TORONTO - Serial killer Bruce McArthur murdered eight men from Toronto's gay village for "his own warped and sick gratification," an Ontario judge said Friday as he sentenced the 67-year-old to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The ruling means McArthur will be 91 before he can apply for any form of release, which the judge said he was highly unlikely to receive.
"Although Mr. McArthur has taken responsibility by pleading guilty, there has been no evidence I can see of remorse," said Justice John McMahon. "Mr. McArthur would have no doubt continued to kill if he wasn't caught."
McArthur, a self-employed landscaper, pleaded guilty last week to eight counts of first-degree murder for men he killed between 2010 and 2017.
His victims were Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.
The judge found McArthur strangled all of them and then took photographs of their bodies in various states of undress, keeping the images on his computer and viewing them long after his crimes.
McArthur then dismembered his victims and hid their remains in planters at a Toronto residential property where he stored his landscaping equipment, and in a ravine behind the home.
"Bruce McArthur is a sexual predator and killer who lured his victims on the pretext of consensual sex and he ended up killing them for his own warped and sick gratification," McMahon said. "The ability to decapitate and dismember his victims and do it repeatedly is pure evil."
Parole eligibility was the only question for McMahon to settle as first-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence. The judge said McArthur's age and guilty plea were factors in his decision.
"The accused has saved the family, friends and community at large from enduring a graphic public trial that would have been a nightmare for everyone," he said. "The law is clear: a guilty plea is a mitigating factor. The second factor is the age of accused when he could apply for parole."
The sentence wasn't harsh enough for Nicole Borthwick, who was friends with Kinsman, Lisowick and Esen.
She said the punishment failed to either fit the crime or soothe the wounds of the community impacted by the men's deaths.
"I don't think that's enough comfort for the families or the community or the people that he's killed," Borthwick said outside court. "I think that if you're going to do a maximum crime, you deserve the maximum sentence."
Toronto's police Chief Mark Saunders was satisfied with the sentence, saying McArthur will never see daylight again.
"I do not see him in a public setting ever again," he said. "In this case life will mean life."
Saunders also defended the work of his investigators, who have been criticized for not acting sooner on concerns from the LGBTQ community that a serial killer was responsible for the disappearances of several men from the gay village.
The chief said officers had launched an investigation into the disappearances of McArthur's first three victims, but simply never had enough evidence to proceed further until 2017.
"This was not a case of police didn't think anything was going on," Saunders said. "We knew something stunk and we did everything we could to find it. We just didn't."
Court heard that many of McArthur's victims were immigrants and of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent. Some lived parts of their life in secret because of their sexual orientation. All of them had ties to the city's LGBTQ community.
"This is a crime of stark horror," prosecutor Michael Cantlon said in a statement. "Although there can be no closure from a crime of this magnitude, we hope that these eight convictions for first-degree murder will assist our community in beginning a new chapter of healing."
At a two-day sentencing hearing earlier this week, loved ones of McArthur's victims spoke about the devastation, anger and struggles they experienced as a result of his crimes.
Many said they had long grappled with the disappearance of a son, father, brother or friend only to learn last year that their loved one had been killed.
A friend of Kanagaratnam said the man's family still has many questions that haven't been answered. Kanagaratnam came to Canada aboard the MV Sun Sea after fleeing Sri Lanka in 2010 and went into hiding in 2015 after his refugee claim was rejected, his loved ones said.
"Police have no evidence how he connected with a serial killer — the family still wants to know the how they connected," said Piranavan Thangavel, who came over on the Sun Sea with Kanagaratnam.
Court did not hear details about how Kanagaratnam knew McArthur.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said McArthur's victims should "never be forgotten."
"It is my hope that he will never again know freedom and that this sentence begins the difficult journey of delivering justice to the victims of these crimes, their friends and families, our LGBTQ community, and our entire city," Tory said.
Police are still reviewing a series of cold cases to see if they can find any links to McArthur but have said that so far, they believe he didn't kill anyone else.
— with files from Nicole Thompson and Michelle McQuigge.