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Bruce McArthur – Toronto Gay Serial Killer

bruce mcarthur's victims

Thomas Donald Bruce McArthur, or Bruce McArthur, was born on 8th October 1951, in Lindsay, Ontario, and was raised on a farm near Woodville in the Kawartha Lakes region. In addition to raising McArthur and his sister, his parents fostered troubled children from Toronto, often with six to ten in their care at any given time.

Who was Bruce McArthur?

Bruce McArthur attended a one-room schoolhouse outside Woodville. A classmate recalled him trying to be the teacher’s pet and how he struggled to fit in with the other boys at school.

McArthur’s mother was Irish Catholic and his father was a Scottish Presbyterian; both were devout, causing arguments in which McArthur supported his mother. This led to mockery from his strict father, who McArthur felt may have sensed his homosexuality. McArthur had trouble accepting his sexual orientation which would have been seen as abnormal in rural Ontario at that time.

He later attended the nearby Fenelon Falls Secondary School, where he met and began dating Janice Campbell. McArthur later graduated from a program in general business and married Campbell when he was 23.

Married Life

McArthur began working for Eaton’s department stores as a buyer’s assistant around 1973. A few blocks north of where McArthur was working, a gay village was forming on Yonge Street between College and Wellesley streets – same-sex adult sexual behaviour had been decriminalised in Canada in 1969.

McArthur left Eaton’s in 1978 and began working as a travelling salesman for McGregor Socks, soliciting department stores to carry his merchandise. He later worked as a merchandising representative for the garment company Stanfield’s.

In the mid-1970s, McArthur’s father was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was sent to a nursing home. McArthur became disappointed when his mother took interest in another man and grew much closer to his father. His mother died of cancer in 1978 and his father died in 1981.

In 1979, McArthur and his wife moved into a house on Ormond Drive in Oshawa; by 1981 they had a daughter, Melanie, and a son, Todd. In 1986, the McArthurs’ bought a home in Oshawa. He became very active in his church, he was essentially keeping himself busy to avoid his homosexual feelings.

Bruce McArthur began having sexual affairs with men in the early 1990s. More than a year later he came out to his wife but they continued living together.

Sometime after 1993, McArthur’s employment in the clothing trade came to an end and the couple faced financial difficulty. This was partly due to legal issues connected to their then-teenaged son, Todd, who was obsessively making obscene phone calls to women he did not know. The couple mortgaged their home in 1997 and declared bankruptcy in 1999.

McArthur separated from his wife in 1997 and moved to Toronto, as there was no gay community in Oshawa at that time. He frequented the bars of Church and Wellesley, which is Toronto’s gay village, and moved into an apartment on Don Mills Road while pursuing a four-year relationship with another man. When they broke up and his divorce was being finalized, McArthur saw a psychiatrist and was prescribed Prozac for several months. Around this time he was attempting to gain work as a landscaper.

Halloween Assault

In 2001, Bruce McArthur met a male sex worker on a chat line and later had sex with him. Just after noon on 31st October, a few weeks after his 50th birthday, McArthur was invited into the man’s apartment to see his Halloween costume.

Bruce McArthur instead struck the man several times from behind with an iron pipe that he often carried. The victim lost consciousness, then called 9-1-1 when he awoke and was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital. He had suffered injuries to his head and body and needed several stitches on the back of his head and his fingers as well as six weeks of physiotherapy.

McArthur, who turned himself in after the attack, said he did not remember the incident or why he might have done it. He pleaded guilty to charges of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm and received a conditional sentence of 729 days (two years less a day). A further charge of carrying a concealed weapon was withdrawn at the time.

The Crown Attorney had earlier believed jail time was warranted but agreed to a conditional sentence after psychiatric and pre-sentencing reports suggested McArthur was a low risk to re-offend. The victim who was said to have been traumatised by the incident did not provide a victim-impact statement for the sentencing, and there were concerns that McArthur’s unexplained behaviour may have been due to the combination of his anti-seizure medication with amyl nitrite – a muscle relaxant which is sometimes taken recreationally before sex.

