In December, as rumors of a serial killer spread through Toronto, police dismissed the speculation and tried to tamp down on fear.
Two men — Selim Esen, 44, and Andrew Kinsman, 49 — had vanished between April and June in the Canadian city’s Gay Village, and neither man had been seen since. But at the time, police said there wasn’t evidence the cases were linked, or that the disappearances were linked to years-old missing persons cases.
“There is no evidence that a serial killer is responsible,” Detective Sergeant Michael Richmond said in a Dec. 8 statement.
That assessment didn’t last long, though. By Monday, police said they were dealing with a serial killer unlike any Toronto had seen before.
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Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old landscaper in Toronto, was charged with first-degree murder on Jan. 18 for allegedly killing both Esen and Kinsman. And police made an even more alarming announcement on Monday: Hidden at the bottom of large planters at sites where McArthur had worked, police unearthed the dismembered skeletal remains of “at least” three victims, Toronto police.
McArthur has now been charged for killing three additional men: Majeed Kayhan, 58, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Dean Lisowick, 47. Kayhan disappeared in 2012 and Mahmudi disappeared in 2015, police said. Lisowick was never reported missing, but police suspect he was killed in 2017.
The investigation isn’t over, either — and there are likely more victims, police said.
“I have no idea how many more there are going to be,” Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga said at Monday’s press conference. “We’re investigating some 30 properties. We believe there are more remains at some of these properties that we’re working to recover.”
The homeowners at a residence where McArthur stored landscaping equipment said police have now removed large planters that McArthur brought there a couple years ago. The planters were as wide as tractor tires and about a yard high, the Toronto Star reports.
“We just hope the remains are just in the planters so they go away, and not in the ground,” Karen Fraser, the homeowner, told the Star on Monday. “If they find something buried in the backyard, that’s a different feeling.”
Police said there were common threads among a few of the victims: Middle Eastern descent and connections to the gay community, for example. But other alleged victims “don’t quite fit the profile of the earlier victims,” Idsinga said.
Police said they have found more remains at some of the dozens of properties they’re searching.
“The city of Toronto has never seen anything like this,” Idsinga said. “It is unprecedented and draining. He's an alleged serial killer and he's taken some steps to cover his tracks.”
Police are also planning to do ground excavations at two or more sites, they said.
Toronto residents who may have hired McArthur have been asked to report their interactions with him to police.
McArthur had a sexual relationship with Kinsman, one of the victims he was initially charged with killing when he was arrested in January, police said. But police have said little about McArthur’s relationships with the other alleged victims, the Star reports.
Another man who has been missing since 2010 had ties to McArthur as well, the CBC reported last week. Friends of Skandaraj Navaratnam told the news outlet that, before Navaratnam went missing, he had been dataing McArthur and working for him as a landscaper.
“We have been waiting for an answer for 7 years and now there is this news which is devastating to our family,” Navaseelan Navaratnam, Skandaraj’s brother, told CBC following McArthur's arrest.
McArthur has not been charged in connection with Skandaraj’s disappearance.