Toronto serial killer staged photographs with victims, court hears

Harrowing details emerged on the first day of a sentencing hearing for Canadian serial killer Bruce McArthur, as prosecutors described how the Toronto landscape gardener meticulously stalked and targeted his victims, then staged photographs with some of them after he strangled them.

The court also heard that a ninth man was found bound and naked inside McArthur’s house when it was raided by police in January 2018.

The sentencing hearing, which began on Monday, is expected to last for at least three days, as family and friends read victim impact statements. McArthur pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder last week, making him the worst known serial killer in the history of Toronto.

Wearing a black cable-knit sweater and plaid collared shirt, McArthur sat hunched in the dock, as the court heard a detailed statement of facts presented by the crown.

Before the hearing began, crown prosecutor Michael Cantlon took the unusual step of warning the gallery that the proceedings would involve graphic descriptions.

Cantlon choked up as he read the names of McArthur’s victims: Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam and Abdulbasir Faizi.

The court heard that McArthur staged photographs of his victims’ corpses, posing the bodies in a fur coat and black leather hat, and – in two cases – with a cigar between their lips.

Cantlon described the extensive collection of photographs McArthur kept of his victims – many of them taken while they were alive. McArthur also shaved and stored the facial hair from his victims, Cantlon said.

Cantlon acknowledged that members of Toronto’s gay community had long suspected the string of disappearances was the work of a serial murderer.

“For years, members of the LGBT community in Toronto believed they were being targeted by a killer,” Cantlon said. “They were right.”

On the day that he was arrested, the crown said McArthur had lured a man into his bedroom, bound him and placed a black bag over his head. The same fur coat, seen in multiple images of deceased victims, was found in in the room.

The first major break for police came investigators the word “Bruce” written on a calendar in the apartment of Andrew Kinsman, McArthur’s last known victim, the court heard. Surveillance images and video showed a van picking Kinsman up, a vehicle that was later traced to McArthur. DNA belonging to Kinsman was later discovered in the van.

Victims’ friends and family-members and members of the Toronto LGBT community remained stoic as they read victim impact statements. None were willing to offer words of forgiveness to McArthur.

Kinsman’s sister Karen Coles remembered him as a generous and caring person. “He wanted to make the world a better place for those struggling to survive,” she told the court. “My life has changed forever … I trust no one.”

“I know grief in all its forms. But I had nothing in my arsenal to prepare for this,” said Adrian Betts, a close friend of Kinsman, describing the “rage, guilt, profound sadness and horror” that overwhelmed him in the months since Kinsman’s death.

Others highlighted a long-standing frustration the killer hadn’t been caught sooner. “This is a homophobic serial killing,” said the family of Selim Essen. “This has gone on far too long.”

“Anger is a normal adaptive to injustice and unfairness,” said the Rev Deana Dudley, who read a statement on behalf of the city’s LGBT community. “And we should be angry when our community becomes a hunting ground.”

While the judge has not yet decided whether McArthur’s eight charges will be consecutive or concurrent, he will be ineligible for parole until he is at least 91.