McArthur avoided prison, spending the first year of his sentence under house arrest, followed by a six-month curfew and three years of probation. During the sentence, he was barred from the Church and Wellesley area except for work and medical appointments. He had to stay at least 10 metres (33 ft) from the victim’s home or workplace, and could not spend time with “male prostitutes”.

McArthur was forbidden to possess firearms for ten years. He was not to purchase, possess or consume drugs without a medical prescription, and specifically not to possess poppers. He also had to submit his DNA to a database and was compelled to undertake psychological and psychiatric counselling including anger management.

A criminal defence lawyer found the list of conditions uncommon and suggested that the judge was concerned that McArthur was a danger to all-male prostitutes. A retired homicide detective noted that parole conditions were unenforceable, were not published or made public knowledge, and that parole violators were caught only if they came to the attention of police.

In 2014, McArthur was granted a record suspension on the conviction, which was subsequently expunged from his record, and would not have appeared in criminal background checks during subsequent investigations.

Most records and exhibits were destroyed in 2010, in compliance with the Toronto Police Service retention policy. The only surviving documents were the transcripts of the guilty plea and sentencing hearing, the psychiatric report and pre-sentencing report ordered during the trial, and pictures of the victim’s injuries and the weapon.


bruce mcarthur victimsIn 2002, while the assault case was still before the courts, Bruce McArthur registered with Recon, a gay fetish dating website for men into BDSM, where his profile noted his interest in submissive men. He was active on numerous gay dating websites including Silverdaddies, Manjam, Grindr, Bear411, BearForest, Scruff, DaddyHunt, Squirt and Growlr.

McArthur joined Facebook in 2011 and catalogued his nightlife with pictures of parties, vacations, birthday dinners and concerts. By this time McArthur had become a part of the gay community and was a regular at its bars. Since 2007 or 2008, he had been living in a 19th-floor apartment at Leaside Towers in Thorncliffe Park, a neighbourhood populated mainly by immigrants about 5 kilometres (3 mi) northeast of Church and Wellesley.

McArthur’s 2003 banishment from Church and Wellesley remained well-known and he had developed a reputation for BDSM and rough sex. In 2011, he told an acquaintance named Robert James about an incident in which he had been asked to leave a coffeehouse, which caused McArthur to knock all of the glasses off the counter in a rage. James decided to listen to the advice to stay away from McArthur, explaining that he had heard disturbing stories about him.

According to James, McArthur turned red and screamed about “f—ing f—ots telling stories about me!” and, “You’re just like the rest of them, you think I’m crazy.”

A. J. Khan, a Toronto restaurant owner, remembered Bruce McArthur as a friendly regular. Towards the end of 2013, Khan inquired when McArthur came in alone instead of with his usual companion. McArthur said his boyfriend was on vacation, and when Khan noted he had seen the man the previous day, McArthur angrily left and never returned.

McArthur had become a self-employed landscaper, operating under the name Artistic Designs. A colleague who installed water features on three of McArthur’s projects described him as more of a gardener, operating out of a little van with old tools. He said that Bruce McArthur was always accompanied by an older white man, who appeared to be romantically involved with him, and a day labourer, usually of Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern descent. Most of McArthur’s clients were wealthy elderly women who found him charming, and he had built a client base through personal recommendations. During the off-season, McArthur portrayed Santa Claus at Agincourt Mall and made floral gifts for charities.

Bruce McArthur’s separation from his wife was initially heated, though they later reconciled. His son Todd was reported to have difficulty accepting his father as gay. In 2014, Todd was sentenced to fourteen months in jail for making multiple obscene phone calls. He was released on bail, ordered to stay with his father at his Toronto apartment and assist with McArthur’s landscaping business. 

A former friend of Todd’s visited one night and discovered the wall of McArthur’s bathroom was decorated with photos of naked men with erections. He said that most of the men appeared to be “East Indian” and that Todd said that they were men whom his father knew. McArthur did not hide this fact, laughing over it at breakfast.

