Toronto Police are actively searching for additional victims of accused gay serial killer Bruce McArthur, and they may have zero’d in on an eighth potential victim.
Jon Riley was 47 when he vanished on a trip to Toronto nearly five years ago. His sister, Judi Riley and her family filed a police report and repeatedly prodded authorities for updates. But there were no leads, until now.
Riley, who lives in Hawaii, started getting emails from friends back in Canada, where she grew up, about the arrest of an alleged serial killer. Potential pieces to a disturbing puzzle began to fall into place.
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Serial killer suspect Bruce McArthur (left) could have played a role in the disappearance of Jon Riley (right) according to police
Jon disappeared is 2013 after leaving a note for his mother that he was headed to Toronto for a weekend
The suspect, Bruce McArthur, is accused of preying on adult men in a gay neighborhood of Toronto where Jon had spent time. The alleged killer owned a landscaping company, the kind of work Judi said her brother was likely seeking at the time he disappeared.
‘I literally fell to my knees in grief,’ she recalled. ‘It made too much sense.’
Then Riley got a call from police, who thought it made sense as well. Authorities say McArthur killed at least seven men, but investigators believe more victims will be found as they comb through crime scenes and re-examine long-stale missing person-cases like that of Jon Riley.
McArthur has so far been charged with six deaths and has not yet entered a plea. There is a seventh man whose death police believe he is connected to, but they have not yet identified him.
His lawyer has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
Police won’t say how many potential victims there could be, but they are reviewing hundreds of missing person reports in Toronto as well as elsewhere in Canada and places where he has traveled, including Italy and Mexico.
Who is ‘John Doe’? Earlier this month Toronto police announced that they have located the remains of a seventh, unnamed victim (left) in the case of alleged killer McArthur (right)
‘We are tracing his whereabouts as far back as we can go,’ said Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the lead detective in the case.
Police say McArthur allegedly targeted men he met through dating apps that cater to gay men, at bars in the ‘Gay Village’ area of Toronto, as well as male prostitutes. His most recent known alleged murder was in June and he has been charged in the death of a 40-year-old man who disappeared in September 2010.
Families of adults who have been reported missing have been critical of police for not doing enough to find their loved ones. One challenge is the volume. More than 600 people have been reported missing in the police precinct that includes the Gay Village over the last four years and about 30 cases remain open.
Criminal experts say it’s unlikely that someone would become a serial killer later in life, so if the allegations are true, there could be earlier victims. ‘If it turns out he was killing in the mid-1970’s it would not be unusual.
In fact it would be surprising if he had not been,’ said Peter Vronsky, a history professor at Ryerson University in Toronto who has written two books about serial killers. ‘Once you hit that late age, serial killers are retiring.’
McArthur moved to the Toronto area around 2000. He previously lived in a suburb of the city, where he was married, raised two children and worked as a traveling salesman of underwear and socks. His landscaping business was small, but he did periodically hire workers, including the 40-year-old man who disappeared in 2010.
Judi Riley, a children’s book author who now lives on Maui, said her older brother had worked as landscaper in the past, though he didn’t have a steady job at the time of his disappearance. He had left a note for their mother saying he was headed for a few days to Toronto, and in the past had stayed in hostels and shelters in Gay Village.
She said authorities have asked her for photos of her brother and asked about identifying details such as scars. They asked to look at his computer, something she wishes they had done much earlier.
Police also have requested dental records from the family of Abdulbasir Faizi, a 42-year-old who moved to Canada from Iran and disappeared December 2010. His family learned after he vanished that he had been using gay dating apps and visiting bathhouses in Gay Village, according to a relative.
‘For sure he is one of the victims,’ said the relative, who spoke on condition of anonymity because others in the family do not want to speak publicly about the matter. ‘He would not have left his family. He had a very good relationship with his daughters.’
Linda Shaw of Waterloo, Ontario, has closely monitored the case for any word of her son, 30-year-old David MacDermott. He was last seen in November 2002 at a gay nightclub in Kitchener, about a 90-minute drive from downtown Toronto. She says she doesn’t have any reason to believe he was a victim of McArthur, but she runs to the phone each time it rings in hopes that it could bring news about him.
‘I sit and listen about the McArthur story on TV constantly, constantly,’ Shaw said. ‘You think ‘Wow, could this be the answer, could this please?’ We literally beg God.’
Friends have told Judi Riley not to read about the McArthur case but she can’t help it. ‘It’s been a devastating time for us. It’s really hard for me to talk about Jon without falling apart,’ she said.
