- BBC News World
Bruce McArthur was a gardener who also worked as Santa Claus in a shopping center in Canada.
Despite having multiple run-ins with police, including receiving a sentence of probation after a violent attack years earlier, McArthur avoided arrest for quite some time.
When he was arrested, he had already murdered eight men between 2010 and 2017.
The 67-year-old pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in court.
Most of his victims had some connection to the Village, Toronto’s gay neighborhood. Nearly all had Middle Eastern or South Asian ancestry.
But because McArthur pleaded guilty at his trial, much of this evidence from the case was not heard in court.
The BBC’s Mobeen Azhar traveled to Toronto to find out how Bruce McArthur killed eight people over seven years without being caught.
He realized that the police were dealing with a serial killer many years before they finally caught him.
a lucky escape
One person lucky enough to escape McArthur was Sean Cribbin, who met him in July 2017.
They met and exchanged messages online on a dating app where McArthur used the username “Silver Fox.”
McArthur’s profile described him as a “leather daddy” and wrote that he liked to “push a guy to the limits.”
Cribbin visited him in the apartment block where McArthur lived to have sex. But he passed out after consuming the drug gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, better known as GHB.
“When I came to, I saw him standing there looking at me,” Cribbin recalls. “He never made any reference to the fact that i got lost for 20 minutes. I took it as a bad date.”
But in fact, Cribbin is lucky to be alive. The meeting took place just a month after McArthur killed his eighth victim.
Some time after the incident, a detective contacted Cribbin and told him that an image of him had been found on McArthur’s hard drive.
“He put a hood over my head and duct tape over my eyes,” Cribbin describes. “His hand was on a tube against my throat and he took a picture. That was all 20 minutes.”
Cribbin didn’t even know the photograph existed until the police informed him, but the strange ritual of posing his victims was, in fact, part of McArthur’s repetitive behavior.
Police found numbered folders on McArthur’s hard drive that corresponded to each of the eight men he murdered.
McArthur also dressed the victims in a fur coat, and the folders contained multiple images of the men before and after death.
He seems to have saved the images as memories.
Like many cities around the world, the illegal drug GHB or “G” is readily available in Toronto.
Some people use the drug during sex because it lowers inhibitions. It has no taste or smell and can easily cause fainting.
While most often used consensually, has been linked to rape and even murderMcArthur is known to have used GHB with at least some of the men he targeted.
A GHB dealer who wants to be known as “Joey” recounts visiting McArthur’s house to use the drug and have sex with him.
“I had some G for both of us,” he says. “I started to feel really weird. He was asking me weird questions like, ‘Are you close to your family? Do you have any siblings?'”
“In hindsight, I was probably seeing if anyone would miss me if I disappeared. I told him I wasn’t feeling well so I had to go. There was no life in his eyes. It seemed evil to me. Every time I hear her name, it’s creepy“.
Like Sean Cribbin, Joey survived his encounter with McArthur. Another eight did not.
Many of the men killed by McArthur couldn’t always be honest about who they had sex with due to things like their religious background.
Krishna Kumar Kanagaratnam, for example, was living in the shadows because his asylum claim after fleeing Sri Lanka had been rejected.
And he was never reported missing because his friends and family feared it might get him into trouble.
Another victim, Abdulbasir Faizi, was of Afghan origin and had come to Canada as an immigrant. He lived with his wife and children and spent much of his time working in a factory.
The night he disappeared, he visited a hamburger joint in Toronto’s gay neighborhood, as well as a community sauna.
Abdulbasir’s wife is said to have been “really shocked” when told of his movements the night he was last seen.
Like many of the men in McArthur’s crosshairs, Abdulbasir led a secret life.
Today many members of Toronto’s Afghan community still have problems for speak publicly about what happened to Abdulbasir and the other Afghan Canadians McArthur was after.
Talking to family and friends of some of the victims, it became clear that this was partly due to taboos around sexuality.
Majeed Kayhan, one of the victims, lived near the Church Street area. He had moved there after he broke up with his wife. They eventually divorced.
His gay friends knew him as “Hameed” and, according to them, he was in a relationship with a man, whom Majeed’s family knew as his “roommate”.
Majeed’s nephew, Saber, says his uncle’s marriage didn’t work out, but he maintained good relations with his children.
“He loved his children and had a good relationship with his wife,” Saber says. “They had normal communication.”
Despite what was said about Majeed’s relationship with a man, his family maintains that he was not homosexual.
“Absolutely not,” adds Saber. “I know him very well. He was more of a man than anyone else I know. He wasn’t into those things. Maybe he was misled about something.”
When McArthur was finally caught, there were protests from the gay community in Toronto over how he was able to kill undetected for seven years, especially as he had run-ins with the police and had known ties to some of the victims.
A detective investigating the case of Abulbasir Faizi, who disappeared in December 2010, says that he told his colleagues that they might be dealing with a serial killer.
Marie-Catherine Marsot was working for the Peel Regional Police in Ontario at the time.
“When you come back to the office and say ‘I think we have a serial killer,’ everyone laughs. Of course, because what’s the chance of catching a serial killer in a police officer’s career? Really slim.” , he points out.
“Right away, I got on the phone and tried to contact the Toronto police. I left a voicemail and they didn’t call me back. I was getting upset…so I sent a formal email.”
In it, Marie-Catherine highlighted the parallels between two men, both dark-skinned and both with pasts in Toronto’s gay neighborhood, who were believed to be missing at the time.
Marie-Catherine says that the police of that city never answered. In turn, the Toronto police say there is no record of that alert.
McArthur murdered six more men before being arrested. Abdul Basir Faizi he had, in fact, been his second victim.
Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Skandaraj Navaratnam, and Soroush Mahmudi were the other seven.
An independent review of Toronto police’s handling of missing persons cases found “serious flaws” in the serial killer investigation.
But he also recognized the good work of particular officers and concluded that the shortcomings were not “attributable to overt bias or intentional discrimination.”
Those who knew and loved these eight men will always have a void in their lives. One community was left with deep scars.
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