Two months and one day before Bruce McArthur was arrested, Toronto police came within metres of finding the remains of the men he’s been convicted of killing.

More than 6,500 pages of court documents containing details of the McArthur investigation were released on Monday. Many of the pages had been previously released to the media, but had been heavily redacted.

The documents, known as “information to obtain” or “ITOs,” are the procedural paperwork filed by investigators looking to be granted search warrants or production orders during the course of an investigation. In the case of the McArthur investigation, as is common in high profile cases, those ITOs were ordered sealed by the courts.

Lawyers for CTV News Toronto, along with several other media outlets, spent months arguing in court to have the documents unsealed and released publicly.

The newly unsealed ITO’s showed that on Nov. 17, 2017, investigators searched an area behind 53 Mallory Crescent using cadaver dogs. The documents said that police had observed McArthur making multiple trips to the property during their surveillance, and later learned he did landscaping for the couple who lived there. During the search, the police dogs found no evidence of human remains. Two other locations were similarly searched and listed in the documents as “investigative avenues that have yielded no relevant information.”

Later that month, police were granted access to the cell phone records of the owners of 53 Mallory Crescent—Karen Fraser and Ron Smith. In making the request, police said they wanted to establish the couple’s whereabouts during the time that some of the men had gone missing, writing that if they were not at home it “may have presented McArthur with a viable option for disposing of Kinsman’s remains”.

McArthur was arrested by Toronto police on Jan. 18, 2018, two months after police first searched 53 Mallory Crescent.

When police executed a search warrant at Mallory Crescent property in the days after McArthur’s arrest, they found the human remains of eight missing and murdered men, contained in five different garden planters, as well as buried in an area behind the property. Those remains were identified using DNA and other forensic techniques, and were found to belong to Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Dean Lisowick, Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman.

In January 2019, McArthur pleaded guilty to eight counts of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison, and will not be able to apply for parole until he is 91 years old.

Police tracked known associates of McArthur

According to the documents, police applied for warrants to track and surveil the phones and vehicles of at least four other people in connection with the McArthur investigation.

One of those people was a fellow landscaper and long-time friend of McArthur. The documents showed that his cell was the first number McArthur called after going silent for several hours on June 26, 2017—the day Andrew Kinsman went missing.

Police also watched the friend’s pickup truck leaving McArthur’s apartment several times during their surveillance, the documents said. Investigators would later obtain warrants to covertly search two properties linked to the friend—one in Madoc Township and the other in Scarborough. Police were looking for evidence of recent dig sites, as well as any physical evidence related to Kinsman. According to the documents, the Scarborough property was up for sale at the time and police suggested using a police officer who was also licensed as a real estate agent to gain access to the home.

After McArthur’s arrest, his friend’s properties were searched by police, but nothing of relevance to the case was found. The man co-operated with police and was never charged with any crime.

As part of ‘Project Prism,’ a police task force created in August 2017 that was assigned to investigate the disappearance of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen, Toronto police sought records for McArthur’s cellphone, as well as the ability to install a tracking device on his vehicles.

McArthur was placed under electronic and visual police surveillance just days after becoming a person of interest in the case on Sept. 5 of that year. In the newly released documents, investigators wrote that tracking McArthur’s movements and discovering who he was associating with was a necessary step in order to transition the 66-year-old from a person of interest to a suspect.

Police asked for and were granted the ability to place a tracking device on the 2017 Dodge Caravan that McArthur was driving at the time, as well as a 2004 Dodge Caravan that would later be found to contain traces of blood, semen, and DNA matches to Kinsman and Esen. According to investigators, the 2004 Dodge Caravan was parked at the home of McArthur’s daughter and son-in-law in Bowmanville when the warrant was obtained. When police arrived at the home to plant the tracking device, the vehicle had already been taken to a scrap yard.

The documents showed that police would later retrieve the vehicle from the scrap yard and a forensic examination would reveal the DNA and blood samples necessary to connect McArthur to the two victims.

Police had three-point plan for searching McArthur’s devices

According to the newly released documents, police also applied for and were granted a warrant that would allow them to enter McArthur’s apartment up to five times and copy information from his digital devices.

Police wrote in the documents that they had a three-point plan for searching McArthur’s computer.

The first attempt would involve making a clone of his hard drive while it was still in his home. If the hard drive was too large or too full, investigators planned to install software that would allow them to access it remotely.

If that failed, police planned to identify the type of hard drive during their first entry into the home and during a second entry replace it with a non-functioning hard drive, which would leave McArthur with the impression that his computer had failed. They also sought and received a warrant to compel McArthur’s Internet service provider, as well as any external security providers, to shut down service during the time police entered his home in order to ensure they were not captured by McArthur’s surveillance or alarm systems.

The documents revealed that police did enter McArthur’s apartment and began cloning his hard drive, however they only managed to retrieve 45 per cent of its contents before McArthur returned home. Information discovered on that hard drive included photos of McArthur’s victims, both alive and dead.

Project Houston documents also released

Thousands of pages from ITOs filed during Project Houston were also made public on Monday.

That 18-month-long investigation began in 2012 after three men, 40-year-old Skandaraj Navaratnam, 42-year-old Abdulbasir Faizi, and 58-year-old Majeed Kayhan, went missing from Toronto’s Gay Village.

The documents showed that police had focused their investigation into the men’s disappearance on James Brunton, a then 65-year-old retiree living in Peterborough who had an extensive online presence where he claimed to be an active cannibal.

A tip from police in Switzerland led them to believe that Brunton might be responsible for the disappearance of Navaratnam, the documents found, and police spent months surveilling Brunton. At one point, police investigated a potential link between Brunton and convicted killer Luka Magnotta.

Police would eventually arrest Brunton on 62 charges of making, possessing, and distributing child pornography. Brunton pleaded guilty to seven of those counts, but police concluded his homicidal and cannibalistic conversations online were just fantasy. Brunton never faced any charges in connection with Navaratnam’s disappearance.

McArthur was not treated as a person of interest or a suspect in the Project Houston investigation, which was shut down in 2014.