Efforts to assuage fears that a serial killer was active in Toronto’s Gay Village came to a chilling end on Thursday, when police announced the arrest of a 66-year-old man they allege murdered at least two missing men, and possibly more.
Bruce McArthur, 66, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Andrew Kinsman, 49, and Selim Esen, 44, after Toronto police said new and “significant” evidence came to light on Wednesday.
The bodies of Kinsman and Selim have not been found, but Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga said they have a “pretty good idea of what the cause of death is.”
Kinsman has been missing since June 26. Esen hasn’t been seen since April 15.
The suspect in their deaths is a self-employed landscaper who lives in Thorncliffe Park and runs a company called Artistic Design.
“We believe he is responsible for the deaths of Kinsman and Esen,” Det.-Sgt. Idsinga said from police headquarters, adding investigators have evidence that leads them to believe there are more victims
“We aren’t able at this time to identify those victims. We are aware of the other missing men from the village and we are trying to identify if they may have become victims of Mr. McArthur as well.”
Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam, 40, and Abdulbasir “Basir” Faizi, 44, both went missing from the Church and Wellesley area in 2010. Majeed “Hamid” Kayhan, 58, vanished from the area in October, 2012.
Police say all three of the missing men share a similar ethnicity and lifestyle and were active in the Church and Wellesley community.
Police had previously said there was no evidence connecting the disappearances of Kinsman and Selim, or the other men who remain missing from the Gay Village.
Chief Mark Saunders was at Wednesday’s news conference, and he defended how police handled the case.
“What I said, at the time that I said it, was accurate at the time,” he stressed, referring to how police had previously tried to downplay fears of a serial killer.
Idsinga said McArthur knew at least one of his alleged victims.
“He did have a relationship with Mr. Kinsman for some time,” he said. “We don’t know what his exact relationship with Mr. Esen was leading up to his (alleged) murder.”
When asked what the nature of the relationship with Kinsman was, Idsinga replied, “sexual.”
Helen Kennedy, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Egale, said news of the arrest brought relief after months of fear and apprehension.
“The community, especially in the village, were very, very nervous, and rightly so. Two gay men went missing and the circumstances around their disappearances were very suspect and so people were speculating about what had happened to these two guys,” she said.
“I think that we had every right to be afraid and nervous, but at the same time, the police need time to do their work,” she said.
(Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report)