TORONTO – Investigators clung to the steep edge of a ravine on Thursday, some on their hands and knees, as they scraped through heaps of dirt and brush searching for more human remains near a home in mid-town Toronto where accused serial killer Bruce McArthur worked as a landscaper.
Some remains were discovered at the property Wednesday afternoon, just hours after police resumed digging in the area for the first time in about five months, said Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga.
“We have work to do … linking them to the McArthur investigation, but I think geographically, where the remains were found, we’re not going to have much of an issue doing that,” Idsinga told reporters near the site where the remains were found.
Just a few metres away, about 20 police and forensic workers used spades and trowels to scoop compost found in the ravine into large plastic buckets, hauling it down the hill to sieve-like tables where a pair of anthropologists sifted through the detritus.
Investigators have previously found the remains of seven men hidden in large planters at the home. Idsinga said the remains recovered Wednesday could be from one or more of those men.
McArthur, 66, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of eight men with ties to Toronto’s gay village. The remains of only one of those men — Majeed Kayhan — have yet to be found.
McArthur is alleged to have killed Kayhan, Selim Esen, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.
A handful of neighbours gathered in the parkette across from the property Thursday morning, watching police come and go.
Song lyrics by U.S. band The Alternate Routes had been stencilled onto the home’s garage door.
“We are one, we are how we treat each other when the day is done,” they read.
Police have searched about 100 properties with links to McArthur’s landscaping business and cadaver dogs found few spots of interest but, after some “minor excavations,” nothing was found, he said.
Several weeks ago, the dogs searched the ravine and found “multiple spots” of interest, Idsinga said.
Some trees had to be cleared from the area and it took weeks to co-ordinate with the City of Toronto, which is responsible for the ravine, to “take environmental issues into consideration.”
The search of the ravine is expected to continue for another week, Idsinga said.
The remains have been sent to the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service for further examination, he added.
The identification process could involved fingerprints, dental records or DNA analysis, he said, which would take “days, weeks or months.”
News of more remains being found left one woman “gutted” as she continues the years-long search for her missing brother.
Jonathan Riley left Meaford, Ont., to find short-term work in Toronto in 2013 and his family hasn’t heard from him since, his sister Judi Riley said.
“When you have a missing person, there’s no closure, but you hang on to hope,” she said Thursday.
“If he is a victim of McArthur…we don’t want closure in this way,” she said. “You’re suspended in disbelief because you don’t want this to be the ending for your sibling.”
McArthur’s case is scheduled to return to court on July 23.
— With a file from Olivia Bowden.