What we learned at Bruce McArthur’s sentencing

Hearing from the Crown and victims’ loved ones

After pleading guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, serial killer Bruce McArthur returned to a Toronto courthouse Monday for sentencing.

During sentencing, the courts will hear from Crown lawyer Michael Cantlon, as well as dozens of the victims’ friends, family members and loved ones.

McArthur — who has admitted to the murders of Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam — will not be eligible for parole for 25 years. Ontario Superior Court Justice John McMahon will decide whether McArthur will serve his sentences concurrently or consecutively.

Here’s what we’ve learned at the hearing so far.

Police confirm community suspicions

At the start of the hearing, Cantlon validated the fears of Toronto’s LGBTQ2 communities. “For years, members of the LGBTQ community believed they were being targeted by a killer,” Cantlon told the court. “They were right.”

McArthur has kept quiet

The statement of facts presented to the courts does not appear to include any details provided by McArthur himself. Rather, details of the crimes were compiled through the police’s own investigation into McArthur.

McArthur was interviewed by police about the disappearance of three of his victims — and let go

As part of Project Houston’s 2012 investigation into the disappearances of Navaratnam, Kayhan and Faizi, police interviewed McArthur as a witness — not a suspect — because he knew all three men.

McArthur was released after an assault in 2016

McArthur was arrested but not charged for attempting to choke a man in the back of his van in June 2016. The man said he was laid down on a fur coat, one that appeared to be the same as in the photos McArthur took of his victims.

McArthur kept tabs on the missing men

On McArthur’s computer, investigators found saved images of the missing posters of Navaratnam, Kayhan and Faizi, as well as news articles about Esen and Kinsman’s disappearances.

Police intervened before McArthur could harm a possible ninth victim

When McArthur was arrested last year, a man named “John” was found handcuffed on his bed.

“John” is an immigrant and hasn’t disclosed his sexuality to his family. He met McArthur online and had an intimate relationship with the serial killer. On that day, “John” recalled McArthur asking him if his family knew where he was going, to which he responded that their meeting was a “secret.”

“John” recalled McArthur pressuring him to rush to get naked because his son and/or neighbour might arrive. McArthur then put a bag over the victim’s face, and when “John” resisted and successfully removed the bag, McArthur tried to cover his mouth with tape.


Unbeknownst to McArthur, he was already under police surveillance at the time and police busted into his apartment when they saw him bringing “John” home.

Cantlon said investigators believe McArthur doesn’t have any other victims.

McArthur kept photos and souvenirs of his victims

Investigators found hundreds of photos, primarily from social media, of each of the victims on his computer and digital devices, including staged photos taken by McArthur after their deaths. McArthur also had nine folders on his computer containing these photos, labelled after his victims, including “John.” McArthur also kept jewelry and other personal belongings of his victims.

The victims McArthur chose all had commonalities

Cantlon said that there is evidence to suggest that McArthur purposely sought out men who were vulnerable: men he met on dating apps; men who were not out to their families or felt they could not come out; men who had difficulties securing housing or were facing financial hardship; men who were immigrants, predominantly of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent; and men with facial hair and/or beards.

Communities respond

The hearing also gave Toronto’s LGBTQ2 communities an opportunity to express their heartbreak and upset in the courts.

Family members and loved ones spoke about the victims’ lives and what has been lost:

Reverend Deanna Dudley spoke on behalf of the Metropolitan Community Church:

A spokesperson for The 519 provided a victim impact statement, noting the systemic issues queer and trans people face:

Others watched in solidarity:

Arvin Joaquin is a journalist and editor. He was previously an associate editor at Xtra.

Erica Lenti

Erica Lenti is a deputy editor at Chatelaine and a former editor at Xtra.

Eternity Martis is an award-winning journalist and editor who has worked at CBC, CTV and Xtra Magazine. She is the author of the bestselling 2020 memoir They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life, and Growing Up, the course developer/instructor of "Reporting on Race: Black Communities in the Media" at Ryerson University and UBC's 2021 Journalist-in-Residence.

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