News / Toronto

Bruce McArthur worked as salesman and in retail offices before move to landscaping

McArthur, charged with five counts of first-degree murder, was described as quiet, polite, and “floppy” during his days as a buyer and assistant for Eaton’s department stores in Toronto between 1973 and 1978.

Aside from routine maintenance work such as leaf-blowing and trimming greenery, Bruce McArthur was popular for his colourful plant arrangements featuring annuals and tropical plants.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Aside from routine maintenance work such as leaf-blowing and trimming greenery, Bruce McArthur was popular for his colourful plant arrangements featuring annuals and tropical plants.

Before starting work in landscaping, Bruce McArthur spent many years as a salesperson in Ontario, including time in Toronto in the 1970s.

“He was kind of a Caspar Milquetoast guy,” said John Foot, a retired vice-principal who knew McArthur, referring to the classic comic strip character from the early 20th century who was known for being timid and unremarkable.

Quiet, polite, and “floppy,” is how McArthur carried himself during his days as a buyer and assistant for Eaton’s department stores in Toronto between at least 1973 and 1978, Foot said.

McArthur, 66, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in the disappearance of Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi and Dean Lisowick.

Toronto police have expanded their investigation to more than 30 properties tied to McArthur’s landscaping business, revealing last week that they had uncovered human remains buried in outdoor planters at a Leaside home.

Police are also seeking assistance from other policy agencies including the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains and the OPP’s serial predator crime investigations unit.

Years before he went into landscaping, McArthur worked in retail offices and as a salesman.

Foot does not know when McArthur left his position at the Eaton’s merchandise office, but said McArthur eventually went to work at McGregor Hosiery as a travelling salesman.

They remained in touch briefly after parting ways when Foot left the company in 1978 and moved to London, England. Foot hosted McArthur and his wife, Janice, for two to three weeks in London when they went on a trip to Europe around 1980.

McArthur continued to work in retail, and spent time as a merchandising representative for Stanfield’s, an underwear and sportswear company, Peter Porteous, the company’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing, said Saturday.

Porteous could not confirm the dates of McArthur’s employment.

While he was with Stanfield’s, McArthur worked in the Greater Toronto Area servicing retailers like Hudson’s Bay and Sears, said Porteous, who has been with the company for a couple of years.

Eventually, McArthur left the retail world and began landscaping.

Matthew MacKinnon, a subcontractor and owner of Dragonfly Water Features, began working with McArthur after they met at a garden centre in Milton, Ont., in 2011.

“I could tell by what he was buying that he was in a similar industry to me. He let me know that he was taking bids for a project that he was looking to get done very soon,” he said.

MacKinnon’s company specializes in creating features such as ponds and waterfalls to gardens. He pitched McArthur the idea of allowing him to choose his own stones for the project, as opposed to the “cookie-cutter” kits that are available to create designs.

“He liked to have some creative input . . . . He takes a great amount of pride in it,” MacKinnon said, adding that his clients were from “very affluent neighbourhoods” in Toronto and Mississauga primarily.

Aside from routine maintenance work such as leaf-blowing and trimming greenery, McArthur was popular for his colourful plant arrangements featuring annuals and tropical plants.

“These small arrangements were really his forte and his customers loved him for it,” MacKinnon said, though, “he uses the same plants in every job that I share with him.”

McKinnon is not sure if McArthur was formally trained because the scope of his work was limited, but believes he had at least 15 years of experience under his belt based on how long some of his customers employed him.

Skandaraj Navaratnam, who disappeared from Toronto’s Gay Village in 2010, once worked with McArthur as a landscaper, according to a CBC News report.

Navaratnam, 40, and Abdulbassir Faizi, 42, both went missing in 2010.

Police have not laid charges connecting McArthur to their disappearances.

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