Bruce McArthur appears in court to face murder charges in disappearance of 2 men from downtown Toronto

The man accused of first-degree murder in the cases of two men who disappeared from downtown Toronto last year made his first court appearance Friday morning. People from Toronto's LGBT community filled the courtroom during his brief appearance.

The bodies of Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen have yet to be found, police say

Bruce McArthur, 66, has been arrested and is accused of the first-degree murders of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen. (Bruce McArthur/Facebook)

The man facing murder charges in the cases of two men who disappeared from downtown Toronto last year has made his first court appearance. Bruce McArthur, 66, of Toronto has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Investigators presume Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen are dead, police said Thursday. 

A court sketch of Bruce McArthur during his first court appearance over two first-degree murder charges. (Pam Davies)

In a courtroom packed with media and concerned members of Toronto's LGBT community, McArthur took his seat in the prisoner's box shortly after 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday. Wearing a dark blue zippered sweater and sporting a silver goatee, McArthur offered only a neutral expression during his brief appearance.

His lawyer and the Crown agreed to put over his appearance until Feb. 14.

Reactions from community

The court was at standing room only during the appearance, with several people who knew Kinsman watching on.

Arthur Chiu was among the only people in the room who had met McArthur before news of his arrest shocked the LGBT community.

'He is really what I thought he was,' said Arthur Chiu after McArthur's Friday court appearance. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

"He would be very cold. He's a cold person," Chiu said. "Not approachable at all."

Chiu used to date a close friend of McArthur's, he told CBC Toronto. Over years of seeing him in social situations, his discomfort with McArthur never waned.

He described McArthur as "in no way a nice person," and said he was a frequent and heavy drinker.

"He would talk down about people," Chiu added. "Not racist or anything of that sort, more like an I'm-better-than-you kind of thing."

The investigation

The bodies of Kinsman and Esen have yet to be found, but police have a "pretty good idea" of the cause of death, Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga told reporters at police headquarters on Thursday.

"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."

For months, Toronto's LGBT community had expressed concerns that a serial killer might have been responsible for the disappearances, but police did not acknowledge it as a possibility until McArthur's arrest.

In December, police Chief Mark Saunders said there was no proof that that was the case. On Thursday, Saunders explained those words were "accurate at that time."

Kinsman, left, and Esen, right, went missing in June and April last year, respectively. (Toronto Police Service)

"I sort of feel like they should have egg on their face," said Alphonso King, of the investigators. "We as a community expressed our concerns and they sort of dismissed it."

King knew Kinsman through Toronto's People With AIDS Foundation. He also has friends who know McArthur, including some who have vacationed with the accused.

Despite his criticisms of Toronto police, King said he was happy that a suspect has now been arrested.

"I felt relief that they have someone. I hope that they have a good case," he added.

Police searching 5 properties

McArthur, a self-employed landscaper, lives in an apartment in the city's east-side Thorncliffe Park area. Police have been searching five properties connected to McArthur — four in Toronto and one in Madoc, a township in eastern Ontario that is about halfway to Ottawa.

Kinsman, 49, went missing from Toronto's Cabbagetown neighbourhood in June, while Esen, 44, was last seen in the Yonge and Bloor area last April. Both areas are close to the city's Gay Village of Church and Wellesley. 

In August, police established Project Prism to probe their disappearances and share information with investigators on Project Houston, another task force that was looking into the 2012 disappearances of three men from the Church and Wellesley area.

News of the disappearances of Esen and Kinsman also sparked concern among residents in the heart of Toronto's gay community about the safety of online dating.

On Thursday, police said McArthur had been active on several dating apps, as were both missing men. 

Idsinga also revealed that McArthur and Kinsman were involved in a sexual relationship for "some time."

He said police don't know if McArthur had a relationship of any kind with Esen.

He declined to specify how McArthur had met the two men. 

A police forensics van sits outside McArthur's Toronto apartment building. (Talia Ricci/CBC)