Project Houston

In November 2012, the Toronto Police Service launched a task force, dubbed “Project Houston”, investigating the 6th September 2010, the disappearance of Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam (Nav-arat-nam), believing that he had been murdered but had no leads at that time.

According to a 2018 investigation, a man posted on a cannibal website in 2012 that he had killed and eaten a man in Toronto, which had led to the formation of Project Houston. Police briefly investigated a possible link between Navaratnam’s murder and convicted killer Luka Magnotta, although this lead was eventually abandoned for lack of evidence.

By June 2013, Project Houston had identified two other missing-persons cases linked by location and lifestyle: Abdulbasir “Basir” Faizi and Majeed “Hamid” Kayhan. Like Navaratnam, both men were middle-aged immigrants of South Asian origin who disappeared from Church and Wellesley between 2010 and 2012.

An anonymous tip linking McArthur to Navaratnam and Kayhan led police to interview him on 11th November 2013. Police had been told that he had a romantic relationship with Navaratnam and had visited Kayhan. McArthur told police that he knew both men and regularly interacted with Navaratnam at a gay bar, but denied being in a relationship with him. McArthur also admitted to employing Kayhan, with whom he had broken off a sexual relationship. Project Houston concluded with no evidence to link the disappearances, that a crime had been committed or to identify a suspect. According to a 2016 case summary, there was still nothing to explain what had happened to these men.

Missing Members of the Gay Community

On 26th June 2017, one day after attending Pride Toronto, Andrew Kinsman disappeared from Cabbagetown and was last seen in the area of his residence on Winchester Street. On the evening of 28th June, after learning that no one had seen Kinsman in a couple of days, Ted Healey and other friends gained access to his apartment. They found no sign of disturbance, though his 17-year-old cat had run out of food and water.

They reported Kinsman’s disappearance to police the following day. Kinsman, who was openly gay and had deep roots in the community, was regarded as a stable and responsible man whose friends said would not suddenly leave, and certainly wouldn’t leave without his cat or his prescription medicine. It was also noted to be out of character for Kinsman to go anywhere without notifying friends or family. Kinsman was active on social media but investigators found his cell phone was turned off on the day he disappeared.

At the end of July 2017, the Toronto Police Service created a new task force, called Project Prism, to investigate the disappearances of Kinsman and another man, Selim Esen, and to look for any links with the unsolved disappearances investigated under Project Houston. Greg Downer, a friend and colleague of Kinsman’s who set up Facebook groups dedicated to finding him and other missing men, organized a community safety meeting on 1st August in which police gave an overview of the task force and thanked the community for “the abundance of information” that they had received.

Queer refugees, transgender and two-spirit people spoke of their vulnerabilities, experiencing disproportionate violence within the LGBTQ community. Downer’s group, the Missing Rainbow Community, provided strategies for staying safe when meeting people from dating apps.

Realising the difficulty police faced with judicial authorisations for data from servers located outside Canada, which caused delays in the crucial early days of the missing person investigations, Downer appealed to dating apps to provide an option for users to consent to have their data released to police if they went missing. Safety hotlines were also set up for those reluctant to speak to the police.

Fears of a serial killer stalking Church and Wellesley grew on 29th November when the body of Tess Richey was found by her mother in an alleyway four days after she was reported missing. The following day police announced that the body of Alloura Wells, a homeless transgender woman, had been identified, her body having been discovered in a Rosedale ravine in August.

Because of fears in the community, Toronto Police Service Chief Mark Saunders held an unprecedented news conference on 9th December on the three separate investigations into the deaths of Richey and Wells and the disappearances of Kinsman and Esen. Although the cases occurred in close proximity, police did not believe they were related and Saunders said they had no evidence of a serial killer.

Project Prism

Project Prism was overseen by Detective Sergeant Michael Richmond and led by Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga, who had served on the homicide squad for over thirteen years and had been assigned to Project Houston for six months. The task force also included an officer from the sex crimes unit and six officers from the Police 51 Division, three of whom had been members of Project Houston.

