TORONTO – An exhaustive and exhausting four-month search of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur’s apartment has concluded, Toronto police announced Tuesday, saying their probe of the unit where multiple murders are alleged to have occurred necessitated painstaking forensic examination.
The scrutiny of the apartment, combined with the search of other related scenes, have made the case the largest forensic examination in the force’s history, police said.
“Our team is tired, but proud,” said Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga, who is leading the investigation.
McArthur, a 66-year-old self-employed landscaper, was arrested in January and faces eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the disappearances of several men, most of whom had ties to Toronto’s gay village.
Police have so far recovered the remains of seven men from large planters at a Toronto home where McArthur worked and stored his equipment.
The forensic work on McArthur’s apartment was extensive, Idsinga said, performed by 10 officers, with two of them on the scene every day since police took over the unit in mid-January.
“You can imagine when you open the door to that place, you’re proceeding inch by inch going into the premises, literally, examining every square inch,” Idsinga said. “It’s extremely labour intensive when you tackle a scene like that.”
Investigators snapped more than 18,000 photographs of the apartment in midtown Toronto and seized more than 1,800 items, Idsinga said.
Examining McArthur’s apartment also required a different approach from going through a scene where a crime is thought to have recently taken place as the alleged murders in the case date back several years.
“Hypothetically speaking, let’s say you have an apartment where you know a murder has taken place, you’re going to go in and you’re going to be looking for trace evidence such as blood, hair, fibres, DNA, and get focused on a particular area by doing a visual overview very quickly,” Idsinga explained.
“You’re not looking at a place like this … we’re alleging our oldest murder is over eight years ago in 2010 and we don’t know if it occurred there or not. But if (alleged victim) Skanda Navaratnam was killed in that residence and there is one hair belonging to Skanda Navaratnam that is still present somewhere, you better find that hair.”
“It’s definitely a bigger task than a regular murder scene,” he added.
McArthur is alleged to have killed Navaratnam, Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.
Idsinga said police completed the search of the apartment on Friday and gave McArthur’s family and his roommate time to clear out belongings before turning the unit over to property management.
Right now, police cadaver dogs — including some from York regional police — are sniffing out about 100 properties both inside and outside Toronto, all with ties to McArthur, Idsinga said. They are about halfway through the three-week process.
“They’re searching the exterior of the premises, obviously looking at flower pots as well,” Idsinga said.
“If the dogs give an indication, if it’s a flower pot we’ll take the flower pot. If it’s an area that we want to do more background work on the place then we’ll make a decision whether to go back with the anthropologist.”
Idsinga wouldn’t say if investigators have found anything.
McArthur is scheduled to return to court May 23.