By Michelle McQuigge and Peter Goffin, The Canadian Press
Toronto police have laid a new murder charge against an alleged serial killer who is believed to have preyed upon men from the city’s gay community for years, bringing the total number of people he’s accused of killing to six.
Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga said Friday that Bruce McArthur has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 40-year-old Skandaraj Navaratnam, who disappeared from the city’s gay village in 2010.
Police have expanded the scope of the already sprawling investigation, Idsinga said, and more charges are expected against 66-year-old McArthur, who was arrested in January.
“There’s multiple outstanding murder cases that we’re looking at,” Idsinga told reporters. “There’s hundreds of outstanding missing persons occurrences that we’re looking at. There’s even some … occurrences where there’s been a sudden death that we’re looking at.”
Navaratnam’s remains were among those of six people recovered from planters at a residential Toronto property where McArthur worked as a landscaper, Idsinga said.
Three of the six sets of remains have now been identified using fingerprint analysis and dental records, Idsinga said, adding other confirmed victims are 49-year-old Andrew Kinsman and 50-year-old Soroush Mahmudi.
McArthur has also been charged with first-degree murder in the presumed deaths of 44-year-old Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, 58, and Dean Lisowick, either 43 or 44.
Work is underway to identify the three other sets of remains, Idsinga said, noting that police could be dealing with more victims not yet named in the list of charges. He also said police believe they are working with multiple murder scenes.
“We are tracing (McArthur’s) whereabouts as far back as we can go to see if we can link any outstanding occurrences to his movements and see where we go from there,” he said.
The investigation into McArthur’s activities, which has been described by police as unprecedented in scope, comprises hundreds of Toronto officers as well as other Canadian and international forces.
Police have interviewed some of McArthur’s past known associates, but Idsinga said there is no reason to believe that the investigation currently involves a hunt for other suspects.
“I have no evidence that would tell me that anybody else was involved in this,” he said.
Questions around the disappearances of McArthur’s alleged victims had swirled for years prior to his arrest.
Navaratnam, Kayhan and one other man were all reported missing from Toronto’s gay village between 2010 and 2012, prompting calls for action from the community.
Toronto Police launched an investigation in December 2012, dubbed Project Houston, to probe the three disappearances but concluded the effort after 18 months without success.
In 2017, the disappearances of Kinsman and Esen drew fresh outcry from the community.
As recently as six weeks before McArthur’s arrest, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders tried to dispel fears that a serial killer was at large. He did announce that the force would review its practices in missing persons investigations.
McArthur was charged Jan. 18 with the murder of Kinsman and Esen. About two weeks later, police laid three more first-degree murder charges related to the disappearances of Kayhan and Mahmudi, as well as the death of Lisowick who had never been reported missing.
Investigators have searched multiple properties in the Toronto area, including excavating the back yard at the home where the six sets of remains were found. Idsinga said police may return to that scene in warmer weather to see if police dogs have further success in scouring the area.
He said police have also identified at least two properties for potential excavation, but said forensic test results are needed before they can proceed. Officers have also been combing through McArthur’s central Toronto apartment for a month and expect to remain there for weeks longer, he added.
While the details of the case against McArthur are “disturbing” and “shocking” to family members of the missing men, Idsinga said some of them have been able to draw some comfort from having answers to questions that have lingered for years.
“It brings them some peace and some closure,” he said.
McArthur is next set to appear in court via video on Feb. 28.