A Toronto man has been charged with murder in the deaths of two men from the city’s LGBT community who went missing last year and police suspects there are more victims.
The arrest of Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old grandfather who works as a self-employed landscaper and as a mall Santa, was announced Thursday by the Toronto Police Service.
He is charged with the murder of Selim Esen, 44, who went missing in April 2017, and Andrew Kinsman, 49, who went missing in June 2017, police said.
The charges come as part of an task force investigation police named Project Prism that was set up in August after the disappearances of the two men were linked. They both were from the Church and Wellesley area of Toronto.
The bodies of Esen and Kinsman have not been found. According to police, investigators believe there are other victims connected to McArthur, but they have not been identified. Authorities declined to call McArthur a suspected serial killer, despite concerns that a serial killer had been targeting men in Toronto’s gay village.
“I’m telling you he’s killed at least two people that we know of and we believe there are more victims, so whether you want to attach that label or not it’s up to you,” Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga told reporters.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say They Are Searching Multiple Locations to Try to Find the Victim’s Bodies & Say They Have a ‘Pretty Good Idea’ How the Men Died
The two men went missing from the Church and Wellesley neighborhood of Toronto in 2017. Salim Esen, 44, went missing from the area of Yonge and Bloor streets on April 14, 2017. Andrew Kinsman, 49, went missing on June 26, 2017, from Parliament and Winchester streets.
Police did not initially connect the two cases, but did say that they were leaving open the possibility they were connected. Police also did not immediately say that Esen’s disappearance was thought to be the result of foul play. But members of the Church and Wellesley area, an LGBTQ enclave, feared a serial killer was targeting people in the community and began to spread information about the cases and other missing men.
“At the time, 51 Division was responsible for investigating these cases separately,” Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga, of the Toronto Police Service’s homicide division, told reporters at a Thursday press conference. “In August of 2017 in an effort to further the investigation and share resources, Project Prism was formed. This allowed more officers to be dedicated to these cases, to share information with a similar, but separate investigation known as Project Houston, from 2013, and to seek advice and support from specialized areas of the Service, including the homicide squad.”
Idsinga said significant progress was made in the Project Prism case on Wednesday, January 17, and investigators moved very quickly.
At 10:25 a.m. Thursday, police arrested 66-year-old Bruce McArthur, of Toronto.
“Some evidence was found yesterday,” Idsinga said. “The investigation was going on for many months leading up to this and some evidence was uncovered yesterday that pushed us over the edge and enabled us to develop our resources to probable grounds. to arrest Mr. McArthur. … I can’t speak directly to what the evidence is.”
“We believe he is responsible for the deaths of Mr. Esen and Mr. Kinsman, and we believe he is responsible for the deaths of other men who have yet to be identified,” Idsinga said. “In other words, we believe there are other victims. As of right now, interviews are being taking place and police have secured five properties, four in Toronto and one in Madoc, connected to Bruce McArthur in an effort to further investigate these occurrences.”
The properties are places “associated” with McArthur, Idsinga said, but he doesn’t own them.
Investigators have not found the bodies of Esen and Kinsman, and are searching those five properties in an effort to locate them.
“We are actively looking for them, we’re conducting these search warrants in an effort to locate these bodies,” Idsinga said.
He added, “we have a pretty good idea what the cause of death is, but I’m not ready to discuss that yet.”
Idsinga said he believes they have strong enough evidence to prosecute McArthur if they are unable to find the bodies, despite the difficulties of doing that.
He said investigators have known about McArthur and have “been investigating him for several months now. But we weren’t able to make that definitive link until yesterday.”
2. McArthur & the Victims Were All Active on Dating Apps & He Had a Relationship With Kinsman, but Police Did Not Say If or How He Knew Esen
Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga told reporters that they are looking at dating apps in connection to the case. He said McArthur, “was on some dating websites and the victims were as well. We’re still digging into that.”
While police did not specify what website McArthur was on, a profile for him can be found at silverdaddies.com. The website describes itself as “a meeting place for mature men and other men (both daddies and younger), who are interested in keeping their daddy happy and/or sexually satisfied. The site offers the possibility of having a personal ad and also features galleries (changed daily) and a chat – and it’s free! :-).”
