Serial Killer Bruce McArthur Gets Life Sentence in Case That Terrorized Gay Men
OTTAWA — Bruce McArthur, who pleaded guilty to eight murders that brought fear to Toronto’s gay community, was sentenced Friday to life with no chance of parole for 25 years.
But as his court case came to a close, the motivation of Mr. McArthur, a 67-year-old landscaper, remained unknown.
In Canada, a first-degree murder conviction brings an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The only question before Justice John McMahon of the Ontario Superior of Court of Justice was whether to invoke a relatively recent law that extends the period for a parole hearing by allowing consecutive sentences.
Justice McMahon said in court on Friday that if Mr. McArthur had been younger the judge would have accepted prosecutors’ recommendation to extend the period before a parole hearing to 50 years. But he added that even if Mr. McArthur sought parole at 91, the chances of his receiving it would be “very remote at best.”
The decision on Friday followed hearings earlier this week in which prosecutors laid out details about the crimes committed by Mr. McArthur, who dismembered his victims and buried their remains in a planter belonging to one of his clients, as well as in a ravine behind the client’s house.
Because many of the facts presented at the hearing were so lurid, prosecutors cautioned people against remaining in court to hear them.
At the outset, prosecutors took the unusual step of acknowledging that the authorities had brushed off concerns from gay Toronto residents that they were being stalked by a serial killer.
“For years members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community in Toronto believed they were being targeted by a killer,” Michael Cantlon, a prosecutor, told the court. “They were right.”
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Mr. McArthur’s string of murders has prompted an inquiry by a retired judge into how the Toronto police handle missing persons cases and whether their investigations are influenced by the sexuality or race of those who have vanished.
In November 2012, the Toronto police began an investigation into the disappearances of three men who, it eventually emerged, were murdered by Mr. McArthur. But the inquiry was shut down after 18 months.
Mr. McArthur, who was convicted of assaulting a man with a pipe in 2003, was arrested in 2016.
A man said that Mr. McArthur had tried to choke him in the back of his van but that he escaped. The police, at that time, accepted Mr. McArthur’s story that they were engaging in consensual sex.
A Toronto police officer is facing disciplinary charges over his involvement in that arrest and release.
Two pieces of evidence finally connected Mr. McArthur to the killings when the police renewed their investigation in August 2017.
Andrew Kinsman, his final victim, had written “Bruce” in a calendar on the date of his disappearance. The police then found surveillance video of someone who appeared to be Mr. Kinsman getting into a red Dodge minivan that day.
The video did not capture the minivan’s license plate. But once the police identified it as a 2004 model, a search of Ontario’s license records showed that there were only five such red vans registered to men named Bruce. Mr. McArthur was the only one who had been in contact with the force.
The court heard that Mr. McArthur carefully planned his killings. On his computer, investigators found file folders for his eight victims containing photographs of each of them. Many of the photos were taken after their deaths, with the bodies of six of them posed with a fur coat and props.
A ninth folder contained images of a man the police found when they came to arrest Mr. McArthur in January 2018. He was found by the police bound to a bed with a bag over his head but otherwise unharmed.
But prosecutors offered no insights into what drove Mr. McArthur, a father of two who left his wife in 2000, to become a serial killer. Craig Harper, another prosecutor, said the term “serial killer” was “woefully inadequate to describe his moral blameworthiness.”
Mr. McArthur declined to speak during this week’s hearing.
Several of the men Mr. McArthur killed were of Middle Eastern descent. At least one was facing deportation after not being accepted as a refugee by Canada. Some were homeless or had drug problems.
Some of those who died were keeping their homosexual activities a secret from their wives or other family members, the court heard.
“He preyed on his friends, he preyed on the vulnerable,” Mr. Harper told the court.
Mr. Kinsman, a L.G.B.T. activist, former bartender and an apartment building superintendent who knew Mr. McArthur for about 15 years, was an exception. He had many friends in the gay community, who launched search parties after he disappeared and who immediately pressured the police to look into his disappearance the day after Toronto’s pride parade.
Mr. McArthur also pleaded guilty to the first-degree murders of Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Dean Lisowick and Selim Esen.
Some of the victims’ friends and family members were too overwhelmed by emotion to read their sentencing statements to the judge, and prosecutors took over.
Mr. Faizi’s widow, Kareema, said that she now works 18 hours or more a day to support their daughters, who were 6 and 10 when he disappeared in 2010.
“They pretend to be strong in front of me,” she said of her daughters. “But when they are alone in their room, they take a picture of their father with them. I hear them crying constantly.”