Judge sentences Canadian serial killer to life in prison

In this artist's sketch, serial killer Bruce McArthur, center, attends his sentencing hearing in Toronto on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. McArthur staged photos of some of his victims after they died, posing corpses in fur coats and cigars in their mouths, a prosecutor said Monday as the sentencing hearing began for the former gardener who preyed on men from Toronto's Gay Village district. (Alexandra Newbould/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO — A Canadian judge handed down a sentence for serial killer Bruce McArthur on Friday, condemning him to life in prison with no chance for parole for 25 years.

McArthur pleaded guilty last week to eight counts of first-degree murder. The 67-year-old former landscaper sexually assaulted, killed and dismembered men he met in Toronto's Gay Village district over seven years.

Justice John McMahon called McArthur a sexual predator who killed for his own "warped sick gratification" and said the victims suffered slow and painful deaths. He called their dismemberments pure evil, but said the guilty plea spared a jury four months of graphic and gruesome evidence that would have likely required counseling after.

McMahon said that even if McArthur lives to 91, the chances of him getting parole are remote at best. Prosecutor Craig Harper had asked for a parole ineligibility period of 50 years, when McArthur would have been 116. The judge said that would've only been symbolic.

"All or most of the victims were vulnerable individuals who were lured to their death," McMahon said. "The accused exploited his victims' vulnerabilities, whether they involved immigration concerns, mental health challenges, or people living a secretive double life."

The victims fit a pattern: Most were of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and lived on the margins of Canadian society. Their disappearances attracted little attention.

One victim hid the fact that he was gay from his Muslim family. Another was a recent immigrant with a drug problem. A third was a refugee who was ordered deported. And still another victim was homeless, smoked crack cocaine and worked as a prostitute.

But then Andrew Kinsman vanished. The 49-year-old LGBQT activist and former bartender had many friends. When he suddenly went missing the day after Toronto's gay pride parade, his friends noticed quickly, and so did the police. Investigators found Kinsman's calendar with an entry titled "Bruce" dated June 26, 2017 — the day he disappeared. 

"Mr. Kinsman making that notation gave the police the key clue that helped bring the accused to justice," McMahon said.

Kinsman was last seen on a surveillance video getting into a red van that was later linked to McArthur. Kinsman's blood and DNA were found in the van, which McArthur had sold to a junk yard.

"McArthur made a mistake when he killed Andrew Kinsman. Andrew Kinsman was not quite in the same profile as a lot of the other victims and it definitely left a trail," Police Insp. Hank Idsinga said.

Police found a naked man handcuffed to the bed when they raided McArthur's home and arrested him on Jan. 18, 2018. Police surveilling McArthur moved in after they saw him bring that man up to his home. The man, who survived, was identified only as Middle Eastern and named "John."

Investigators found McArthur had a USB drive that contained a directory with nine subfolders — eight for the men he killed and one for the man found at the time of McArthur's arrest.

"I have no hesitation in concluding that if it were not for the police intervention on Jan. 18, 2018, John would have been the ninth victim of Mr. McArthur," McMahon said.

Investigators discovered dismembered remains in planters McArthur used as storage for his business. He also staged photos of some of his victims after they died, posing corpses in fur coats and putting cigars in their mouths.

McArthur pleaded guilty to killing Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam. Police said most of the disappearances weren't reported for 10 to 15 days.

The prosecution said that a frequent site of the killings was McArthur's bedroom and that he repeatedly strangled his victims either with his hands or with rope and a metal bar.

The killings took place from 2010 to 2017. Many of Toronto's LGBQT community said for years a serial killer was at work, but Toronto Police Chief Marc Saunders said in late 2017 there was no evidence of that. Saunders vowed Friday to rebuild trust with the LGBQT community.

Criminal experts say it is unusual for someone to become a serial killer later in life, but the prosecution said that nothing suggested the existence of earlier murders.

Idsinga said they are still looking at many cold cases to see if there is a link to McArthur but said they are close to wrapping that up.

"So far, we have no evidence to link Mr. McArthur to any of those cases," Hdsinga said.

"Based on the evidence we have, the first individual that he killed was Skandaraj Navaratnam in 2010."

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