Investigation into alleged serial killer McArthur expands as new charge laid

In this artist's sketch, alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur makes an appearance via video in a Toronto courtroom, Wednesday, April 11, 2018. From left, lawyer Samantha Saunders, part of McArthur's defence team, McArthur, Justice Wendy Agnew and Crown Michael Cantlon are shown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould

TORONTO - The already sprawling investigation into alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur has expanded more than 40 years into the past, police said Wednesday as they laid another murder charge in the case.

The 66-year-old self-employed landscaper now faces seven counts of first-degree murder, Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga said, adding that police are still actively working to identify other alleged victims.

McArthur, already accused in the deaths of six men with ties to Toronto's LGBTQ community, was charged Wednesday with killing 42-year-old Abdulbasir Faizi, who vanished from the neighbourhood known as the gay village in late 2010.

Idsinga said the investigation, which he has previously described as unprecedented in size and scope, is now also scrutinizing 15 unsolved homicides that took place between 1975 and 1997. While he said there is no current evidence linking McArthur to the cold cases, he said they fit the general profile of the alleged victims identified to date.

"We may discover cases from the 70s, we may discover that 2010 was the first murder," Idsinga told a news conference. "We just don't know yet."

Faizi was first reported missing to Peel regional police by his family, Idsinga said. His disappearance echoed the pattern found among McArthur's other alleged victims, who all vanished from the gay village between 2010 and 2017.

Idsinga said Faizi's vehicle was eventually located on a residential street less than two kilometres from a home where McArthur once worked as a landscaper and where police allege he buried the bodies of his alleged victims.

At least seven sets of remains, including Faizi's, have been recovered from planters located at the home, police have said.

McArthur was arrested in January and charged with the murders of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen, who both disappeared last year. Later that month, McArthur was charged with the first-degree murder of Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, and Dean Lisowick. In February, he was also charged in the death of Skandaraj Navaratnam.

Idsinga said the remains of all but Kayhan have been identified among those recovered from the planters at the central Toronto home.

Idsinga said police plan to investigate at least 70 more properties where McArthur is believed to have worked, adding that the operation may get underway as early as next month. Police also remain on the scene of McArthur's east-Toronto apartment, calling it an unprecedented investigative scene.

"We've quite frankly never seen anything like it," Idsinga said. "I think it's easily set the record for a forensic examination of an apartment."

On Wednesday, Idsinga also released an enhanced version of a photograph of a man believed to be another one of McArthur's alleged victims. He said police have received hundreds of tips, but have yet to identify the man in the image.

Idsinga said feedback from the public yielded the names of 70 people, most of whom the police have eliminated as possibilities.

Two frequently recurring names, police sources said, were those of two men reported missing from outside of Toronto in recent years. Sources said, however, that police are confident that neither Kalon Purvis nor Jonathan Riley are shown in the picture.

Many of McArthur's alleged victims were subjects of previous police probes into the disappearances of men from the city's gay village.

The first, named Project Houston, was launched in 2012 to investigate the disappearances of Faizi, Kayhan and Navaratnam. It closed after 18 months as it did not establish the whereabouts of the missing men or resolve the circumstances of their disappearances, police said.

In August 2017, police launched Project Prism, which looked into the disappearances of Kinsman and Esen. McArthur popped up on the police radar in the fall of 2017 as part of Project Prism.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version carried an incorrect number for cold cases police are looking into and an incorrect name for the alleged victim whose remains have not been identified.

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