Bruce McArthur pleads guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder

By Staff

TORONTO — A serial killer who preyed on men from Toronto’s gay village for years has pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder.

Bruce McArthur, who had been set to stand trial next year, entered the guilty plea during a hearing in a Toronto courtroom on Tuesday morning.

The 67-year-old self-employed landscaper was arrested in January 2018.

Police eventually charged him with first-degree murder in the deaths of Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.

The victims went missing from the gay village between 2010 and 2017.

Crown attorney Michael Cantlon told the court that McArthur planned each killing and dismembered his victims to avoid detection, burying their remains in planters and in a ravine.

McArthur also kept items that belonged to some of his victims, Cantlon said.

First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. A sentencing hearing for McArthur is scheduled for Feb. 4.

Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia, who frequently represents clients in murder trials, says it is “highly unusual ” for a high-profile case such as this to be resolved so quickly.

Gadhia, principal of R. Roots Gadhia Criminal Defence Law, says in an interview with that the “overwhelming evidence” against McArthur could have hastened his decision.

“McArthur may have decided that he did not wish to sit in a detention facility like the Toronto South Detention Centre while he awaited trial on the charges,” she says.

“Waiting in the provincial system usually involves two or three to a cell and lockdowns. Food and shower restrictions also can be at the whim of the institution.”

Gadhia, who was not involved in the case and comments generally, says McArthur’s “very experienced and senior” counsel — having read all the prosecution’s disclosure carefully — would not have recommended a guilty plea without being convinced the “Crown’s case was solid and would most likely result in convictions.”

She predicts his sentence will result in McArthur spending the rest of his life in prison. “It’s clear it will amount to Mr. MacArthur eventually dying in prison,” Gadhia says.

“Perhaps, he made the decision to simplify the process for himself so that he can get on with his sentence.”

The LGBTQ community had long said someone was targeting men who were vanishing from the city’s gay village.

In November 2012, police launched Project Houston to investigate the disappearances of 42-year-old Faizi, 40-year-old Navaratnam and 58-year-old Kayhan. They closed the probe in April 2014 after being unable to identify a suspect in their disappearances.

In the summer of 2017, police launched a separate investigation known as Project Prism into the disappearances of 49-year-old Kinsman and 44-year-old Esen. Within months, McArthur came on the police radar, according to court documents.

On Jan. 17, 2018, investigators uncovered evidence alleging McArthur was responsible for both Kinsman and Esen’s deaths, along with the deaths of other unidentified people.

The next day, police arrested McArthur at his apartment and charged him with the murders of Kinsman and Esen. They brought cadaver dogs the following day to a property nearby where McArthur stored his landscaping equipment, court documents said.

Over the next three months, investigators made several grisly discoveries at the residential property in midtown Toronto, eventually finding the dismembered remains of seven men in large planters.

The remains of an eighth man were found in a large compost pile in a ravine behind the home, police said.

Partway through their investigation, police also made the rare decision to release a heavily edited photograph of a dead man in a bid to identify him. A month later they said the man in the photograph was Kanagaratnam.

Lead investigator Insp. Hank Idsinga said the McArthur probe was the largest forensic examination in the force’s history.

Forensic officers spent four months scouring McArthur’s apartment — they seized 1,800 exhibits and snapped more than 18,000 photographs of the scene. They also searched more than 100 properties where McArthur worked across the Toronto area.

The force’s cold case squad is currently investigating a series of homicides in the 1970s related to men with ties to the gay village, but Idsinga has said they’ve found nothing to link those to McArthur.

Back to News