News / Toronto

Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur ‘undoubtedly believed he had outsmarted everyone’

Concealing dismembered remains in planter boxes “essentially in plain sight” shows a level of brazenness, criminologist says.

Toronto police remove items, including a planter which they confirmed is one of the planters which contained body parts, from a home on Mallory Cres.

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Toronto police remove items, including a planter which they confirmed is one of the planters which contained body parts, from a home on Mallory Cres.

The case of five men who Toronto police believe were murdered by the same person suggests a rare, brazen and organized killer, say homicide experts.

Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old landscaper, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Andrew Kinsmen, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi and Dean Lisowick.

Police have found the dismembered, skeletal remains of three unidentified people in planters at a Leaside home. They have identified 30 properties linked to McArthur through his landscaping business.

Links between occupation and serial murder are “very well established,” said Michael Arntfield, a criminologist and professor at Western University.

Serial killers typically “use the guise of their job” to access locations where they can find victims, Arntfield said.

In this case, he noted, it appears that the killer may have used an occupation to dispose of them.

“Instead of locating victims through the job, he locates his victims through other means, including online, and then he uses the pretext of his job to essentially conceal remains,” Arntfield said.

Concealing remains in planter boxes “essentially in plain sight” also shows a level of brazenness, Arntfield said.

“The question is, was he drawn to this occupation as a means of facilitating his crimes, or did this just occur to him after he already went down this road?”

Enzo Yaksic, co-director of Northeastern University Atypical Homicide Research Group, said “the risk involved in identifying victims, subsequently killing them and then concealing evidence of such actions probably provided (the killer) an unmatched level of excitement and morbid sense of achievement.

“These accomplishments stymied police and confounded the public for so long that (he) undoubtedly believed he has outsmarted everyone,” Yaksic wrote in an email.

Just four per cent of serial killers dismember their victims’ bodies and dispose of the remains, according to data compiled by the research group.

“If (this killer) does indeed fit into (that) category, the alleged illicit knowledge that body parts belonging to missing persons are hidden in plain sight would be immensely alluring to him,” Yaksic said.

“This is a piece of information he holds over city officials and family members which grants him immeasurable power.”

Gary Ridgway, one of the most prolific serial killers in American history, buried his victims in clusters so he could locate them when he wanted to visit the burial sites. “This process allowed him to relive his crimes and was psychologically gratifying for him,” Yaksic said.

Another rare aspect of the Toronto case is the arrest of a 66-year-old suspect. To begin killing in one’s late middle age would be “very unusual, statically speaking,” said Arntfield.

American serial killer Albert Fish, who was known as the “Gray Man,” was believed to have started killing in his 50s. He was executed in New York at age 65.

“For years, he was sort of held up as a rarity,” Arntfield said of Fish. In the Toronto case, the killer “would seem to have started actually even later than him. So the question is — is he that rare, that he’s starting that late? Or has he started much earlier and just carried on?”

Serial offenders also tend to wind down as they grow older, Arntfield said.

“There’s a term actually in criminology called ‘aging out,’ where as the offender becomes less agile, less virile. They begin dabbling in other forms of crime,” he said.

“They don’t necessarily try their hand at killing.”

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