The dating profile was first uncovered by Vice.
On his profile, McArthur says, “Just here to see whats out there and maybe make a few new friends. I am self employed with my own landscaping business so that keeps me busy most of the time. I can be a bit shy until i get to know you, but am a romantic at heart. I love to cook and enjoy most types of food. So many nice looking guys out there but so far away . If interested chat me up or send me an email under silverfoxx51 at hot mail If you don’t have a pic on your profile…i most likely will not be interested. Do not have yahoo etc…..no pic no chat.”
He says he prefers men “aged 25 to 55.”
You can see his profile below:
Idsinga said McArthur had a “sexual relationship” with Kinsman “for some time,” but “we don’t know what is exact relationship with Mr. Esen was leading up to the murder, whether he had just met him that day or if he had known him for some time, we just don’t know that yet.”
He said they know how McArthur met the two men, but he said he didn’t want to reveal those details at the press conference.
3.McArthur, Who Has Been a Mall Santa for Several Years, Posted Photos on Facebook With His Daughter & Grandchildren, Along With a Man He Appeared to Be in a Relationship With
Police said Bruce McArthur is self-employed as a landscaper, using the company name Artistic Design, and he lives in the Thorncliffe Park area. Police said he frequented Toronto’s gay village. On his Facebook page, McArthur can be seen at events in the village area, and at the city’s Pride parade. He captioned a June 2016 photo he took on Wellesley Street of three Toronto police officers wearing rainbow-styled uniforms, “Happy Pride.”
Chantal Smith, his neighbor in Thorncliffe Park, told the National Post she’d have small talk with him often on her way up to her apartment on the elevator. She said he talked about his love of cooking and would often be seen carrying trays of freshly basked muffins. Another neighbor said McArthur was “super creepy,” and would stare at him to long. The neighbor said he had a boyfriend who seemed to be always with him.
It is not clear if McArthur has a criminal record. Idsinga said they were not able to comment on his prior record with the police.
McArthur has not posted publicly on his Facebook page since March 2017. His public posts show him with his family, including his daughter, her husband and his two granddaughters, on trips and holidays, including a 2016 Christmas dinner he hosted at his apartment.
McArthur, who says on his Facebook page he attended Fenelon Falls Secondary School, also often posted photos of flowers and landscaping, and of birds and other animals.
Along with pictures with his family, McArthur posted several photos with a man he appeared to be in a relationship with. The man could not be reached for comment and Heavy is not identifying him. He last posted a photo with him in February 2017.
McArthur also worked as Santa at a local mall, Agincourt Mall in Scarborough, for at least two years, in 2015 and 2016, and it appears to have been a long-running job for him. The Agincourt Mall did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Heavy.
A friend, Marion Clark Lunchies, sobbed when told of McArthur’s arrest by the Toronto Star.
“No! Oh my goodness, I can’t believe it,” she told the newspaper. “I’m just flabbergasted is all I can say. I have nothing to say. I’m just flabbergasted, that’s all. I’m just absolutely shocked, beyond shocked.”
Bartender Joseph Khaiata, who works at the Black Eagle bar in the LGBTQ area, told the Toronto Star he remembers McArthur coming to the bar, but didn’t know him by name.
“He was just a typical Joe person, that’s what shocked me when I saw the picture, just like, oh my god, this person just blended in,” Khaiata told the newspaper. “When you picture somebody doing something like that, that’s not what I would have pictured. I thought it was going to be a homophobe redneck from somewhere.”
Police haven’t commented about a possible motive for the alleged killings.
“The motive is always important – we don’t have a lot of information here … when you look at serial sexual predators who are killers, they tend to have the same habits. They do the same things over and over again,” security expert Ross McLean told Global News. “Here we have a [couple] of similar men, of similar height, similar weight, similar facial hair, similar sexual interests, going to a similar area, possibly using a similar dating app.
“So these are all things that come together, and hopefully the police, in their investigation, will find similar evidence that this alleged killer may have done that they can tie all these cases together, and perhaps even more cases than the two cases already put out,” McLean said.
