The Bruce McArthur serial murder case: By the numbers

Between tips, cold cases and the charges against Bruce McArthur, 66, of Toronto, the already sprawling investigation into the retired landscaper continues to grow. Here's a look at the case by the numbers.

As the investigation into an alleged killer continues, an already sprawling case grows even more complex

Bruce McArthur, a retired landscaper from Toronto, has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. Police are piecing together tips, searching properties and working to identify remains in the case. (Pam Davies)

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  • Toronto police say they've now identified the dead man they released an image of.

With a seventh murder charge laid against accused serial killer Bruce McArthur on Wednesday, the sprawling probe grew larger as police announced they'll revisit more than a dozen cold cases dating back to 1975, with the number of properties to be searched more than doubling.

That news was the first update by Toronto police since March, when lead investigator Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga took the rare step of releasing a photo of an unidentified deceased man, believed to be another victim.

On Wednesday, that man remained unidentified. But in the time since releasing his photo, police revealed, they've received hundreds of tips about just who he might have been.

Here is a look at where the McArthur case stands now — by the numbers:

7 charges of 1st-degree murder

In a Toronto courtroom Wednesday came news that McArthur was now charged in the death of Abdulbasir Faizi, who was reported missing to Peel Regional Police in 2010, his car last seen west of Toronto's Bayview Avenue — just minutes away from the Mallory Crescent home that has become the epicentre of the investigation.

The other charges relate to the deaths of Soroush Mahmudi, 50, Andrew Kinsman, 49, Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Selim Esen, 44, Dean Lisowick, 47, and Majeed Kayhan, 58. None of the charges against McArthur has been tested in court.
Victims in the alleged serial killer case are: Top row, from left to right, Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Andrew Kinsman, 49, Selim Esen, 44, and Abdulbasir Faizi, 44. Bottom row, from left to right: Dean Lisowick, 47, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Majeed Kayhan, 58. (CBC/Toronto Police Service)

15 cold cases

Police say they are now investigating 15 cold cases between 1975 and 1997, the period when 14 gay men were brutally killed in Toronto. Half of those cases remain unsolved.

McArthur would have been in his 20s at the time, an age most serial killers begin committing their crimes. While there is currently no evidence to connect the cases to McArthur, Idsinga has said he "wouldn't be surprised" if he is linked to more killings. 

Yonge Street in the 1970s was a hub of activity in downtown Toronto, dotted with bars, theatres and restaurants. Investigators in the McArthur case are revisiting more than a dozen cold cases dating back to 1975. (City of Toronto Archives)

500 tips on photo of deceased man

Police revealed Wednesday they've received some 500 tips since releasing a photo of an unidentified man — a step Idsinga described last month as a "last resort." 

Those tips yielded over 70 possible identities that investigators have worked to narrow down to 22. Investigators have now released an enhanced version of the photo to help zero in on the man's identity made available with the help of community activist Nicki Ward. 

Idsinga also said police are following up with some international agencies in relation to the man's photo.

75 properties to be searched

Thanks in part to the volume of tips they've received from the public since McArthur's January arrest, the list of properties that police intend to search has grown from 30 to 75. That includes McArthur's own apartment in the Thorncliffe neighbourhood, which Idsinga says will take at least another two or three weeks to finish combing through.

"They are literally going through that apartment inch by inch. Floors, ceilings, walls dresser drawers, literally inch by inch," lead investigator Idsinga said, turning up a long list of exhibits that will be forensically tested. 

"We've quite frankly never seen anything like it."
A restrained man was found inside McArthur's apartment in January, when officers forcibly entered the apartment to arrest the 66-year-old. (CBC)

More than 20 planters searched

Police revealed Wednesday they have finished going through the more than 20 garden planters seized from the Mallory Crescent home and various other locations across the city. In those planters, police discovered seven sets of human remains, they said in March.

Now, Idsinga says he won't definitively say there are only seven sets of remains — only that investigators have at least seven. One set remains to be identified.
Forensic investigators discovered dismembered remains in the bottoms of large planters after searching a property at Mallory Crescent in midtown Toronto linked to McArthur. (CBC)

All 3 Project Houston victims accounted for

Before there was Project Prism, there was Project Houston, set up in 2012 by police to investigate the disappearances of three men of colour with ties to Toronto's Gay Village. Those men included Kayhan, Navaratnam and Faizi — all disappeared between 2010 and 2012, and are now alleged by police to be victims of McArthur.

Houston led nowhere. The probe closed some 18 months after it opened with none of the cases resolved. But with charges now laid in all three cases, Idsinga said Wednesday the investigators involved with that project feel a sense of closure.
Toronto police are following a serial killer's trail of murder, but it has now been two weeks since their last update. That's due in part to the weather — freezing temperatures have made it difficult for investigators to properly search for clues. With warmer weather in the near future, police are hopeful of unearthing more evidence. For The National Documentary, Ioanna Roumeliotis puts together what we know about the case so far, the suspect, and the trail of evidence surrounding Toronto's chilling murder investigation. Correction: A previous version of this story used an image that misidentified Bruce McArthur. 11:33

3 different forensic techniques

Over the past few months, investigators have had the intricate task of establishing victims' identities through the dismembered remains. That's involved relying on fingerprints, dental records and DNA. Linking one part of a body to another part requires DNA. And as investigators move to speak with detectives from decades-old cold cases, DNA will become key. That's because DNA testing didn't exist in the '70s.

Forensic anthropologist Kathy Gruspier told CBC News that the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service maintains a database of all unidentified bodies in the province going back 50 years. One of her key aims has been to re-examine them to identify those who died before DNA testing became possible, something she says can be quite successful.

"Our biggest problem is information on missing people, because first of all if we don't know that someone is missing, we have nowhere to begin," Gruspier said. "These are truly unidentified people."
Dr. Michael Pollanen is Ontario's deputy chief coroner and is responsible for co-leading the province's death investigation system. Dr. Kathy Gruspier works alongside forensic pathologists and coroners in specific death investigations and is Canada’s only full-time forensic anthropologist. (Yanjun Li/CBC)