Posted: March 07, 2018
By Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Toronto police investigators on Monday released a gruesome image of a dead man they believe was a victim of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur, calling the release a last-resort effort to identify the man.
They also revealed that they have discovered dismembered remains of a seventh victim in the case. The body parts, like those of six other men, were found hidden in large potted plants confiscated from a home where McArthur, 66, stored his landscaping equipment.
Detective Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the lead investigator on the McArthur case, said during a news conference Monday that he did not want to release the image, which he acknowledged that some viewers would find disturbing.
“The release of evidence by the Toronto Police Service has to strike a balance between the public interest and the fair court process due to Mr. McArthur,” Idsinga said. “We solve many crimes through the release of evidence to the media.”
Idsinga said that thus far, the police agency’s investigative techniques have been unsuccessful in identifying the dead man. He urged those who saw or shared the image to be considerate toward those who might know the victim.
“I would ask the media to be mindful that by broadcasting this picture, a family member or friend, not realizing that their loved one is deceased, may come to that realization from the moment they come to view the picture,” Idsinga said.
The photo, unveiled to silence from reporters, shows a bearded, dark-skinned man in a gray T-shirt, his eyes and mouth partially open. He appears to fit the physical profile of several of McArthur’s suspected victims.
Idsinga refused to say how investigators came to possess the photo, which was digitally cleaned up to make it presentable to the public. The Toronto Star reported, however, that sources said detectives uncovered “reams of evidence” in the case, including images linked to McArthur.
Mark Valois, a former Toronto homicide detective, told the Star that the photo, if obtained from McArthur, could potentially be a “trophy” kept by the suspected serial killer to relive the crime.
“It wouldn’t surprise me,” Valois told the newspaper. “There very well could be photographs of some victims.”
The Star also reported that photos like the one released Monday could help explain how investigators have been able to name six alleged McArthur victims, even though not all the remains found in the case have been positively identified.
Of the six men McArthur, who was arrested Jan. 18, is charged with killing, only remains of Andrew Kinsman, 49, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, have been positively identified. Kinsman, a former boyfriend of McArthur’s, was identified through fingerprints.
Mahmudi and Navaratnam, who also reportedly dated McArthur before his 2010 disappearance, were identified through dental records.
McArthur is also charged with killing Majeed Kayhan, 58, Selim Esen, 44, and Dean Lisowick, 47, though it is not yet known if they are among the victims discovered dismembered and buried in planters.
Police confiscated planters from more than 30 properties where McArthur had done landscaping work, though remains have only been found in the planters kept at the Mallory Crescent home where he stored his equipment. The homeowners allowed McArthur to keep his equipment on their property in exchange for the upkeep of their own lawn.
Idsinga told CTV News last month that McArthur’s Thorncliffe Park apartment is also considered a crime scene. Investigators believe some of the victims were killed there.
A man was found alive and tied to McArthur’s bed in that apartment at the time of his Jan. 18 arrest, police said. Officers who had McArthur under surveillance in the disappearances of multiple men saw the man go into his apartment with McArthur and, believing him to be in danger, forced their way inside.
The man was not harmed.
Navaratnam and Kayhan were two of three men who went missing from Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village area, a predominantly gay downtown neighborhood that is also known as Gay Village. A third man, Abdulbasir Faizi, has not been named a victim of the suspected serial killer, though his abandoned car was found a short distance from McArthur’s home.
Idsinga reiterated during the news conference that the charges involving specific victims do not necessarily correspond to the remains found. He declined to give details of the evidence that led to each murder charge.
The seventh set of remains has not been connected to the man in the photo, Idsinga said. He pointed out that the remains found thus far were in varying states of decomposition.
“Doctors from Ontario Forensic Pathology Services have been doing some very difficult and time-consuming work in attempting to reconstruct these remains and identify them,” Idsinga said. “(The doctors) have been working tirelessly for weeks to put this very crucial part of the case together.”
Tests are ongoing in attempts to identify the rest of the remains, he said.
Reporters asked how unusual it was for detectives to release a photo of a victim’s body during an investigation.
“I’ve never done this, and I do it with great hesitation,” Idsinga said. “It’s obviously a key piece of evidence that we have, that we’re releasing, but we do feel that by releasing it, hopefully we can identify him and close off that area of investigation.”
Toronto Police Service via AP
Toronto Police Service via AP
The dismembered remains of at least 6 people have been found stuffed in flower planters outside a Toronto home where a suspected serial killer accused of targeting gay men stored his landscaping equipment.
Bruce McArthur, 66, of Toronto, is thus far charged with only five counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of five missing men, according to the Toronto Police Service. Investigators believe, however, that there may be many more victims hidden in landscaping projects the self-employed McArthur did for clients throughout Toronto.
“I do anticipate more charges being laid,” Toronto police Detective Sgt. Hank Idsinga told CBC Toronto Thursday. Idsinga is the lead investigator on the case, which he described as “unprecedented.”
A man was found alive and tied to McArthur’s bed in his Thorncliffe Park apartment at the time of his Jan. 18 arrest, CP24 in Toronto reported. Police officers who had McArthur under surveillance in the disappearances of multiple men saw the man go into his apartment with him and, believing him to be in danger, forced their way inside.
The man was uninjured when he was found, the news station reported.
So far, the remains of just one man, Andrew Kinsman, have been positively identified, CBC Toronto reported Thursday. Kinsman, 49, had a sexual relationship with McArthur, police officials said at the time of McArthur’s arrest.
