Suspected Serial Killer Of Gay Men Makes First Court Appearance On Murder Charges

Bruce McArthur, 66, made his first court appearance this morning, facing charges of first-degree murder in relation to the two missing men from The Village. Caryn Lieberman reports from the Church and Wellesley village.

Some members of Toronto’s LGBTQ community say they’re relieved an arrest has been made in the presumed deaths of two men who went missing from the city’s gay village last year, but they’re also angry that police didn’t heed their concerns over a possible serial killer earlier.

Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old Toronto man, was arrested and charged Thursday as part of an investigation into the disappearance of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman.

McArthur made a brief appearance in court Friday and was returned to custody until Feb. 14, when he will appear in court through a video link.

Alphonso King and his husband John Allan were among those who packed the downtown Toronto courtroom.

READ MORE: What we know about suspected Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur

King said they wanted to see the face of the man whose alleged actions kept the gay village on edge for the better part of a year.

“It was intense,” he said. “For a lot of people, I’m sure that they were really nervous because you didn’t know who it was.”

Court sketch of Bruce McArthur (left), Crown attorney Sean Doyle (centre), and Justice Howard Chisvin (top right), in a Toronto court on Jan. 19, 2018.

Court sketch of Bruce McArthur (left), Crown attorney Sean Doyle (centre), and Justice Howard Chisvin (top right), in a Toronto court on Jan. 19, 2018.

Pam Davies

Now that an arrest has been made, there is a sense of relief and hope for closure, King said.

But the pair also said they felt police had put lives at risk by ignoring the community’s concerns over the disappearances for so long.

READ MORE: Toronto police launch task force to investigate missing men in Church-Wellesley Village

“The community tried to tell them, ‘We think it’s a serial killer, we think that the cases are related, we think that there’s a possibility that it was all tied to one of the (dating) apps or something like that, that there has to be a link,’ and they assured us that there wasn’t,” King said.

“They completely dismissed that notion. They guaranteed us the cases weren’t related, they guaranteed us there wasn’t a serial killer around, and that’s exactly what it turned out to be,” Allan said. “So that’s why we’re pissed off.”

The couple, who knew Kinsman, said everyone who knew the men has been traumatized. Bereavement counselling is being offered by at least two community groups in the area, they said.

Esen and Kinsman were reported missing from the Church and Wellesley streets area at separate times last year. Their bodies have not been found.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders defended the force’s approach Thursday, saying officers had been working with the evidence they had at the time.

Police have also said they believe McArthur is responsible for the deaths of other men, though they did not say who or what led them to that conclusion. They said new evidence surfaced this week that gave them a “definitive link,” but did not elaborate further.