With Bruce McArthur now committed to life in jail, the Toronto Police Service is hoping the serial killer might one day help resolve unanswered questions about the case.
“You can pretty safely say we’re always open to any further communication,” said Inspector Hank Idsinga, head of the homicide squad. “It can come in many different forms. It’s not something that we can control. We can’t force anybody in this country to talk to us if they don’t want to talk us.”
When asked if he hoped people would step forward and add to the investigators’ knowledge, Insp. Idsinga replied: “That’s always a possibility, up to and including Mr. McArthur himself.”
Insp. Idsinga made the remarks during an interview where he and Detective David Dickinson discussed the case after the end of court proceedings against the 67-year-old killer.
Mr. McArthur was sentenced Friday to life in prison with no chance at parole for 25 years. He had pleaded guilty to the first-degree murders of eight men with ties to Toronto’s Gay Village.
The killings strained relations between police and members of the gay community, who had raised concerns about men going missing.
All the victims were considered vulnerable – poor, refugees or immigrants – until Andrew Kinsman was murdered in June, 2017. Det. Dickinson said that while it looked like police only cracked the case because the victim was a more affluent white man, Mr. Kinsman’s stable lifestyle provided key clues.
The victim before Mr. Kinsman, Turkish-born Selim Esen, who disappeared in April, 2017, did not have a fixed address. He was not reported missing for two weeks. Detectives sought his phone records and questioned his partner but made little progress.
Mr. Kinsman’s disappearance was reported within three days because it was out of character. There were even clues narrowing it to a specific time frame.
A superintendent, he had e-mailed tenants in his building at 3 p.m. on June 26 – the day he vanished – but didn’t respond to replies. A detective then found a calendar entry with the word “Bruce” and “2 pm or 3 pm.” That helped investigators find security video in the neighbourhood showing Mr. Kinsman getting inside a red van around 3 p.m.
By the end of August, Project Prism, the special task force looking at the Kinsman and Esen cases, received a spreadsheet listing more than 6,000 Toronto-area owners of similar vans. They identified Mr. McArthur as one of five owners named Bruce.
A check of the police database showed he had been interviewed but not charged in 2016 after another man reported that Mr. McArthur tried to strangle him in his van.
The investigators tried to locate the van in the city. “We last saw it in the east so it was natural to check the scrapyards in the east,” Det. Dickinson said. On Oct. 4, they found the Dodge Caravan at a shop where Mr. McArthur had sold it.
Luckily, the vehicle hadn’t been fully dismantled; inside police found a few tiny blood stains. Police identified Mr. Kinsman’s DNA in the blood.
They had no DNA for Mr. Esen because he had no home or family in Canada. Without Mr. Esen’s DNA, Mr. McArthur was a suspect only in Mr. Kinsman’s homicide. At a Dec. 8 news conference, police Chief Mark Saunders said there was no evidence of a serial killer – remarks for which he later would be criticized.
Mr. McArthur was now under constant surveillance. Police also placed a GPS tracker in his new van in order to follow him.
Officers made a covert entry into Mr. McArthur’s flat and managed to copy some of the contents of a memory key, a hard drive and his desktop computer.
They found pictures of Mr. Kinsman. But it was only on Jan. 17, using forensic software, that detectives discovered that Mr. McArthur had erased photos taken in his bedroom of the strangled bodies of Mr. Kinsman and Mr. Esen.
Until then, police thought the murders took place in the van. Now, they had evidence he was killing in his bedroom. They could not let anyone enter that apartment any more.
The next morning, Mr. McArthur was arrested just as he had invited a man into his place and handcuffed him to his bed.