McArthur is also accused of killing Majeed Kayhan, 58, Selim Esen, 44, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Dean Lisowick, 47.
Esen was reported missing in April 2017 and Marmudi was reported missing in August 2015, police officials said. Lisowick was never reported missing, but investigators believe he was killed between May 2016 and July 2017.
Kayhan, who has been missing since October 2012, was one of three men who went missing from Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village area, a predominantly gay downtown neighborhood that is also known as Gay Village. Toronto police investigators in 2012 established Project Houston, a task force that sought to solve their disappearances, but it was disbanded after 18 months, the Toronto Star reported.
McArthur’s arrest came as the result of another task force called Project Prism, according to police.
The Star reported that the other two men who vanished from Gay Village, Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, and Abdulbasir Faizi, have not been listed as victims of McArthur. Navaratnam, who has been missing since September 2010, has been connected to the alleged serial killer, however, and Faizi’s abandoned car was found a short distance from McArthur’s home.
Faizi vanished three months after Navaratnam disappeared.
Members of Toronto’s gay community have taken issue with news stories in which acquaintances of McArthur’s described him as a “jovial” fixture of the Gay Village community.
“The depictions of this man as a ‘jovial’ ‘grandfather’ who dressed up as Santa but had this ‘penchant’ for serial killing is gross,” a post on Toronto Pride’s Facebook page stated. “Where’s his mugshot in these articles? Seemingly, this media rule only applies to indigenous, street-involved and black people.”
McArthur did not live at the home on Mallory Crescent where the human remains have been found. Owners Karen Fraser and her husband allowed McArthur to store his equipment at their home in exchange for mowing and general upkeep of their lawn, Fraser told CBC Radio’s “As It Happens” program.
Fraser said that police showed up at their home the morning of McArthur’s arrest with a search warrant and gave them 20 minutes to leave the property.
“I was so horrified,” Fraser said, according to CBC Toronto. “Every aspect was more horrifying and I just … it was really hard to take.”
Fraser said that, along with his equipment, McArthur stored planters at their home, including two large, heavy ones in the backyard. Those planters, where police apparently found body parts of three of the victims, were there for two years, she said.
“They would come and go,” Fraser said of McArthur’s planters. “If they were going to stay long enough, he often put some plants in for us. And then, when a client wanted them, off they would go.”
Investigators using dogs and ground-penetrating radar found areas in the home’s yard where dirt had been disturbed. Idsinga told CBC reporters that law enforcement was using heaters to warm the frozen ground.
“There’s a tent out back. It’s a very large tent,” Idsinga said. “We have some heaters there and we are thawing the ground there.”
Excavation of the area was anticipated to begin late last week. It was unclear when the Frasers, who are staying with friends, would be allowed back into their home.
Meanwhile, investigators continued searching more than 30 other properties on which McArthur may have done landscaping work in the Toronto area.
Idsinga said the planters where the remains were found were among more than a dozen planters removed from multiple locations after police dogs detected the possible presence of human decomposition. Officials anticipate that it could take months to identify all the remains found.
The detective refuted rumors that McArthur was suspected of cannibalizing his alleged victims.
“There’s no truth to that at all,” Idsinga told CBC Toronto in an email.
CBC Toronto confirmed that detectives have interviewed at least three other men who dated McArthur, but stopped because they were not comfortable with some of the sex acts he wanted them to participate in.
Fraser told “As It Happens” that she was shocked when McArthur, who she’s known for nearly 10 years, was arrested. She described him as a kind and helpful man who often helped with the charity work she and her husband did.
She said sleep has been elusive as she has thought about the missing men, many of whom were immigrants to Canada.
“I picture these men, glad to be making friends,” Fraser said. “They found a community. They really think that their new life is going to be maybe more than they ever dreamed possible, and then that someone took advantage.
“The terror, the horror. That’s what I have real trouble with.”
The Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto held a candlelight vigil Sunday night for the five men McArthur has been charged with killing. Rev. Sandra Morris lit a candle for each man, but also lit a sixth candle, CP24 reported.
The sixth candle was a reminder of victims not yet found or identified.
“We also remember that there are others still missing and there may be more victims before this nightmare ends,” Morris said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, who attended the vigil, said he hoped the service could begin the long healing process.
“These horrific crimes have shocked and shaken the Church and Wellesley community and all of Toronto,” Tory wrote on Twitter. He also shared photos from the vigil.
Rev. Jeff Rock, the church’s senior pastor, said the regular Sunday service was cancelled so the community could come together to mourn the victims.
“(There are) a lot of unsettled feelings in people’s hearts, and still a lot of unanswered questions,” Rock told the news agency. “We open up our doors and invite not only the LGBTQ community, but the wider community, recognizing that the entire city of Toronto and the country … are realizing the horrors as the news comes out day by day.”
As the excavation of the Frasers’ Mallory Crescent property gets underway, police investigators are combing through McArthur’s cellphone and computer and any other electronic devices that could offer clues about how he sought out his alleged victims. CBC Toronto reported that the suspected killer’s Facebook profile, which has been disabled, detailed his nights out, parties, vacations and more.
Several younger men, many of whom appeared Middle Eastern or South Asian -- like some of McArthur’s alleged victims -- showed up in his photos, the news agency reported. He also had profiles on multiple dating sites, including manjam and silverdaddies.
His user name was often a variation of the nickname “silver fox.”
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