U of C serial killer expert says there may be more Bruce McArthur victims

A University of Calgary psychology instructor researching serial killers says it would not shock her if, down the road, we learn that Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur murdered more than the eight people he has taken responsibility for.

Sasha Reid's research goes deeper with hundreds of variables on more than 6,000 killers

Sasha Reid is in the spotlight right now for a database she built that captures developmental variables, 645 of them, of more than 6,000 serial killers. (Riley Brandt/University of Calgary)

A University of Calgary psychology instructor researching serial killers says it would not shock her if, down the road, we learn that Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur murdered more than the eight people he has taken responsibility for.

"I've done kind of a developmental profile of Bruce. I've gone into his past and looked at his entire development from essentially conception until the time he was arrested. It is possible that there are more," Sasha Reid told The Homestretch on Tuesday.

"There is no evidence linking any other people to him, but it wouldn't be a surprise if we saw that he maybe started way earlier than we believe right now."

Reid is in the spotlight currently for a database she built that captures developmental variables, 645 of them, of more than 6,000 serial killers.

She's also compiled a missing persons database, and the two sometimes work together.

"It's been a journey. We reach out to RCMP, file freedom of information requests. We get in contact with investigators, psychologists. Whatever you can possibly think of, that's where I will go," Reid said of the killer database.

"It consists of as many possible factors on development that you could possibly consider — whether or not a serial killer was abused, who abused them, what age did it start, what type of abuse?"

The topic, monsters and people who do monstrous things, was of great interest to Reid early on.

"I was always interested in deviance and abnormality. I believed in witches and werewolves. I was fascinated at the concept that such evil could exist," she said.

"When I grew up, I realized monsters aren't real, but they kind of are, in a sense. People can do monstrous things. My interest gravitated toward people who are 'monstrous' and it's gone from there."

Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty to killing these eight men. Top row, from left to right: Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen and Abdulbasir Faizi. Bottom row, from left to right: Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi and Majeed Kayhan. (John Fraser/CBC)

The 645 variables in her database span from the killer's conception to death, looking at every tiny piece of data she could find.

"What was going on in the parents' background prior to conception? Were they in a house with lead-based paint? Was the father an alcoholic? Was mom doing drugs or drinking during the pregnancy? Then we look at the childhood. Were they born with any abnormalities? Were there birthing complications? Maybe an umbilical cord wrapped around their necks? Was it a breech birth?," Reid said.

Her database goes beyond the research that came before it by bringing in the voice of the killer, where possible, adding qualitative data from diaries, home videos and first-person interviews.

"There was a very complicated series of accumulated risk factors at play that led them down this path, to an expression of deep, maladjusted psychopathology. This begins in early childhood," she said.

"It's important to learn what happened."

Part of upcoming Netflix series

The University of Calgary sessional instructor and PhD candidate in developmental psychology from the University of Toronto has contributed to the Netflix series, Manhunt: Unabomber.

"It's looking at Ted Kaczynski before he was the Unabomber," Reid said.

"The series tries to look at the individual as they truly are, without the stigma, without the label of monster. What I do is try to go into his background, his childhood, his writings, and show you, 'This is who he is, this is how he thinks and this is how he became who he eventually became."

A psychology professor at the University of Calgary will be featured in a Netflix documentary series on The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Sasha Reid is compiling what could become the most comprehensive serial killer database in the world. She has researched more than 6,000 serial killers, including Bruce McArthur. He was a landscaper, who pleaded guilty to eight counts of first degree murder in Toronto last month. Sasha Reid joined host Doug Dirks on the line. 8:07

With files from The Homestretch.

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