Toronto police now open to any possible links between Bruce McArthur and earlier disappearances

More than a decade before he was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two Toronto men, Bruce McArthur was ordered to provide a DNA sample in connection with two separate counts of assault.

McArthur was required to provide DNA in 2003 in connection with two separate assault charges

A frequent visitor to Toronto's Gay Village, 66-year-old Bruce McArthur is charged in the killing of two men and police believe there may be more victims. (Bruce McArthur/Facebook)

Investigators looking into the suspected murders of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman, two men who vanished steps away from Toronto's Gay Village, say they are now open to any possible links that Bruce McArthur may have with a spate of earlier disappearances.

Last week, McArthur, 66, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the disappearances of Kinsman and Esen. 

On Tuesday, Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray confirmed to CBC Toronto that while McArthur was not a suspect for investigators working on the investigation into those earlier disappearances — dubbed Project Houston — back in 2012, police are not ruling out any ties the cases may have to him. 

One of those men was Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, known to many as "Skanda," who was last seen leaving a nightclub in September 2010. On Tuesday, CBC News reported that Navaratnam was romantically involved with McArthur, and that the pair met as early as 1999.

Three months after Navaratnam vanished, another man, Abdulbasir Faizi, 44, disappeared from a location just blocks away. Then, in October 2012, Majeed Kayhan, 58, was reported missing as well, last seen in the Gay Village.

Renewed fears

On Tuesday, Faizi's nephew told CBC News that it wasn't until Faizi disappeared that his Afghan family, which he described as "conservative," learned about his involvement in the gay community.

Bobac Faizi was about 16 when his uncle went missing. Hearing now about the case against McArthur renews his fears about what may have happened to his uncle, he said.

"He was a good person and I would love to have information on what happened," Faizi said.
Bruce McArther, 66, has been arrested and charged with the first-degree murders of Andrew Kinsman, left, and Selim Esen. (Canadian Press)

The disappearances of Kinsman and Esen sparked rampant concern among many in the community that a serial killer may be at large — something police had earlier dismissed, saying there was no evidence of such a possibility. 

The charges against McArthur have not been proven and the men's bodies have not been found.

Role of DNA sample unclear 

At a news conference held last week announcing the charges against him, homicide Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga told reporters police believe there are other victims.

Now, CBC News has learned that more than a decade earlier, the 66-year-old was ordered by a judge to provide DNA after he was found guilty of two separate charges of assault.

On April 11, 2003, McArthur was handed a sentence of 729 days (or two years less a day) for assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon.

The sentence was a conditional one, meaning that McArthur would served his time in the community rather than behind bars.

In addition to the DNA sample, he was subject to a 10-year weapons prohibition, the Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed to CBC News.

A further charge of carrying a concealed weapon was withdrawn at the time, a spokesperson said, but details on exactly what type of weapon was used were not immediately available.

But what role the DNA collected in 2003 might play in the two murder investigations remains unclear.

'Nothing about him said he was killing'

"Any previous investigation with regards to McArthur is not something that we will confirm or comment on," Toronto police media relations specialist Katrina Arrogante told CBC News.
All three men went missing between 2010 and 2012, prompting the creation of Project Houston. From left: Abdulbasir Faizi, Majeed Kayhan, and Skandaraj Navaratnam. (Toronto Police)

Arrogante did, however, confirm a fourth Toronto-area location was searched as part of the police investigation.  and that they had secured five properties — one in the community of Madoc, Ont. and four others in the Toronto area.

On Tuesday evening, police confirmed one of those properties is located on Concorde Place in the city's northeast end. In the days since the investigation, forensic investigators have been seen at a home on Conlins Road in Scarborough, Ont., a home on Mallory Crescent in the Leaside neighbourhood and McArthur's Thorncliffe Park high-rise apartment.

The Concorde Place, Scarborough and Madoc properties have been released, police confirm.

Chantal Smith lived in the Thorncliffe building for 15 years, just a few floors above McArthur's unit. She and her husband often found themselves sharing the elevator with McArthur on the way to work and on weekends.

McArthur, Smith said, could often be seen carrying trays of baked goods and "beautifully decorated" cupcakes.

"Nothing about him said he was killing innocent men," said Smith, who moved out of the building last June.

In the days following his charges, Smith says she's racked her brain to try to recall what might have been warning signs.

"I've tried to think of anything I could have seen but he was just someone I saw that lived in the same building."

When CBC News phoned the home of McArthur's sister, Sandra Burton, Tuesday evening, a man at the home answered "no comment," after a CBC reporter identified herself as a journalist.

McArthur is expected back in court on Feb. 14.

About the Author

Shanifa Nasser

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shanifa Nasser is a journalist at CBC News interested in national security, immigration and stories with a heartbeat. Before coming to CBC News, she completed the Munk Fellowship in Global Journalism at the University of Toronto. She also holds a Master's degree in Islamic Studies. Reach her at: shanifa.nasser@cbc.ca

With files from Natasha MacDonald Dupuis