Bruce McArthur has pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of missing men connected to Toronto’s gay village.
The 67-year-old, who had been set to stand trial next year, entered the guilty plea during a court appearance on Tuesday morning.
McArthur was asked to plead to each charge one by one in the deaths of Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.
He quietly, but clearly, said “guilty”, to each one, as family and friends of the victims looked on from the gallery.
McArthur showed little expression during the hearing and as he was led out of the courtroom.
The Crown Prosecutor read out an agreed statement of facts to the courtroom with details of the murders, including they were all committed during sexual acts or while victims were unlawfully confined.
CityNews reporter Adrian Ghobrial and 680NEWS reporter Momin Qureshi were tweeting live from inside the courtroom.
Here is the full agreed statement of facts provided by the Crown Prosecutor. WARNING: Some of these details may be disturbing.
A sentence hearing in which victim impact statements will be read has been scheduled for next Monday. Three days have been set aside for the hearing.
First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
According to the agreed statement of facts, McArthur kept several of the victims items, including jewellery from Dean Lisowick and a notebook from Selim Esen. Both items were found in his apartment.
The Crown also said DNA of the victims was found in McArthur’s van and in his apartment.
Multiple members of the Toronto Police Homicide unit were present in the courtroom for the plea as well as friends and family members of victims Andrew Kinsman and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.
The men went missing from Toronto’s gay village between 2010 and 2017. The city’s LGBTQ community had long said a killer was preying on men who had vanished from the area.
“The lives of eight people were lost under the most unspeakable and tragic circumstances,” a spokesperson for The 519, Canada’s largest LGBTQ2S Centre, said in a statement.
“These losses have forever changed the lives of families, friends, loved ones and have left our communities shaken and aggrieved. The fact that it remained unknown and unseen for so many years is its own inconceivable tragedy.”
“While there is no solace, no redemption, we believe that there can be change,” the statement continues.
“The 519 stands with our communities and will continue to advocate and fight for eradicating violence in all of its forms.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory called McArthur a “monster.”
“Our city deserves two things: justice and answers,” he said. “I will continue to make sure that justice is served and that all questions raised by this tragic case are answered.”
Police said they recovered the remains of seven men in large planters at a residential property on Mallory Crescent in Leaside where McArthur worked, while the remains of an eighth man were found in a nearby ravine.
Karen Fraser who lives on Mallory Crescent where the remains were discovered was also present at the hearing.
Police spent months combing the property and also sent cadaver dogs to more than 100 properties linked to McArthur.
Forensic officers also scoured McArthur’s apartment for four months, moving centimetre by centimetre through the residence with the belief it was an alleged murder scene. They seized 1,800 exhibits and snapped more than 18,000 photographs of the scene.
Lead detective Insp. Hank Idsinga has said the McArthur investigation marked the largest forensic examination in the force’s history.
Toronto police Det. David Dickinson said police continue to investigate the case.
“If there were mistakes made or lessons learned, absolutely we should learn from them,” he said, adding that he didn’t know why McArthur committed his crimes. “I don’t know if we’ll ever know why.”
The force’s cold case squad is currently investigating a series of homicides in the 1970s related to men with ties to the gay village, but Idsinga has said they’ve found nothing to link those to McArthur.
Why did it take so long to catch a serial killer?
In this edition of The Big Story, freelance reporter Justin Ling (Globe & Mail, VICE) brings us back to 2013, when the community began demanding answers. Why did it take this long for an arrest to be made? What happens when an entire community is silenced by a force meant to protect it?