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Police lay sixth murder charge against accused killer Bruce McArthur
Published Friday, February 23, 2018 6:33AM EST Last Updated Friday, February 23, 2018 7:59PM EST
Accused serial killer Bruce McArthur was handed a sixth murder charge on Friday as homicide detectives continue on an “expanded” investigation across the Greater Toronto Area where they say more victims are likely to be uncovered.
The 66-year-old landscaper was arrested and charged on Jan. 18 with five counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Andrew Kinsman, 49, Selim Esen, 44, Majeed Kayhan, 58, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Dean Lisowic, 43.
Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga announced Friday that McArthur is now facing a charge in connection with the death of Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam.
Navaratnam was reported missing by a "close friend" on Sept. 6, 2010, ten days after he was last seen leaving a bar in the city’s Church and Wellesley area.
In 2012, two years after the 40-year-old vanished, Toronto police investigators looked into his disappearance further during a task force called Project Houston.
The task force, which was assembled in November of 2012, was shuttered by April of 2014 after police were unable to confirm if the disappearances of Navaratnam, Kayhan and 42-year-old Abdulbasir Faizi were a result of foul play. Faizi’s disappearance has still not been solved nor has it been connected to the McArthur case to date.
Idsinga told reporters Friday that Navaratnam’s remains had been found along with Mahmudi’s inside some of the “upwards of 20” planters seized from the Leaside home on Mallory Crescent. He said both victims were identified through dental records.
Previously, investigators revealed the remains of “at least six people” were found during the weeks-long search at Mallory Crescent but, up until today, could only identify Kinsman’s remains. Kinsman's remains were identified through fingerprints.
Excavation at Mallory Crescent ended on Feb. 14 and the home was released back to its owners after officers said no other human remains were found.
“We’ve been through all the planters we’ve seized and we haven’t found any other remains but that’s not to say we’re done with examination at Mallory. As I’ve stated before, we’d like to go back there when the weather warms up a little bit and see if the (cadaver) dogs have any more further success,” he said
“DNA analysis is still outstanding on three other sets of remains.”
Killings tied to Toronto's Gay Village
Idsinga would not say how or if McArthur and Navaratnam knew each other. At the time of his disappearance, police said that Navaratnam left his dog alone, which was said to be unlike him.
Navaratnam was also Facebook friends with McArthur.
So far, all six of McArthur's alleged victims have had connections to the city's Church-Wellesley Village. Their possible relationships or ties to McArthur are not yet clear.
In August of 2017, following outcry from Toronto’s LGBTQ community, police launched a second task force related to unsolved missing persons cases connected to the Village called Project Prism. The task force focused on the disappearances of Kinsman and Esen -- both of which were reported missing within weeks of each other.
Members of the community had long contended that there was a serial killer preying upon men in the Village but police had, until last month, dismissed the suggestions.
“I wish people could see behind the scenes as to what we’re doing,” Idsinga told CP24 after the news conference on Friday.
“We put out there that there were three missing persons and that’s when all that speculation started in the gay community. Just because I can’t say it, that there’s a serial killer, it’s not something that we’re ignoring or disregarding. We’re thinking the same thing… ‘Is it possible there’s a serial killer out there?’ But it would be reckless of us to stand up and say, ‘There are three missing men, obviously there’s a serial killer out there.’ I can’t say that.”
The community has also been critical of Toronto police’s response to the disappearances, saying they were not taken seriously enough when they were first reported.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has defended the handling of the case, saying investigators kept “every single lane” open and did not dismiss any possibilities. He did, although, say information provided by the community played a crucial role in the investigation.
“It’s scary, isn’t it? This is someone who’s blending completely into the community, it’s someone who everyone in the community seems to know. It’s a grandfather, it’s a mall Santa, it’s what is essential a good neighbour in his building where we’re alleging these horrific crimes happened,” Idsinga said. “I’m sure it catches everybody off guard."
Search continues for evidence
Police continue to search through McArthur’s Thorncliffe Park apartment for evidence and Idsinga said that they expect to be at the address for “at least another month.” Meanwhile, two other “properties of interest” located within the GTA have been identified and may be searched at some point.
He said a police task force assigned to the case has grown as the scope of the search has expanded, adding that it’s “impossible to say” how long the investigation will last.
“I think it’ll go into the years and depending what we find or where the investigation takes us, that will dictate how long it goes on for,” he said.
“We have one further property that we’re working on where we may do excavation but we’re just not at that point yet. We’re looking at several other properties, two of which we’re particularly interested in.”
Though Idsinga would not comment on the presumed cause of death for McArthur's alleged victims, he said they believe there are “multiple murder scenes,” including his Thorncliffe Park apartment.
As for the belief that more victims will be uncovered, Idsinga said they’re looking at “hundreds” of outstanding missing persons cases.
The detective added that police are dealing with other police forces, including the Ontario Provincial Police, as part of the investigation but did not elaborate. Previously, he said “some agencies overseas” were also involved.
McArthur’s travel to foreign countries is also being looked at as part of the investigation.
“For me to comment specifically on what cases we’re looking at would be really unfair to families who need more answers in relation to their loved ones,” he said. “To put it into perspective, there are multiple outstanding murder cases we’re looking at and there are hundreds of outstanding missing persons we’re looking at… There are some even occurrences where there’s been a sudden death that we’re looking at.”
He added that police have been in touch with the families of the victims.
“The families have been very good with us,” he said. “A lot of them are overseas and we’ve dealing with them over the phone which isn’t ideal. I appreciate all the open communication we’ve had with them as well.”
Brief court appearance for McArthur
Meanwhile, in court, McArthur made a brief court appearance via video link from the Toronto South Detention Centre this morning wearing a blue sweater and eyeglasses tucked into his collar. He was officially charged with the additional court of first-degree murder.
He looked down as the judge spoke to him and said very little aside from "thank you" at the end of the proceedings.
Idsinga would not say whether McArthur is cooperating with police in the investigation.
“We obviously have spoken to him," he said, "but I can’t comment on whether he’s shared information with us or not.”
McArthur, who according to Insinga is on suicide watch, is due to appear in court again on Feb. 28 at 9 a.m.