Serial killer Bruce McArthur photographed his victims, court hears
Warning: Some of the details presented in court may be disturbing to readers.
After killing several of his victims, serial killer Bruce McArthur took gruesome photos of their naked bodies posed with items such as fur coats and cigars, a court heard Monday.
During the first day of McArthur’s sentencing hearing, Crown attorney Michael Cantlon revealed the horrific details of the prosecution’s case against McArthur, who pleaded guilty last week to eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam.
Cantlon said photographs discovered on McArthur’s hard drive contained images of many of his victims, some when they were alive and others after they had been murdered.
A number of disturbing photos, which were not shown in court, showed McArthur’s victims posed while unconscious and naked.
Some of the murdered men were posed wearing a fur coat or a fur hat and some had unlit cigars placed between their lips.
Victims were strangled
The murder weapon, a metal bar with a rope attached, was seen around the necks of some of the victims.
“This created a mechanism whereby rotating the bar would turn the knot, increasing pressure on the neck,” the statement of facts read.
McArthur repeatedly killed his victims with ligature strangulation, Cantlon said.
The murder weapon, along with the fur coat and hat also seen in the photos, were later found in McArthur’s possession and seized by police.
The murders were described as “planned and deliberate” and produced “uniformity in the way they were executed,” according to the agreed statement of facts.
Police discovered a duffle bag in McArthur’s apartment that contained duct tape, a surgical glove, rope, zip ties, a black bungee cord, and syringes.
The photographic evidence showed that the victims were “restrained and sexually assaulted,” Cantlon said.
The photos of his victims, some of which McArthur attempted to delete, were stored in eight folders on his computer and were labelled for each individual victim.
Man found tied to McArthur’s bed could have been ninth victim
A ninth folder, which was also found on McArthur’s computer, contained photographs of a surviving victim identified as “John,” who was found tied to McArthur’s bed on Jan. 18, 2018, the day that McArthur was arrested by police.
The court heard that John was invited over to McArthur’s apartment and when they got up to the bedroom, the visitor was told to get undressed quickly as McArthur was worried that his son or roommate might come home.
The victim was handcuffed to McArthur’s bed and a black bag was placed over his head. When the victim asked for the bag to be removed, McArthur refused.
When the man was able to get the bag off of his head, McArthur then attempted to tape the victim’s mouth shut.
McArthur’s assault on the man was interrupted by police, who had been monitoring the movements of the suspected murderer. The decision was made to arrest him when they realized he had taken a young man upstairs to his apartment.
“A forensic analysis of Mr. McArthur’s computer showed that on the day of Mr. Kinsman’s murder, Mr. McArthur had searched for John and downloaded photographs of him from social media,” Cantlon said.
Aside from the photos found on McArthur’s hard drive, a substantial amount of additional evidence was found inside McArthur’s apartment, including jewelry belonging to his victims.
Kinsman’s disappearance led police to McArthur
McArthur’s first murder is believed to have occurred on September 6, 2010 and despite a 2012 investigation into the disappearances of three of McArthur’s victims, he was not on the radar of law enforcement until after his final victim, Andrew Kinsman, went missing in June 2017.
Two key pieces of evidence ultimately led investigators to McArthur.
On a calendar inside Kinsman’s apartment, the name “Bruce” was written on June 26, 2017, the day Kinsman went missing.
Detectives also tracked down video surveillance footage from the neighbourhood around Kinsman’s Cabbagetown apartment. Reviewing footage from the day he disappeared, police spotted Kinsman getting into a red Dodge Caravan, which was later identified as McArthur’s vehicle.
The van was eventually located in a scrap yard in Bowmanville. Blood and semen were found in the van and the DNA of Kinsman and McArthur’s second-last victim, Selim Esen, were found inside the vehicle.
The evidence gathered from the van led police to apply for a warrant to “covertly” search McArthur’s apartment to copy and examine any digital device relevant to the murder investigation.
Those digital devices contained the photos that later became vital evidence in the prosecution’s case against McArthur.
McArthur moved body parts after initial burial
The dismembered bodies of all eight of his victims were eventually found in garden planters and in a ravine behind a Leaside property where McArthur stored tools for his landscaping business.
Cantlon said that the remains were kept there to allow McArthur “continued access” to them.
“There is also evidence that Mr. McArthur continued to move the remains between the pots after the initial burial,” Cantlon said.
It was determined that McArthur “moved or mixed” the body parts after they had already decomposed and skeletonized.
Police also discovered that McArthur had stored bags of hair in a shed on a property he had access to south of the Mount Pleasant cemetery.
Victims shared traits in common
The victims, Cantlon said, all shared commonalities, including the fact that they had ties to the city’s LGBTQ community. McArthur and his victims also corresponded through dating apps.
“The majority were linked through their physical appearances. Most sported facial hair and/ or a beard. Six of the victims were immigrants, and of South Asian or Middle Eastern decent,” Cantlon said.
“The social features of the victims also overlapped. Most of the deceased had traits that made victimization more likely or harder to detect. 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.”
Friends, family speak out at sentencing hearing
In a series of victim impact statements read in court, many of the family and friends of McArthur’s victims expressed feelings of debilitating sadness, anger, guilt, and fear.
Karen Coles, Kinsman’s sister, described her brother as a “generous, compassionate, and thoughtful man.”
“One of the things I miss the most is our ongoing conversations about life,” she said. “I thought we had plenty of time but now I am left with questions and no answers.”
She said since his death, she is less trusting of others and has difficulty sleeping.
Some of Kinsman’s friends who spoke Monday said they were shocked to learn that Kinsman’s killer was someone they knew personally.
“I feel incredibly guilty for not being able to recognize the offender for who he was,” Kinsman’s friend, Adrian Betts, said.
“By killing my friend, this man has also killed who I was before all of this horror.”
He added that many people in the community no longer feel safe.
“If Andrew Kinsman can be murdered, then anyone can,” he noted.
The daughter of Dean Lisowick also submitted a statement to the court, which was read aloud by the Crown attorney.
“Even though I never knew (my father), there was still a chance that maybe one day I would be able to meet him,” Emily Bourgeois said. “I will now always have to live with knowing I will never have a relationship with my father.”
In a statement on behalf of the Esen family, Nadia Wali said they couldn’t believe their “inquisitive” brother who stood up against social injustice was preyed on by McArthur.
“Our lives were shattered with the shocking news. We can’t come to terms with his savage murder,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, Rev. Deana Dudley said she knew the news of McArthur’s arrest would have a “deep and lasting” impact on the LGBTQ community.
“Many in our community have lost their sense of safety… There is a sense of ‘it could have been me, it could have been any of us,’” Dudley said.
“We are angry and that will persist for a long time and I just pray that we will not let the anger eat us alive.”
McArthur’s sentencing hearing resumes on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.