The investigation was ‘difficult’ because of the lifestyle of the subjects, who used dating apps and frequently met people that they had never met before. (Sounds a bit like Victim-Blaming to us).

Kinsman’s disappearance was central to the creation of Project Prism because of a lead obtained at the end of July. Idsinga later said that “a crucial piece of evidence” was recovered because Kinsman’s disappearance had been reported within 72 hours, after which evidence could have been lost.

According to an agreed statement of facts read in court, police found the name “Bruce” on Kinsman’s calendar for 26th June ⁠⁠– the same day Kinsman was last seen. That day, surveillance video outside Kinsman’s residence showed a person matching his appearance approaching a red vehicle. The video did not show a license plate or a clear picture of the driver, but chrome siding identified it as a 2004 Dodge Caravan. There were more than 6,000 similar models in Toronto, but only five were registered to someone named Bruce; of those, the only 2004 model belonged to Bruce McArthur.

By late August or September 2017, they matched the van from the surveillance video of McArthur’s apartment, but it was no longer at his residence.

On 3rd October plainclothes police officers arrived at Dom’s Auto Parts in Courtice, Ontario, 70 kilometres (43 mi) northeast of Toronto. They were canvassing businesses for McArthur’s 2004 Dodge Caravan, which owner Dominic Vetere confirmed he had purchased on 16th September. The police found it intact and had it towed away, they also obtained surveillance videos of McArthur visiting the shop. Vetere said that officers later told him that they had found trace amounts of blood in the vehicle. This blood was identified as Kinsman’s.

Court documents show that in November cadaver dogs were brought to the residence in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto. McArthur had an arrangement to tend to the owners’ yard in exchange for storage space in their garage for his landscaping equipment. The dogs did not indicate any human remains. A camera was installed to monitor the garage. Police also obtained a log of McArthur’s key fob for his apartment. With this and a tracking warrant for his cellphone, they built a timeline of the day Kinsman went missing.

DNA evidence from Bruce McArthur’s van matched Kinsman and Esen allowed investigators to obtain a general warrant for McArthur’s apartment on 4th December. Police then covertly entered McArthur’s residence and cloned his computer’s hard drive. On 5th December, after consultation with the community, Project Prism issued a warning about dating apps, urging users to exercise caution when meeting someone.

In an 8th December news conference, Project Prism investigators said they had completed 62 witness interviews, 28 judicial authorizations and assigned 308 actions of which 225 had been completed. Police had also conducted searches, utilising resources from the mounted and canine units; on one occasion a drone was used. They said that they had no evidence to link the disappearances.

The investigation picked up in January 2018. On 17th January two pieces of evidence came to light directly connecting McArthur to the disappearances of Esen and of Kinsman. A partial download from his computer, which was going through forensic analysis of deleted files, produced post-mortem photos of the victims. Round-the-clock surveillance was put on McArthur, with instructions that he should be immediately arrested if seen “alone with anyone”.

bruce mcarthurBruce McArthur’s Arrest

Police officers surveilling McArthur decided to apprehend him shortly after they saw a young man enter his Thorncliffe Park apartment on 18th January 2018, believing the man’s life was at risk. A source reported that the police officers found the young man restrained to a bed when they entered McArthur’s apartment. The man was shaken but not injured.

Referred to in court as “John”, the man had arrived in Canada from the Middle East five years earlier, was married and had not told his family that he was gay. He had met McArthur through the dating app Growlr and said that they had met for sex several times. He had agreed to keep his relationship with McArthur secret and let himself be handcuffed to McArthur’s steel bed frame. He had put a black bag over his head and tried to tape his mouth shut before police officers interrupted him.

Police seized electronic devices from the apartment, including five phones, five computers, three digital cameras, and about a dozen USB flash drives. Evidence found in McArthur’s apartment shortly after the arrest prompted investigators to charge McArthur with two counts of first-degree murder in the presumed deaths of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen. Their bodies had not been found, but police said that they had a “pretty good idea” of how they died.

