'Humanity came before everything else': Selim Esen remembered in first family statement
'As a gay person, Selim wasn't happy living in Turkey,' Esen's brothers say in new statement
Brothers of a man allegedly murdered by Bruce McArthur issued a rare statement on Friday, saying that Selim Esen "thought, believed, felt and lived free as a bird, beyond any borders and any boundaries."
The one-page homage offers one of the clearest glimpses yet into the life of a man who has remained largely unknown amid countless headlines about McArthur, an alleged serial killer.
"As Selim's brothers we find it hard to come to terms with our youngest brother's death," Omer Esen and Ferhat Cinar said in the statement.
"He had things to do, friends to make, flowers to grow in hearts, life to share!"
The pair from the U.K. attended a morning court hearing for McArthur, a former landscaper accused of killing eight men with ties to the city's Gay Village.
Esen was last seen alive on the evening of April 15, 2017, in the area of Bloor Street East and Ted Rogers Way. He was 44 years old.
According to his brothers, Esen was born in Istanbul and grew up in Ankara, where he worked to help supplement his family's income while earning a university degree.
"As a gay person, Selim wasn't happy living in Turkey," the statement explains.
Esen spent several years in Australia before he made his way to Canada in 2013. His brothers say he made the trip with the intent of marrying a boyfriend, which he eventually did, though the relationship did not last.
"He was very friendly, kind hearted, open, independent-minded and curious, passionate about learning new things, gardening, exploring new places and meeting new people," his brothers said.
"His tender and kind humanity came before everything else."
He also faced challenges. The Globe and Mail reported that Esen struggled with substance abuse, a problem that followed him in his new life in Toronto.
Notably, the statement also said that his family "has more questions than answers" and echoes the criticisms some in the LGBT community have levelled at Toronto police in the wake of McArthur's arrest.
"It is deeply worrying to see that it took years for the authorities to act upon the cases of missing persons reports," it said.
Critics of police handling of the case, and those that preceded it, allege that investigators downplayed concerns within the community that multiple disappearances were connected. Another of McArthur's alleged victims, Skandaraj Navaratnam, was reported missing as early as 2010.
In the statement, Esen's brothers thank those within the city's LGBT community who have pushed for a review of how police address missing persons reports.
"Lastly, we hope that the memory of our beloved brother Selim Esen raises the spirit of friendship, kindness, solidarity, equality, respect and love that goes beyond boundaries of nationality, ethnicity, gender, sex and colour of skin."