Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur is charged with killing multiple men in the biggest homicide investigation Toronto has ever seen, but police have so far refused to comment on his previous criminal record.
McArthur was convicted in 2003 for assaulting a man with a metal pipe two years prior – a charge that would normally show up in a criminal background check.
But it’s possible that McArthur’s record came up clean when investigators began looking into him in recent months. According to retired Toronto police homicide detective David Perry, criminal records can be wiped clean after five years upon request.
“The only way he wouldn’t have a criminal record for charges he was convicted of was if he applied for and received a pardon – which is something everyone can do,” he says.
“When he was pardoned he wasn’t a serial killer or alleged to have been a serial killer and that’s quiet frankly the way the system works. A lot of us would disagree with that, but that’s the way the system works.”
Perry adds that if McArthur did receive a pardon, an initial criminal record check by police would net nothing. Police would have to conduct a “deep dive” and scour archives to find something. Perry believes the likelihood investigators conducted such a check are slim to none. Further, he says even if prior convictions were discovered, McArthur would only be one of thousands of people police were likely looking into as a potential suspect.
In addition to the conviction, McArthur also had a long list of parole conditions including being banned from a large area of downtown Toronto and not being allowed to interact with any person known to be a male prostitute. He was also banned from purchasing, possessing or consuming any drugs apart from prescription medication, including “poppers” — which can be used as a muscle relaxant and sometimes used before sex.
Perry says all of those conditions are next to impossible to enforce.
“These things don’t get published, they’re not public, there’s nothing to go to a web site to see if someone is on a condition,” he says.
“The court imposes these conditions hoping they comply and when they don’t, generally speaking the only way they get caught is when police stop them and find out they’re breaching them in some way.”