Idsinga was satisfied that there was enough evidence for murder convictions even without the bodies. The Toronto Sun reported that Bruce McArthur’s computer had grisly photos of his suspected victims kept as trophies.

Bruce’s Murder Investigations

At the time of Bruce McArthur’s arrest, Idsinga said that police believed he was responsible for the deaths of other men and were most concerned with identifying these victims. Doing so included coordinating with other police services, tracing McArthur’s whereabouts and his online activity.

By the end of January, Idsinga said they were investigating an alleged serial killer who had concealed evidence by burying it across the city. He described the ongoing case as unprecedented, with hundreds of officers involved and 30 properties to be searched.

The Ontario Provincial Police, the province’s forensic pathology services and the Centre of Forensic Sciences were aiding with the searches of McArthur’s apartment and the Leaside property.

Additional charges were laid and at the end of February, the investigation was expanded to outstanding murder cases, hundreds of missing-persons cases and sudden death occurrences, coordinating with other Canadian and international forces.

Police executed search warrants on 18th January at five properties associated with Bruce McArthur and his landscaping business: four in Toronto and a 9-acre property about 200 kilometres (120 mi) northeast in Madoc, Ontario. The Madoc property and a home on Conlins Road were residences of Roger Horan, a landscaper and long-time friend of McArthur. Another property searched was the property of McArthur’s former boyfriend. These three properties were released back to their owners by 23rd January. Of greater concern to investigators was the high-rise apartment in Thorncliffe Park and the Mallory Crescent residence in Leaside.

The owners of the Leaside residence were barred from their home so that forensic investigators could search it. The search of the property was extended to an adjacent ravine, aided by cadaver dogs and members of the heavy urban search and rescue team. Cadaver dogs took a “strong interest” in large planter boxes. The planters had frozen to the ground, requiring heaters to thaw them. A large planter was wrapped and brought to the coroner’s office.

On 29th January, police announced that they had found the dismembered skeletal remains of at least three people in two of twelve large planter boxes seized from the Leaside residence. Although the remains had not been identified, police had gathered enough evidence to charge Bruce McArthur with three additional counts of first-degree murder in the presumed deaths of Majeed Kayhan, a Project Houston subject, Soroush Mahmudi, who disappeared in 2015, and Dean Lisowick, a homeless man who was never reported missing.

Former homicide detective Mark Mendelson said the investigation would become “the largest Toronto has undertaken”. Criminologist and Western University professor Michael Arntfield said that the alleged method of disposal suggested a sophisticated killer who had developed his craft and, as most serial killers begin in their 20s, the crimes could go back several decades and represent the longest run of a serial killer on record.

McArthur’s past as a travelling salesman suggested to John Bradford, a forensic psychiatrist and expert on serial murders, that police might have a province-wide investigation ahead of them. Toronto crime journalist James Dubro said the allegations suggest Bruce McArthur was the deadliest known serial killer in Toronto and the “most prolific” gay serial killer in Canada.

On 8th February, police announced that they had found the remains of three more people in planters from the Leaside home and that one of the six sets of remains belonged to Andrew Kinsman, who was identified through fingerprints. Investigators said that it could be months before all the remains were identified.

Additional planters were seized from across the city including one from the Danforth neighbourhood and two properties in North Rosedale were searched. Cadaver dogs were having trouble detecting scents due to the cold weather and frozen ground. Beginning on the back on 19th January, heaters in a large tent were used to gradually thaw the frozen ground in the backyard of the Leaside home at a location indicated by both cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar.

A forensic pathologist was expected to take at least 10 days to excavate for remains by hand. Forensic anthropologist Dr Kathy Gruspier, who arrived to oversee the excavation, did not find any sign of soil disturbance by any previous digging. Excavation of two sewage lines at the home was conducted, and a section of one line was removed for testing.

The police investigation had a continuous presence at Leaside, often described as “ground zero”, and police established a command post on the property. On February 10–11th, the search of the house was completed and it was released to its owners after more than three weeks.