4. Investigators Have Examining Evidence From an Unconnected Task Force – Project Houston – That Began After 3 Men Disappeared Between 2010 & 2012
Police said the investigators looking into the disappearances of Esen and Kinsman shared information and examined evidence from an unconnected task force, Project Houston, which started in 2013. That task force involves three men who vanished between 2010 and 2012, but it is not yet clear if any of those men have been connected to the McArthur case. They were also from Toronto’s gay village.
According to the Toronto Sun, Majeed “Hamid” Kayhan has been missing since October 25, 2012. Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam, 40, was last seen on September 6, 2010. And Abdulbasir “Basir” Faizi, 42, was last seen December 29, 2010.
On Facebook, Bruce McArthur is friends with Navaratnam.
According to the National Post, fears grew in the village neighborhood after the disappearances last year of Esen and Kinsman. Twelve people have been reported missing from the area in nine months, including a trans woman, Alloura Wells, but it is not clear if all of those are missing as a result of foul play or if any can be connected to McArthur.
“The community, especially in the village, were very, very nervous, and rightly so. Two gay men went missing and the circumstances around their disappearances were very suspect and so people were speculating about what had happened to these two guys,” Helen Kennedy, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Egale, told the National Post. She said there is relief in the community after months of fear. “I think that we had every right to be afraid and nervous, but at the same time, the police need time to do their work.”
Police have not said how many other victims they believe there could be.
“We can’t give any numbers, but really this meeting is to provide an opportunity for the public to have an understanding that we are still looking for evidence, that the investigation has not stopped. It has just begun, it is very new, and there may be some people out there who have some evidence that they may feel is not relevant, when in fact it could be. So hopefully with this awareness piece it is an opportunity for us to put the pieces together that are missing, and give us an opportunity to have more clarity,” Police Chief Mark Saunders said at a press conference.
“At this stage we are most concerned with identifying other victims of Mr. McArthur,” Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga said. “We do have some evidence which leads us to believe there are further victims that we aren’t able at this time to identify those victims based on the evidence we have. It’s a work in progress, we hope to get there. We are aware of the other missing men from the village, we’re trying to identify whether they have become victims of Mr. McArthur as well.”
5. McArthur Is Scheduled to Appear in Court Friday Morning, While Police Are Asking for Tips From the Public as They Continue Investigating
Bruce McArthur has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen.
“He is scheduled to appear in court at College Park on Friday, January 19, 2018, 10 a.m., room 501,” police said.
McArthur’s arrest does not mean the investigation is over, police said. They are still looking for information that could lead to other murders he is possibly connected to. But his arrest has also brought some relief to the LGBTQ community in Toronto, which has feared there was a serial killer on the loose, and also believed that police were downplaying the case.
“I think many of us in the LGBT community are experiencing an ongoing disappointment with the Toronto Police Services,” Michael Erickson, the lead owner of the Glad Day Bookshop, told the Toronto Star on Thursday. “It didn’t feel like a lot these cases were being taken as seriously or that the response wasn’t as swift or as quick as it could have been has been disappointing.”
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said at Thursday’s press conference that he wanted to give a “special thanks” to the people of the Church and Wellesley community. He said they gave police “the opportunity to conduct a thorough investigation. It was their level of cooperation and information sharing that has allowed us to reach this conclusion.”
He said, “One of our roles is to listen to the community. And this a classic example of that. It was through the community continuously talking to us and making us aware, it gave us greater focus and as a result of that, and listen I don’t like this outcome by any stretch of the imagination, the loss of life is something that saddens me, but I will say I do believe the community is directly for enhancing community safety as a result of this investigation has concluded. It is ongoing, but it has concluded in the sense the allegations are that we have apprehended someone who has done tremendous harm to the city.”
Saunders said the investigation is still in the early stages and police cannot not answer every question about it.
“Investigators are asking for the continued assistance of the public in this investigation,” Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga said. “Anyone with any information, no matter how small, is asked to contact the Project team at it’s dedicated line, 416-808-2021, or anonymously through CrimeStoppers.”
Police said in a press release, CrimeStoppers can be called “anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637). Download the free Crime Stoppers Mobile App on iTunes, Google Play or Blackberry App World.”