‘I don’t want it to be true.’
McArthur was initially charged with the murder of and Andrew Kinsman, 49. Police suspect he had a sexual relationship with him
McArthur appeared in court via video link last month where he was charged with killing his former lover Skandaraj ‘Skanda’ Navaratnam, 40, (pictured)
Selim Esen, 44, (left) is also among the slain men, as is Soroush Marmudi, 50 (right)
McArthur is charged with first-degree murder in the presumed deaths of Majeed Kayhan, 58 (left) and Dean Lisowick, 43 (right)
Earlier this month investigators asked for the publis’s help in identifying a man they are calling ‘John Doe’.
The image shows a male with a full beard and mustache, dressed in a gray shirt, lying down with his eyes closed and his mouth partially open.
Police said that the darker-skinned man in the photo was deceased.
Detective Sgt Hank Idsinga, the lead investigator assigned to the case, stressed that he was releasing the photo to the public as a last resort, having failed to identify the man by all other means.
Idsinga would not comment on how police obtained the photo or where it was taken.
McArthur, a grandfather and former mall Santa Claus, has not been charged with a seventh and eighth count of murder related to Riley and the unidentified man.
Many of the other alleged victims have been darker skinned and of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent who frequented the ‘Gay Village’ area of Toronto.
Idsinga said they’ve now found the dismembered remains of at least seven individuals this year in large planters at a home where McArthur did landscaping work and stored objects.
It’s not clear if the remains of the seventh man are of the same man seen in the picture released by police.
He said they realize how difficult it might be for a relative or friend to see the picture and realize the man is deceased.
‘I’ve never done this before,’ he said about releasing the photo.
‘I do it with great hesitation.
‘It is obviously a key piece of evidence that we have that we are releasing, but we feel by releasing it, hopefully we can identify him and close off that area of the investigation.’
Police previously announced they had found the dismembered remains of six individuals this year in large planters at a home where McArthur, 66, did landscaping work and that he used as storage.
Investigators have identified three sets of remains so far – 49-year-old Andrew Kinsman, 50-year-old Soroush Mahmudi and 40-year-old Skandaraj Navaratnam.
McArthur is charged with first-degree murder in their deaths, as well as the presumed deaths of 44-year-old Selim Esen; Majeed Kayhan, 58; and Dean Lisowick, either 43 or 44.
Dr. Michael Pollanen, Chief Forensic Pathologist for the Province of Ontario, said the causes of death are pending further studies.
Investigators have not yet released complete details, but McArthur is believed to have met his alleged victims in the ‘Gay Village’ area of Toronto and on gay dating apps for older and large men with names such as ‘SilverDaddies’ and ‘Bear411.’
Police are looking at unsolved missing person cases to determine if there are connections to McArthur and are running down tips that have come in from around the world.
McArthur has not entered a plea.
Edward Royle, a lawyer for McArthur, has previously declined to comment on the case and didn’t respond to a message seeking comment on Monday.
WHO WERE THE VICTIMS OF TORONTO SERIAL KILLER
Toronto landscaper Bruce McArthur, 66, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of six men. Police fear there may be even more victims yet to be uncovered.
Skandaraj ‘Skanda’ Navaratnam, 40
Reported missing on September 16, 2010.
A refugee from Sri Lanka, he was last seen leaving Zipperz, a now closed gay bar in Toronto.
Friends said McArthur employed and had a sexual relationship with Navaratnam.
Majeed Kayhan, 58
Reported missing on October 25, 2012.
An immigrant from Afghanistan who frequented bars in the Gay Village near Church and Wellesley Streets.
Soroush Marmudi, 50
Reported missing by his family in Scarborough in August 2015.
Marmudi was not known to openly associate with Toronto’s gay scene.
Selim Esen, 44
Last seen April 14, 2017 in the Yonge and Bloor area.
A Turkish native, he frequented the Gay Village area and Kensington Market and often had a small plastic suitcase on wheels similar to a carry-on bag.
His relationship with McArthur is unclear.
Dean Lisowick, 43
A homeless occupant of the shelter system who had not been reported missing.
Police believe he was murdered between May 2016 and July 2017.
Andrew Kinsman, 49
Last seen June 26, 2017 at 71 Winchester Street.
Friends begin posting his image in the area and surrounding neighborhoods soon after he disappeared.
Police believe he had a sexual relationship with McArthur.