Grisly portrait of McArthur's crimes emerges at sentencing hearing

Bruce McArthur posed the bodies of his victims for photos and kept souvenirs from them — eight men with ties to Toronto's gay community, the Crown attorney told court on the first day of the serial killer's sentencing hearing.

Warning: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers

Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty Jan. 29 in a Toronto court to eight counts of first-degree murder. His sentencing hearing began Monday in Ontario Superior Court. (Pam Davies/CBC)

The first day of Bruce McArthur's sentencing hearing in Toronto revealed nightmarish new details about how the self-employed landscaper killed his eight victims. 

The hearing, which began Monday morning and is expected to last three days, comes just days after the 67-year-old pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder.

While Crown attorney Michael Cantlon read the agreed statement of facts to a silent courtroom, a gaunt McArthur stared straight ahead.  

"For years, members of the LGBTQ community in Toronto believed they were being targeted by a killer," Cantlon began. "They were right." 

He then read a detailed account into what police uncovered in their investigation of McArthur, telling the court that police found most of the murders were facilitated under the pretext of sex.

Cantlon said there is evidence victims were restrained and sexually assaulted, and McArthur would frequently pose and photograph them after they had been killed. 

As he described the photographs and named each victim, Cantlon became visibly emotional. 

He also offered the first glimpse of McArthur's thoughts on his crimes, saying the landscaper's decision to waive a preliminary hearing was evidence of "some remorse" on his part and his assistance helped resolve the case quickly. 

As part of the sentencing hearing, families and friends also submitted victim impact statements, some of which were read aloud in court after the agreed statement of facts. The remaining statements will be read in court on Tuesday.

'Staged' photos and souvenirs

Photographs of seven victims were found on McArthur's digital devices.  

Reading from the agreed statement of facts, Cantlon told the court that six victims were photographed after their deaths, having been "staged," typically with ropes around their necks, some with signs of strangulation.

In some of the photographs, the men's heads were shaved; in others, he posed them in a fur coat or fur hat.  

Police found 31 photographs of Skandaraj Navaratnam, McArthur's first victim, including an image of a missing-persons poster showing Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan.

Bruce McArthur admitted 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)

They also found Navaratnam's bracelet, engraved with Skanda, Navaratnam's nickname, in McArthur's bedroom.

McArthur also kept other souvenirs, including other jewelry, a journal and bags of hair. 

There were 18 photographs of Andrew Kinsman, McArthur's final victim, including some with the murder weapon — a piece of rope with a metal bar attached — around his neck. McArthur had also shaved his head. 

Photos of Soroush Mahmudi, Majeed Kayhan, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam and Dean Lisowick that were taken after they were killed were also found.

It appears McArthur didn't know Kanagaratnam's or Mahmudi's names: the folders containing their photos didn't name them. He also told police he did not know Selim Esen's name. 

It was also revealed that McArthur had tried to delete the photographs of his victims, but they were recovered through forensic analysis.

McArthur arrested for assault in 2016

More light was also shed on McArthur's contact with police in the years before he was arrested in January 2018 in the deaths of Esen and Kinsman.

CBC has previously reported on McArthur's 2003 assault conviction. 

On Monday, the statement of facts revealed McArthur was arrested but not charged for assault in June 2016. Cantlon referred to the assault as an "attempted choking." 

He said a man who had known McArthur for years was lying down on a fur coat in the back of McArthur's van when McArthur began choking him.

The man was able to escape and called 911.

McArthur went to the police and said the incident was consensual. He was let go, as police believed his story was credible. 

The 2016 incident is likely connected to the case of Paul Gauthier, a Toronto police officer who will appear before a tribunal on Tuesday for misconduct in connection with the McArthur case.

Logistics and locations

The statement of facts also filled in details about how McArthur met his victims and where he killed them — mostly in his bedroom.

In the case of Esen, McArthur told police he befriended him on the street and took him home, where they had sex. 

Photos of Esen when he was deceased were later found on McArthur's digital devices. Like others, he had been posed in a fur coat with a rope around his neck, both in McArthur's room and in his van.

Kayhan was employed by McArthur at his landscaping business for a month, and according to McArthur, the two had a sexual relationship.

Faizi, whose abandoned car was found a short drive from the home where his remains were discovered, was killed at the home McArthur was house-sitting on Moore Avenue. No photographs of Faizi were recovered. 

In efforts to avoid detection, McArthur dismembered and buried all his victims in planters or in a nearby ravine at the Toronto home of one of his landscaping clients. 

The couple who owned the home also owned a cottage where they would spend weekends. During that time, McArthur was allowed unfettered access to the property and had his own set of keys. 

About the Author

Kate McGillivray is a writer and newsreader in Toronto. She's worked for the CBC in Montreal, Sherbrooke and St. John's, and she always wants to hear your feedback and story ideas. Get in touch here:

With files from CBC's Nicole Brockbank, Julia Whalen and Mark Gollom