Toronto police obtained permission to “covertly” search alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur’s apartment — including copying and examining data, hard drives, memory sticks and more — just over a month before his arrest, newly unsealed court documents show.
As first reported by the Star in June, investigators probing McArthur surreptitiously entered his Thorncliffe Park Dr. apartment and “cloned” his computer in a clandestine operation that was green-lit by the courts in December 2017.
Documents unsealed by a judge Wednesday — following an application by the Star and other media — shed new light on investigators’ secret entry into McArthur’s 19th-floor apartment, just over a month before the 66-year-old landscaper was arrested in January.
Specifically, police were seeking “documents, records, photos, videos, objects or things of any kind related to Andrew Kinsman” — a former bartender in Toronto’s Gay Village who went missing in June 2017 — including his cellphone. They were also seeking “physical evidence” of Kinsman, “including his remains and/or bodily fluids.”
The documents show that McArthur had acquired a large collection of phones, computers and data storage devices. The day after police arrested him, investigators removed no less than five mobile phones, three laptops, two desktop computers, three digital cameras and about a dozen USB keys, among other electronic devices, from his apartment.
In November 2017, the documents reveal, police had been tracking McArthur’s cellphone to allow them to follow his movements and to identify people he was communicating with.
The documents are heavily redacted but show that the rationale police provided to the court to obtain permission for the search included the belief that McArthur, “alone or with an unknown person or persons … did commit murder” of Kinsman.
“The search of McArthur’s residence would include covertly cloning his computer in anticipation of locating digital evidence of his crime(s) in the form of photos, videos, chats, messaging and/or emails with a connection to Andrew Kinsman,” the documents state.
McArthur stands accused of eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of men between 2010 and 2017. Most of the men disappeared from in and around the Village, though not all disappearances were reported to police.
McArthur is next scheduled to appear in court Friday.
Toronto police have previously said McArthur first became a suspect in the disappearance of Kinsman, 49, who went missing on June 26, 2017.
During their initial probe, police “learned that Kinsman was very active on social dating networks and was known to frequent various bars in the area, including The Black Eagle. Kinsman also considered himself a ‘bear’, which in gay culture, is often a larger, hairier man who projects an image of rugged masculinity,” the documents state.
“Adding to the concern of police and the community, is the fact that four other self-identified ‘bears’ from the gay community have gone missing from the Church-Wellesley Village … since 2010 — all under mysterious circumstances.
“By all accounts, all of the males were middle-aged, bearded, frequented The Black Eagle and with the exception of Kinsman, they all had brown skin,” the documents state.
The information released Wednesday provides new details about Project Prism, the six-month special police task force that launched with the disappearance of Kinsmen and Selim Esen, 44, who was last seen on April 16, 2017. The unsealed information is contained in “information to obtain” (ITO) documents, affidavits that are filed by police to obtain the court’s authorization to search a home, track an individual, and more.
The release contains dozens of files containing hundreds of pages of partially redacted information. The Star obtained the documents Wednesday, and will be updating this file throughout the day.
Project Prism followed Project Houston, an 18-month investigation that probed the disappearances of three other men who went missing from in and around Toronto’s Gay Village from 2010 to 2012: Skanda Navaratnam, 40, Abdulbasir Faizi, 42, and Majeed Kayhan, 58.
Project Houston ended in 2014 after police could find no criminal wrongdoing.
All three men whose disappearances were probed in Project Houston are now alleged to have been killed by McArthur, as well as Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, 37, Dean Lisowick, 47, Soroush Mahmudi, 50.
The documents released Wednesday show police were linking the disappearances of five of the men now alleged to be among the victims of McArthur in a December 2017 warrant application.
“Kinsman is not the first person to go missing from Toronto’s Village. In fact, he is the 5th gay male to have vanished without a trace since 2010 and at this point, I believe they may all be related,” wrote one police detective.
All of the men went missing over holidays, he noted: “Navaratnam over Labour Day weekend, Faizi over the Christmas holidays, Kayhan over Thanksgiving weekend, Esen over an Easter weekend and Kinsman over a Pride weekend,” the officer wrote.
The documents show that, within six weeks of Kinsman’s disappearance, police identified McArthur as a person of interest in his disappearance — though it’s not immediately clear how this occurred, as subsequent information is blacked out. The documents later state that a witness spoke to police in September 2017 who apparently had not come forward earlier “because he was concerned the police would ‘out’ him.”
Following the identification of McArthur as a suspect, police obtained tracking warrants for McArthur’s vehicles those of “his associates” and obtained a warrant to track McArthur himself. Police’s mobile surveillance unit began conducting surveillance on the alleged killer on Sept. 5, 2017 and continued this surveillance “in one capacity or another” up until his arrest in January.
In September 2017, police spoke to the management of McArthur’s apartment building and obtained a log of the use of his key “fob.” This gave investigators a picture of McArthur’s comings and goings from home between June and September of that year. They also reviewed the building’s security footage to see when McArthur left and returned.
The documents show police used McArthur’s fob logs and cellphone records to put together a timeline for June 26, 2017 — the day Kinsman was believed to have gone missing.
Documents released last week showed that during Project Houston, investigators were starting to pick up on a pattern — South Asian men were going missing from Toronto’s Gay Village — but focused in on the wrong suspect.
The team on Project Prism included some of same officers who worked Houston. It wasn’t until September 2017 when McArthur came onto their radar in connection to Kinsman’s disappearance.
Acting Insp. Hank Idsinga, the lead homicide detective on the McArthur case, has previously also said that in January, police secured significant evidence and arrested McArthur on January 18, charging him with first-degree murder in the deaths of Kinsman and Esen.
Police sources have told the Star police made a quick decision to arrest McArthur after watching a young man enter his building. Believing a life could be in danger, they opted to go in, discovering the alleged killer with a young man tied up but unharmed, the source said.
More to come.
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis
Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org