The sergeant facing misconduct charges related to the investigation into Bruce McArthur claims he is a “scapegoat” for the Toronto police service, which has faced heated criticism over its handling of past contacts with the now-convicted serial killer.
Sgt. Paul Gauthier is alleged to have conducted a negligent investigation into a 2016 report that McArthur attempted to strangle a man inside his van during a sexual encounter. McArthur was arrested, but let go with no charges.
Gauthier faces two counts of misconduct under Ontario’s Police Service’s Act — insubordination and neglect of duty — stemming from the June 20, 2016 incident. It’s alleged Gauthier failed to both videotape the victim’s statement and photograph the victim’s injuries within 72 hours, both of which are required by the Toronto police policy on domestic violence investigations.
Gauthier has not made his first appearance at the tribunal, and the charges have not yet been tested in a hearing.
Gauthier’s letter suggests the charges against him are the result political pressure on the Toronto police service in the wake of earlier errors made by Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders, including his December 2017 comments downplaying concerns a serial killer was targeting the city’s Gay Village.
“The matter involving Sergeant Gauthier followed a standard internal investigative process,” said Tronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray. “It will now be considered before the Tribunal and, as such, we will not comment further.”
“What I can say is that a proper investigation was completed” into the 2016 incident, Gauthier writes in the letter. “Based on years of investigative experience, I didn’t believe there were grounds to charge McArthur with an offence.”
The decision was supported by the on-duty staff sergeant that day, Gauthier said.
Another officer who was a domestic violence investigator took a verbatim statement from the victim, Gauthier said. McArthur was then interviewed on video in the presence of the same officer, “so she could help identify any possible inconsistencies.”
The letter also states that at the time of the 2016 complaint Gauthier did not know about Project Houston, the special investigation into the disappearances of Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan — the men now known to be McArthur’s first three victims. McArthur had not been “flagged” as having been interviewed as part of Project Houston, Gauthier’s letter said.
Gauthier’s lawyer, Lawrence Gridin, said his client “maintains his innocence and is obviously frustrated with how he’s been portrayed.” The letter, Gridin said, “was a private communication to his friends expressing his frustration.”
Toronto police have previously said dozens of people were interviewed as part of Project Houston. The sentencing hearing for McArthur heard earlier this week that McArthur was interviewed as a witness in the missing persons investigation, and was not considered a suspect at the time of the 2016 interview.
The same week Saunders made his December 2017 comments, McArthur was considered a suspect in Kinsman’s death and a person of interest in the disappearances of four other men McArthur has now admitted to killing.
A “person of interest” is considered someone whose background or relationship to the victim warrants further investigation, but no evidence currently exists to suggest culpability in connection to the offence being investigated.
Toronto police have previously said evidence making McArthur a suspect in anyone other than Kinsman’s death was not found until Jan. 17, 2018. Earlier this week, court heard that was the day that police located photographs of deceased victims on McArthur’s digital devices. McArthur had attempted to delete them, but investigators were able to uncover them through forensic analysis.
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis