TORONTO — Months after dismissing fears about a potential serial killer prowling Toronto’s gay village, police said they arrested a man Thursday who they allege is responsible for the presumed deaths of at least two men who disappeared from the neighborhood.
Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old Toronto landscaper, was charged with first-degree murder in the presumed deaths of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman, both reported missing from the Church and Wellesley streets area at separate times last year, police said.
“We believe he is responsible for the deaths of Mr. Esen and Mr. Kinsman, and we believe he is responsible for the deaths of other men who have yet to be identified,” Toronto Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga said.
“In other words, we believe there are other victims,” he added.
Idsinga would not say who the other victims might be, but said police are aware of other men reported missing from the area. A separate investigation, for instance, has been looking into the disappearance of three men from the same area between 2010 and 2012.
Members of the LGBTQ community were voicing concerns and pushing for answers last year in light of the disappearances of Esen and Kinsman, which were deemed suspicious.
Investigators working on the cases issued public reassurances, saying they had no reason to believe that the two men were dead or that their absence had anything to do with a serial killer or predators targeting men through a dating app. Then in December, police warned people to be careful using dating apps.
Police Chief Mark Saunders defended the Toronto force’s approach when asked about the shift Thursday. “In policing, what we do is we follow the evidence, and what I said at the time, that I said, was accurate at that time,” he said.
Officers investigated McArthur for months but could not make a “definitive link” to the disappearances until Wednesday, Idsinga said.
The men’s bodies have not been found, but police said they were searching five properties — four in Toronto, one in Madoc, Ontario — connected to McArthur, a self-employed landscaper.
Idsinga said police have a “pretty good idea” of how the men died but declined to elaborate.
McArthur had sexual relationships with both men and all three were on dating apps, the sergeant said.
“He did have a relationship with Mr. Kinsman for some time,” Idsinga said. “We don’t know what his exact relationship with Mr. Esen was leading up to the (alleged) murder, whether he had just met him that day or whether he had known him for some time. We just don’t know that yet.”