Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur's latest victim came to Canada on MV Sun Sea to 'protect his life'
Police believe Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37, was killed in late 2015
Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam came to Canada on the MV Sun Sea in 2010 to "protect his life," according to a Toronto man who was on the cargo ship with him — but instead Kanagaratnam ended up dead.
Bruce McArthur was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kanagaratnam, 37, this morning. The alleged serial killer is already facing first-degree murder charges in connection with the deaths of seven other men.
At a news conference, Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the lead investigator in the case, said Kanagaratnam's remains were found in a garden planter at a home on Mallory Crescent, in northeast Toronto, where McArthur worked as a landscaper.
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"I'm really sorry about him," T. Pranavan told CBC News. "When we were in Sri Lanka, we feel our lives were gone so that's why we came to Canada — to save our lives."
Pranavan and Kanagaratnam were two of 492 Sri Lankan asylum seekers brought to shore off the B.C. coast in August 2010 after a three-month journey from Thailand.
The passengers claimed refugee status due to the armed conflict between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil fighters, but were detained on suspicion that some of them had links to the Tamil Tigers terrorist organization.
When we were in Sri Lanka, we feel our lives were gone so that's why we came to Canada — to save our lives.- T. Pranavan
Gabriel Chand, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer involved in the refugee hearings of those on the cargo ship, told CBC News he met Kanagaratnam, whom he describes as a "nice guy," several times, but did not represent his case.
"He was a soft-spoken guy," he said. "He spoke English relatively well."
While Chand says he sympathized with most asylum seekers who crossed the Pacific Ocean aboard the MV Sun Sea, he remembers feeling "particularly" bad about Kanagaratnam's experience.
"He had a tough life," he said. "Then to have this be his ultimate fate is terrible."
Pranavan said he and Kanagaratnam both lost brothers in the war, and shared their experiences while on the ship. He said they didn't really talk once they got to Canada but he saw a Facebook post about Kanagaratnam last year.
"I saw the pictures on Facebook that relatives are looking for him, so myself I thought maybe he was hiding himself," said Pranavan. "I really feel bad."
Pranavan said he'd thought Kanagaratnam might be hiding because his refugee claim was rejected.
Never reported missing
Kanagaratnam was never reported missing in Toronto, and lived in Scarborough before his death, according to Idsinga.
Police believe he was killed between early September and mid-December 2015.
McArthur is also accused of killing Selim Esen, 44, Abdulbasir Faizi, 44, Majeed Kayhan, 58, Andrew Kinsman, 49, Dean Lisowick, 47, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40.
Investigators identified Kanagaratnam from a photograph. The force took the rare step of releasing an image of Kanagaratnam, deceased. Idsinga described this move as a "last resort" to figure out who he was.
A police source previously told CBC Toronto that the image came from a cache of images found on McArthur's computer. Idsinga has refused to confirm that information.
Police announced last week they had identified the man and Idsinga said they spent the weekend working to contact family members, many of whom don't live in the country.
Idsinga said it's unclear how Kanagaratnam came into contact with McArthur, and he has no evidence linking him to the Gay Village, which most of the other victims had ties to.
"He doesn't quite fit the profile that we've seen before," said Idsinga.
Pranavan told CBC News he has "no idea" how Kanagaratnam could have met McArthur, but said life was hard for those who came to Canada on the MV Sun Sea.
"When we enter Canada we hope Canada will give us a bright future," said Pranavan. "But we don't get that much welcome to Canada at that time. We really feel sorry and sad about that."
With files from Ioanna Roumeliotis