Forensic investigators spent hundreds of hours searching every inch of McArthur’s apartment, where Idsinga suspected some of the murders occurred. It took them several weeks before searching McArthur’s bedroom, where they expected to find the bulk of their evidence. The search concluded on 11th May, having occupied ten forensic officers for nearly four months.

They took more than 18,000 photographs and collected over 1,800 items. Idsinga noted the thoroughness required as the first murder was believed to have occurred eight years previously. The searches of the Leaside home and McArthur’s apartment made up the largest forensic investigation conducted by the Toronto Police Service.

On 23rd February, McArthur was charged with a sixth count of first-degree murder in the death of Navaratnam, the subject of Project Houston we discussed at the start. Navaratnam’s remains and those of Mahmudi were identified through dental records and had been recovered from planters at the Leaside home.

On 5th March, police held a press conference and released a photo of an unidentified deceased man alleged to be another of McArthur’s victims. They had exhausted their options in identifying the man and hoped the public could help. Police later received over 500 tips regarding the photo and were checking on 22 potential identities. They also announced that a seventh set of remains had been recovered from the Leaside planters.

Dr Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist, said his organisation had never before been involved in an investigation with such scope, drawing on the skills of each member for many unique challenges, such as scientific issues related to decomposition and post-mortem dismemberment.

On 11th April, McArthur was charged with a seventh count of first-degree murder in the death of Abdulbasir Faizi. He was, at this point, charged with the deaths of all five men from the Project Houston and Project Prism investigations. The charge came as Faizi’s remains were identified from the Leaside planters, along with those of Esen and Lisowick. Investigators had finished searching the Leaside planters, from which the remains of all but Kayhan had been identified; they still had one set of unidentified remains.

They had also searched eight additional planters from elsewhere in the city, which had contained no human remains. On 16th April, McArthur was charged with an eighth count of first-degree murder in the death of Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, whose remains were the seventh set from the Leaside planters.

Police said his name had not come from the many tips generated by the release of his post-mortem photograph but that he had been identified with help from an undisclosed international agency.

Kanagaratnam was a Tamil asylum-seeker who was under a deportation order and had not been reported missing. He had last had contact with his family in August 2015, and police believed that he had been killed between 3rd September and 14th December 2015.

Expanded Investigation

The scope of the investigation was expanded at the end of February 2018, looking at outstanding murder cases, hundreds of missing-persons cases and sudden death occurrences and coordinating with other Canadian and international forces. Police had received tips from around the world, including countries where McArthur had gone on holiday.

A police source told the National Post that McArthur had covered his tracks, using aliases online, using payphones instead of mobile phones and avoiding areas with surveillance cameras. The source suggested that McArthur had targeted vulnerable men who did not have a fixed address or had not told their families that they were gay. The Toronto Police Service drew up a list of 15 homicide cold cases linked to the gay village, and fit the general profile of the victims identified thus far.

Investigators began reviewing these cold cases, dating between 1975 and 1997, for a possible connection to Bruce McArthur. The cold cases include some of a series of brutal murders in the gay village between 1975 and 1978 when McArthur would have been 23–26 years old and working just a few blocks south of the gay village.

The victims of these crimes, all gay men, were found in their homes, naked, tied to beds, and stabbed or beaten to death in a manner described as “overkill”. In October 2018, homicide detective David Dickinson said that they had not yet found any links between Bruce McArthur and the cold cases.

Investigators planned to return to the 30 properties associated with Bruce McArthur in April or May, when the frozen ground had thawed, allowing cadaver dogs to operate with greater accuracy. Idsinga said he was particularly interested in excavating at 3 properties, which included revisiting the Leaside residence.

bruce mcarthur in courtBetween 4th and 13th July, twenty police investigators conducted excavations in the forested ravine behind the Leaside property. They began sifting through a large compost pile, with the guidance of canine assistance and a forensic anthropologist. They collected human remains on almost every day of this search. On 20th July, it was announced that the remains belonged to Kayhan and that the remains of all of McArthur’s alleged victims had been identified. Idsinga said that they had no evidence suggesting McArthur was connected to any other deaths, though the investigation into cold cases was continuing.

