Canadian police arrested five people on murder charges Monday and said that eight men found dead inside cars parked on an isolated farm were affiliated with a biker gang.
Police called the killings "an internal cleansing" of the Bandidos motorcycle gang and said the eight victims were killed by gun shots. The eight bodies were found Saturday, two-story farmhouse about six miles from where the bodies were found in four vehicles Saturday morning.
The gangland-style killings are the biggest mass murder in Canada since spurned husband Mark Chahal went on a shooting rampage in Vernon, British Columbia, killing nine people, including his estranged wife and himself in 1996.
Police named Wayne Kellestine, 56, as a "full-patch" member of the Bandidos and said he would be charged with eight counts of first-degree murder. Also arrested at his farmhouse were Eric Niessen, 45; Kerry Morris, 56; Frank Mather, 32; and Brett Gardiner, 21. All were either from Moncton, Ontario, or Dutton-Dunwich Township, although Gardiner had no fixed address, police said.
The victims — all designated either as "full-patch" or associated members of the gang — were George Jesso, 52; George Kriarakis, 28; John Muscedere, 48; Luis Manny Raposo, 41; Francesco Salerajno, 43; Paul Sinopoli, 30; and Michael Trotta, 31. Jamie Flanz, 37, was named by police as a "prospective" member. All the men were from Ontario.
Police showed the media two black leather Bandidos vests — with an image of a bandit wearing a sombrero and holding a handgun — to spread the word that people should be cautious if they came across bikers wearing the garb.
"It should be noted that these men are criminals," Ontario Police Detective Don Bell said. "They are not the motorcycle enthusiasts they portray themselves to be."
Toronto-based organized crime expert Antonio Nicaso told The Associated Press that he learned from a reliable source that three members of the Bandidos have been missing since Friday. He said there were 12 members in the group.
Nicaso said the Bandidos were not that big or influential in Canada, but they are the major competitor of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in the United States.
"If it is confirmed that the eight bodies were all members of the Bandidos you could say that someone decided to erase the Bandidos from the biker map," Nicaso said.
He said all messages of condolences had been taken off the Bandidos Web site, leading him to speculate that the murders may have been an inside job by club members.
The eight victims knew each other and were all from the Toronto area, police have said.
The rural area where the bodies were found has had problems with motorcycle gangs in the past, but is generally considered low-crime compared with other parts of Canada, in particular Quebec, where biker violence is more common.
"This is how they deal with disputes. They don't go to court.
They don't print snotty lawyers' letters. This is what happens," law enforcement consultant Chris Mathers told the AP.
"It is shocking for it to happen all at one time," Mathers said. "The fact that they were all killed at one time is significant. ... It certainly sends a message."
Mathers, a former undercover Royal Canadian Police officer who now runs a consulting firm in Toronto, said the Bandidos and the Hells Angels have absorbed other biker groups in Canada over the year and he doubted there would be retaliation.
"It's probably hard to retaliate when most of your membership has been decimated," Mathers said.
Police found the bodies after a call from the property owner, who police said they did not consider a suspect. Mary and Russell Steele told Global News that the vehicles were not there when they took the road home the night before.
They said they called police Saturday morning after looking inside one of the vehicles and not being able to see anything because of a blanket covering the back window.