Bruce McArthur (Pic: Facebook)
Bruce McArthur, the Canadian landscaper who killed gay men and buried their remains in plant pots, had pleaded guilty to eight counts of first degree murder.
On Tuesday, he admitted in a Toronto court to the murders of Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Soroush Mahmaudi, Dean Lisowick, Majeed Kayhan, Skanda Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam.
In an agreed statement, McArthur, 67, said he had planned all of the murders, reported Toronto Police Service News. A total of six of the eight killings were sexual in nature, involved ligature and confinement and some of the victims’ bodies were staged after they were killed.
Almost all of McArthur’s victims were of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin, and many disappeared from the city’s gay village between 2010 and 2017. They ranged from a homeless sex worker to a closeted family man.
Haran Vijayanathan, the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention executive director, said the guilty plea will result in some closure for the victims’ families.
“It is really tough because sitting there and listening to the families sort of explain the fact that they don’t know what is going on or they don’t seem to understand fully what is happening and the fact that their loved one is gone in such a horrific way was the tough part,” Vijayanathan said. “Today, there is a sense of relief but also a sense of confusion as to why.”
The authorities first became suspicious that McArthur was involved in the spate of disappearances in September 2017. On 18 January 2018, officers saw him taking a man into his apartment. They burst into the residence and found the potential victim bound to a bed, apparently in imminent danger.
Police discovered some of victims’ belongings in McArthur’s home, as well as a bag with duct tape, a surgical glove, zip ties, syringes and a black bungee cord. DNA of victims was also found in McArthur’s van and clothing. Police later located the remains of eight individuals in pots used by McArthur in his landscaping business.
The victims (L-R): Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Soroush Mahmudi
Police have been criticised for over the years rejecting the idea that a serial killer targeting gay men was on the prowl in Toronto. They have also been accused of racism for not being more active in the investigation because many victims were refugees from Afghanistan, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Iran.
Toronto’s The 519 LGBTQ organisation noted that questions remained. “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,” said the charity.
Detective David Dickinson, the lead investigator, said that McArthur’s guilty plea was “the best possible outcome” for the families and the community. “This process is not over as we will be back next month to move forward with submissions for sentencing,” he added.
McArthur will return to court on 4 February for a sentencing hearing.