After a man reported to Toronto police in 2016 that Bruce McArthur tried to strangle him, the now-convicted serial killer told police he thought the man “wanted it rough,” according to a newly unsealed court document.
McArthur, who had by then killed six men, was arrested for assault but considered “genuine and credible” by the investigating officer, and it was determined there were no grounds to lay charges. McArthur was released unconditionally, the court document states.
The following year, McArthur killed two more men.
New details about the 2016 interview with police are contained in a police document released to the Star and other media Wednesday night — alongside more details about how police investigators homed in on McArthur as a suspect in the disappearances of men from the Toronto’s Gay Village.
The police document is an affidavit sworn on Jan. 26, 2018 — just over a week after McArthur’s arrest — to obtain a judge’s authorization to search 53 Mallory Cres., the home where McArthur worked as a landscaper and where he buried the dismembered body parts of his victims inside large planters or in the ravine behind the home.
The document, providing a detailed outline of the Project Prism investigation that led to McArthur’s arrest, was released by Ontario Court Justice Cathy Mocha, following a court application by the Star and other media. The document contains police theories and summaries of evidence, some of which was submitted in court earlier this month.
McArthur, 67, pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in deaths spanning 2010 to 2017. He was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 25 years.
The police affidavit reveals new information about a June 20, 2016 incident when McArthur was arrested but released with no charges following allegations he choked a man during a consensual sexual encounter.
According to the document, McArthur and the man, who is not identified, had been in a casual, on-and-off relationship for several years. The man told police that McArthur had approached him while he was in his building’s parking lot.
“It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen each other, let’s go for dinner,” McArthur said, according to a summary of the man’s statement contained in the police document.
“OK, give me a half an hour so I can shower and feed my cats,” the man told police he replied.
He then met McArthur in a Tim Horton’s parking lot at Bathurst St. and Finch Ave. W. and were going to go in to eat, the document states. They were in McArthur’s vehicle, making out, “when all of a sudden McArthur started freaking out,” the police document says, summarizing the man’s statement.
Without saying anything, McArthur grabbed the man by the throat and started squeezing, having a “good grip” on his Adam’s apple, the document states.
The man told police he was able to break McArthur’s grip and push him off, then grabbed McArthur by the throat before getting out of the van. McArthur “sat there for a couple minutes” while the man called police, then drove south on Bathurst, according to the document.
The man had no visible injuries, but told officers his throat was sore.
A few hours later, McArthur went to a Scarborough-area police station, where he was arrested for assault and taken to the local North York station, where he was interviewed on video, according to the affidavit.
He told officers that during the encounter, the man made a request to have a body part pinched harder, which made McArthur “believe he wanted it rough,” according to the document.
McArthur told police he then placed his hands around the man’s neck, and the man did the same to him, causing a “brief struggle.” The man then got out and called 911, McArthur said.
“The investigating officer, Det. (Paul) Gauthier, indicated that McArthur appeared genuine and credible in his recall of the incident. It was determined that there were no grounds to lay charges and McArthur was released unconditionally,” the document states.
Gauthier is currently facing two counts of professional misconduct in connection with the 2016 incident, including that he allegedly failed to videotape the statement from the complainant — a verbatim written statement was taken — and did not photograph the victim’s injuries within 72 hours. Both are required by the Toronto police policy on domestic violence investigations.
In a letter written to colleagues and obtained by the Star, Gauthier denies the allegations, saying that a proper investigation was done. He is scheduled to appear before the Toronto police tribunal next week.
The police affidavit also includes new details about when police realized McArthur had been interviewed as part of Project Houston, a special Toronto police investigation into disappearances of McArthur’s first three victims: Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan. The probe ran from 2012 to 2014 but ended with no charges.
Det.-Const. Josh McKenzie had been an investigator on Project Houston, and was later assigned to work on Project Prism, the probe into the disappearances of McArthur’s two final victims, Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman.
As court heard earlier this month, Kinsman had left a note on his calendar saying “Bruce” on the June 2017 day he went missing. That note combined with security camera footage from Kinsman’s apartment building helped identify McArthur as a potential person of interest in Kinsman’s disappearance.
In September 2017, when lead investigator Det. David Dickinson advised McKenzie that McArthur was a possible person of interest, McKenzie recalled interviewing McArthur in November 2013.
At that time, McArthur had been interviewed as a witness, as police had connected him to two of the missing men, Faizi and Navaratnam, via evidence on their computer and on a notepad that belonged to Faizi. During that interview, McArthur also stated that he knew Kayhan, establishing a link between McArthur and all three missing men.
In a recent interview, Insp. Hank Idsinga, head of the Toronto police homicide unit, said it wasn’t uncommon during the project to interview someone connected to two or more of the missing men, as Toronto’s Gay Village is a “tight-knit community.”
According to the affidavit released Wednesday, upon recalling the interview with McArthur, McKenzie located a copy of the interview summary and “confirmed it was the same McArthur,” the ITO states.
The police document also shows that at least 80 police officers from across various departments, including homicide, dog services, intelligence services, and the sex crime unit, were involved in the investigation.
An agreed statement of facts read out in court earlier this month revealed details about how police had discovered photos in McArthur’s digital files of deceased men. McArthur kept file folders for each of his eight victims, some containing images of his deceased victims with a fur coat and a cigar between their lips.
After discovering the photos, police were able to quickly identify two of the men — Kinsman and Esen, but they couldn’t immediately identify others.
The affidavit provides a glimpse at how police were attempting to identify them. In one case, that of Soroush Mahmudi, police were able to identify him because he had been previously reported missing, on Aug. 22, 2015. An officer was able to compare a photo of Mahmudi provided by his family to a picture of one of the dead men downloaded from McArthur’s computer and believed it to be the same person.
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