Serial killer Bruce McArthur staged photos of some of his victims after they died, posing corpses in fur coats and cigars in their mouths, a prosecutor said Monday as the sentencing hearing began for the former gardener who preyed on men from Toronto’s Gay Village district.
Prosecutor Michael Cantlon said McArthur would later access some of the photos long after the killings. The prosecution didn’t display the images found on McArthur’s electronic devices during the session, but said they included after-death photos of six of the eight victims.
“Victims were posed naked, with cigars in their mouth, shaved, and/or made to wear a fur coat and hat,” Cantlon said. He also said police found a naked man handcuffed to the bed when they raided McArthur’s home and arrested him Jan. 18, 2018. He said police moved in when they realized McArthur had someone over. The man, who survived, was identified only as Middle Eastern and named “John.”
Investigators found McArthur had a USB drive that contained a directory with nine subfolders — eight for the men he killed and the ninth for the man found at the time of McArthur’s arrest, Cantlon said.
McArthur pleaded guilty on Jan. 29 to eight counts of first-degree murder. He sexually assaulted, killed and dismembered men he met in Toronto’s Gay Village district over seven years. He faces a potential sentence of life in prison with no chance for parole for 25 years or more. The judge said he expects to hand down a sentence this week.
Police narrowed a list of suspects in the case after seeing surveillance video of the last victim, Andrew Kinsman, enter a red Dodge Caravan in 2017. They later linked that vehicle to McArthur and found Kinsman’s blood and semen in it after McArthur sold it to a wreck yard.
Photos in McArthur’s devices showed he had known Kinsman at least a decade. Investigators found Kinsman’s calendar with an entry titled “Bruce'” dated June 26, 2017 — the day he disappeared.
Cantlon has said the cases ranging from 2010 to 2017 and a frequent site of the killings was McArthur’s bedroom. He said the bodies were dismembered and hidden in large planters at a home that McArthur used for his landscaping business. Several of the victims were strangled.
McArthur, now 67, moved to the Toronto area around 2000 and previously lived in a suburb where he was married, raised two children and worked as a traveling salesman of underwear and socks. His landscaping business was small, but he periodically hired workers, including a 40-year-old man who disappeared in 2010.
The victims fit a pattern: Most were of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and lived on the margins of Canadian society. Their disappearances attracting little attention. “Many of the victims had ties to Toronto’s LGBT village and had a social life within that community. Many met or corresponded with Mr. McArthur through dating apps,” Cantlon said. “Some were forced to live parts of their life in secret because of their orientation. Some lacked stable housing.”
“There is evidence that Mr. McArthur sought out and exploited these vulnerabilities to continue his crimes undetected,” the prosecutor said. One victim hid the fact that he was gay from his Muslim family. Another was a recent immigrant with a drug problem. Another was a refugee who was ordered deported. Another alleged victim was homeless, smoked crack cocaine and worked as a prostitute.
But then Kinsman vanished. The 49-year-old LGBQT activist and former bartender in Toronto had many friends. When he suddenly went missing the day after Toronto’s gay pride parade, his friends noticed quickly, and so did the police, who set up a another task force to look into disappearances in the Gay Village.
McArthur pleaded guilty to killing Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam. “For years, members of the LGBT community in Toronto believed they were being targeted by a killer,” Cantlon said. “They were right.”
Cantlon said most of the killings were facilitated under the pretense of sex. He said McArthur repeatedly strangled his victims with rope. The prosecutor said McArthur shaved victims after he killed them and kept some hair stored. He also held onto items belonging to them. The court also heard that police had arrested McArthur in 2016 for assault after he attempted to strangle a man he had known. The man escaped and called police. “He was unable to swallow properly again for a week,” Cantlon said. But police never filed any charges, finding McArthur’s police statement to be credible.
McArthur also was convicted of assault 2003 after he hit a man on the head with a metal bar, but in 2013 he obtained a record suspension from the Parole Board of Canada. By then he had committed three of the eight murders undetected. Cantlon said McArthur has shown some remorse by pleading guilty to the charges. He said there is no evidence McArthur has murdered anyone else. In victim impact statements, friends and family spoke of a lack of sleep, increased drinking, and distrust of others since the murders. Patricia Kinsman, a sister of Kinsman’s, said she thinks every day about how he was killed by someone who knew him for 15 years.
Ted Healey, a friend of Kinsman, said he takes some satisfaction that McArthur owned up to his crimes.
“However, that’s little consolation to the void he’s created,” Healey said. “He stole from us someone who was valued, loved and admired.”
The victim impact statements resume Tuesday.q