partner; it can bring on feelings of anger, frustration and disgust with themselves, and it may drive homicides,” Bradford told the National Post.
“The city of Toronto has never seen anything like this,” Idsinga said at the press conference. “It is unprecedented and draining. He’s an alleged serial killer and he’s taken some steps to cover his tracks.”