Waterloo Regional Police contacted Ontario’s serial predator crime investigations coordinator to inquire about McArthur in the November 2002 disappearance of David MacDermott from downtown Kitchener. Jon Riley of Meaford, Ontario, is another possible victim. He had gone to Toronto to find work in landscaping, planning to stay in a shelter at Church and Wellesley, and disappeared in May 2013.

Legal Proceedings

Bruce McArthur was detained at the Toronto South Detention Centre. Torstar News Service reported that McArthur was being held “in segregation and under constant suicide watch”. Several media outlets had applied for the release of the psychiatric and pre-sentencing reports from McArthur’s 2003 assault conviction. James Miglin, an attorney for McArthur, argued that this could risk his fair trial rights but Justice Leslie Chaplin felt the reports were generally positive toward McArthur and released them. Chaplin also allowed the media to view, but not publish, photographs of the victim’s injuries and the weapon, citing fair trial rights and the victim’s privacy.

In court in October 2018, McArthur was ordered to be tried for eight counts of first-degree murder. On 5th November 2018, he first appeared at the Superior Court of Justice before Justice John McMahon. Following a judicial pretrial on November 30, McArthur appeared in court and was told that his trial would begin on January 6, 2020, and was likely to last three to four months.

On 28th January 2019, Toronto Police Service announced an anticipated “significant development” in McArthur’s case the next day. People queued outside the courthouse from 6 am, and the hearing was moved to the largest available courtroom. McArthur pleaded guilty to each of the eight first-degree murder charges that he was facing, ending the possibility of any trial.

Reading from an agreed statement of fact, Cantlon divulged details of the killings, which took place in Toronto between 2010 and 2017. Each murder was either premeditated or involved other crimes that qualified them as first-degree: six were “sexual in nature” and five included confinement. He kept trophies from his victims including jewellery and a notebook. DNA from four of the victims had been found in McArthur’s van.

Cantlon then outlined McArthur’s “post-offence rituals”. Bruce McArthur had hundreds of post-mortem digital photographs of his victims, which were recovered forensically after he tried to delete them. He took staged post-mortem photographs, typically with ropes around their necks or with them nude in a fur coat or hat; some photographs had them with their heads and beards shaved and he had kept their hair in Ziploc bags in a shed at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Cantlon said that McArthur “sought out and exploited […] vulnerabilities” in his victims that made his crimes difficult to detect; that he used sex to lure them, killing many in his bedroom through “ligature strangulation”. One photograph showed a rope around a victim’s neck twisted with a metal bar wrapped in tape, a mechanism to control the pressure during strangulation. The bar was found in McArthur’s 2017 van and contained the DNA of Kinsman and Esen.

McArthur’s sentencing hearing began on 4th February 2019. The crown asked for 50-year parole ineligibility, citing “the enormity of McArthur’s crimes”, his lack of remorse, the betrayals upon his victims, the effect of his crimes on the community, and how he had been a danger up to his arrest.

McArthur’s defence counsel James Miglin said such a sentence would be “unduly harsh” given his age, and noted that he had waived a preliminary hearing and pleaded guilty, which benefited all involved in the proceedings.

On 8th February 2019, Justice McMahon sentenced Bruce McArthur to life imprisonment without parole eligibility for 25 years. McMahon described the crimes as “pure evil” and stated that he showed “no evidence of remorse” and would have continued killing had he not been apprehended. Despite this, he felt that the sentence should not be one of vengeance given McArthur’s age and his guilty plea. He can apply for parole when he is 91, but McMahon said that it would be “highly unlikely” he would be granted parole.

The Toronto Sun noted that McArthur is overweight with Type 2 diabetes and is unlikely to live that long.

And that is the story of Bruce McArthur, the most prolific known serial killer in Toronto, and the oldest known serial killer in Canada.

Nikki Halliwell (She/Her)

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