Toronto

Family of Bruce McArthur's latest alleged victim thought he was in hiding, after refugee status rejected

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam's family in Sri Lanka did not report him missing because they thought he was in hiding after the Canadian government rejected his refugee application.

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam's mother and cousin in Sri Lanka last spoke to him in August 2015

The last time Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam's family heard from him was in August 2015. Toronto police announced this week that they believe Kanagaratnam was killed by alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur. (Suthakaran Thanigasalam)

The Sri Lankan family of Bruce McArthur's latest alleged victim did not report him missing because they thought he was in hiding after the Canadian government rejected his refugee application.

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37, came to Canada in 2010 as one of 492 Sri Lankans seeking asylum aboard the MV Sun Sea.

McArthur, 66, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kanagaratnam, on Monday. The alleged serial killer is already facing first-degree murder charges in connection with the deaths of seven other men, all of whom had ties to Toronto's Gay Village.

In an emotional interview in Tamil, Kanagaratnam's mother and cousin told CBC Toronto the family has been reeling from the news since a cousin in the Greater Toronto Area phoned to tell them of Kanagaratnam's death on Friday.

"We've been looking for him for two years," said Suthakaran Thanigasalam, Kanagaratnam's cousin.

"We need to know what happened to him. Why did it happen? We need to know when he died."

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam's mother, Santhanaladchumy Kanagaratnam, left, and cousin, Suthakaran Thanigasalam, right, talk to a CBC reporter from Sri Lanka. (Viber)

In December, a family member wrote a Facebook post looking for Kanagaratnam who they said was living in Canada.

Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga confirmed police have seen the post. But he would not comment on what police think happened to Kanagaratnam, only that investigators have evidence linking him to Toronto as late as 2014. 

We need to know what happened to him. Why did it happen? We need to know when he died.- Suthakaran Thanigasalam, victim's cousin

Police previously released a photo of Kanagaratnam, deceased, a move Idsinga described as a "last resort" to figure out who he was.

Thanigasalam, and Kanagaratnam's mother, Santhanaladchumy Kanagaratnam, say the family knew he was in Toronto and last spoke to him in late August 2015.

Daily calls stop coming

The two say Kanagaratnam used to phone daily, but then the calls stopped coming and when they tried to call him his phone wasn't working.

"That's when we started to worry," said Thanigasalam. "I called everybody here and asked if they had a contact for him … I don't know who to ask, who to talk to, I don't know anything."

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam and his mother Santhanaladchumy Kanagaratnam. She says her son 'didn't have any bad habits.' (Suthakaran Thanigasalam)

At a news conference on Monday, Idsinga said he believes Kanagaratnam was killed between early September and mid-December 2015.

Police 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.

The remains of at least seven men, including Kanagaratnam, were found on the property.

On Tuesday, Idsinga said investigators still plan to search nearly 100 other properties once the ground thaws, including some with planters.

Thanigasalam said the family never tried to file a missing person's report because they were scared Kanagaratnam would be caught by the Canadian government and sent back to Sri Lanka.

Brother fatally shot in Sri Lanka

"His brother was shot and killed, so there's no one to look after his mother," Thanigasalam told CBC Toronto. "He's the only responsible one. He has no choice, he has to look after his family, that's why he came to Canada."

The cousin said Kanagaratnam was the fourth of six children in his family. His youngest brother was killed in 2007 during the armed conflict between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil fighters.

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam was the fourth of six children in his family. (Suthakaran Thanigasalam)

Unlike many of McArthur's other alleged victims, police have no evidence linking Kanagaratnam to the Gay Village. Police are still trying to figure out how he met McArthur.

The victim's mother and cousin told CBC Toronto he never told them about any friends he might have in Canada, and they have no idea how he might have known McArthur.

Kanagaratnam sent money home

Kanagaratnam's mother said he "didn't have any bad habits" and used to send money home from Canada. At one point when he didn't have a job, she said he found work moving furniture for people.

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam's father, Naranapillai Kanagaratnam (left), and mother, Santhanaladchumy Kanagaratnam (right), stand next to a memorial they setup for their son in their home in Sri Lanka. (Murugavel Sivapragasam)

Since they last heard from Kanagaratnam, Thanigasalam said the family in Sri Lanka has been struggling.

"His mother she had a small street stall," said Thanigasalam. "For two years that's how she survived."

I'm just in sadness without knowing what's going on.- Santhanaladchumy Kanagaratnam, victim's mother

Now the family is left wondering when Kanagaratnam's body will be coming home.

Police told CBC Toronto there's no timeline for when any of the victims families will get the remains of their loved ones back. The decision is up to the coroner's office.

"I'm just in sadness without knowing what's going on," said Kanagaratnam's mother, through tears.

"Where is my baby?"

About the Author

Nicole Brockbank

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nicole Brockbank is a reporter for CBC Toronto's Enterprise Unit. Fuelled by coffee, she digs up, researches and writes original investigative and feature stories. nicole.brockbank@cbc.ca

With files from Natasha MacDonald-Dupuis