More human remains found in planters in Canada serial killer case

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 06 2018 08:20 AM

FILE PHOTO: Accused killer, Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old freelance landscaper appears in a photo posted on his social media account. Facebook/Handout via Reuters

OTTAWA - A forensic search uncovered more human remains hidden in large planters used by a Toronto landscaper and alleged serial killer charged with murdering gay men, Canadian police said Monday.

Authorities also appealed to the public for help in identifying one victim from a photograph seemingly taken post-mortem. 

Bruce McArthur, 66, was arrested in January following an investigation into the disappearances of 2 men from a predominantly gay neighborhood in downtown Toronto last year, which led police to the planters at a property that he used for storage.

The latest discovery brings the total number of victims in the grisly serial murder case to seven, although so far only 3 have been identified from dismembered body parts.

"We have recovered the remains of at least 7 individuals from the planters seized at the (east side Toronto) home," lead investigator Sergeant Hank Idsinga told a press conference.

"Steps are ongoing in an attempt to identify these victims," he said.

The man in the victim photograph appeared to be in his 40s or early 50s, with dark hair and a beard, and bruises on his face.

Idsinga said the image -- which he described as a "key piece of evidence" -- is believed to have been taken after his death, but would not comment on its origin.

The photograph was released as a last resort, he said, after all other methods of identifying the man were exhausted. 

The deceased man in the photograph has not yet been linked to any of the remains found in the planters, Idsinga added.

The victims currently known to police are Andrew Kinsman, 49, who had a long-term sexual relationship with McArthur; Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, who went missing in 2010; and Soroush Mahmudi, 50, whose disappearance was reported almost 3 years ago.

McArthur is also charged with the murders of Majeed Kayhan, 58, Dean Lisowick, 47, and Selim Esen, 44.

And now a seventh murder charge is expected to be laid when McArthur returns to court later this month.

Ontario's chief forensic pathologist Michael Pollanen told a press conference this case has "challenged" his team.

"We have used a multidisciplinary approach to try to find the truth behind what happened," he said.

Pathologists compared the body parts found in the planters to the fingerprints, dental records, and the medical histories of missing persons going back decades, for possible matches.

They have now also turned to DNA analysis.

"At this time, the cause of deaths are pending further studies," Pollanen said. "You can imagine that the state of decomposition and the dismemberment process requires us to reconstruct remains and then collect all of the relevant data."

Over the past 2 months, police have searched about 30 properties in Toronto before zeroing in on the east side residence where upwards of 20 planters were seized, and 2 others it plans to excavate.

The investigation has been hampered by the cold. Police said they plan to return to the sites with cadaver sniffer dogs to comb for more possible remains once the frozen ground thaws.

McArthur came under suspicion in September 2017 in connection with the disappearance of Kinsman, but police at first rejected suggestions that a serial killer was prowling Toronto's gay neighborhood.

According to local media, police made a quick decision to enter McArthur's apartment and arrest him on January 18 when they saw a young man enter his home. Police found the man tied up on a bed, but unharmed.