Suspected serial killer charged in deaths of 2 missing men from Church-Wellesley Village

Click to play video: 'Toronto Police make arrest in Church and Wellesley Village missing men case'
Toronto Police make arrest in Church and Wellesley Village missing men case
WATCH ABOVE: Toronto Police have arrested 66-year-old Bruce McArthur, who they say is connected to two of the cases of missing men from Toronto's Church and Wellesley Village area – Jan 18, 2018

A 66-year-old Toronto man has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the disappearances of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen from the city’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood.

Homicide investigators said Bruce McArthur, who is self-employed as a landscaper, was arrested at his home in Toronto Thursday morning following a months-long probe into the missing persons cases.

Police said the accused lived in the city’s Thorncliffe Park area and may be connected to the deaths of other men that have yet to be identified.

“As of right now, interviews are taking place and police have secured five properties, four in Toronto and one in Madoc connected to Bruce McArthur in an effort to further investigate these occurrences,” Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga told reporters at a press conference Thursday afternoon at Toronto police headquarters, adding Esen and Kinsman’s bodies have not been found.

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WATCH: Toronto’s ‘village’ community reacts to arrest in cases of two missing men

Click to play video: 'Toronto’s ‘village’ community reacts to arrest in cases of two missing men'
Toronto’s ‘village’ community reacts to arrest in cases of two missing men

Police set up a task force named Project Prism last August after Kinsman, 49, and Esen, 44, both went missing a month and a half apart.

Both men disappeared in downtown Toronto last year and police said they were active on social media dating apps.

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

Kinsman was last seen on June 26 near Parliament and Winchester streets and Esen was last seen on April 14 near Bloor and Yonge streets.

Police at the time called both missing persons cases as suspicious.

Idsinga said McArthur, who police said they have been investigating for several months, had a prior sexual relationship with Kinsman for “some time” but did not know the link he had with Esen.

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Investigators said they have not yet established a link between the Kinsman and Esen cases in relation to three other men reported missing from the same area from 2010 to 2012.

“We do have some evidence which leads us to believe there are further victims, but we aren’t able at this time to identify those victims based on the evidence that we have. It’s a work in progress,” Idsinga said.

When asked if McArthur could be a suspected serial killer, Idsinga wouldn’t use that term.

“I’m telling you he’s killed at least two people that we know of and we believe there are more victims, so whether you want to attach that label or not it’s up to you.”

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Security expert Ross McLean spoke with Global News about the similarities in the case.

“The motive is always important – we don’t have a lot of information here … when you look at serial sexual predators who are killers, they tend to have the same habits. They do the same things over and over again,” McLean said.

“Here we have a [couple] of similar men, of similar height, similar weight, similar facial hair, similar sexual interests, going to a similar area, possibly using a similar dating app.”
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Meanwhile, police said late last year that Esen and Kinsman’s disappearances weren’t believed to be linked, but that they weren’t ruling anything out either.

“There is no evidence at this point in time, which in any way establishes the disappearances of Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman are linked to the disappearance of the males from the Project Houston investigation,” Det. Sgt. Michael Richmond said during a press conference in December.

“There is also no evidence to support that the disappearance of Selim Esen or Andrew Kinsman are linked. It simply makes sense to have the same dedicated team investigate these occurrences in parallel.”

At the time, police also said there is no conclusive evidence to suggest there was foul play involved.

Selim Esen, 44, (left) and Andrew Kinsman, 49, (right), were reported missing from the city’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood. Toronto Police Service / Handout

READ MORE: Toronto police chief admits flaws in probes into recent missing persons cases

Chief Mark Saunders was previously asked if police believed a suspected serial killer was behind the disappearances and he addressed the question again Thursday.

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“In policing, what we do is we follow the evidence and what I said at the time that I said was accurate at that time,” he said, later adding that the developments in the case are recent.

“This [press conference] is to provide an opportunity for the public to have an understanding that we are still looking for evidence – that the investigation has not stopped, in fact it has just begun. It is very new.”

READ MORE: Residents, Toronto police meet to discuss missing men in Church-Wellesley neighbourhood

Saunders said the community’s advocacy on the missing persons cases in the village has been important to the investigation.

“It was through the community continuously talking to us and making us aware, it gave us a greater focus, and as a result of that… and listen, I’m—I don’t like this outcome by any stretch (of the) imagination. The loss of life is something that saddens me,” Saunders said.

“I will say I do believe the community is directly responsible for enhancing community safety as a result of how this investigation has concluded. When I say concluded, it is ongoing but it is concluded in the sense the allegations are we have apprehended someone who has done tremendous harm to the city.”

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Bruce McArthur is seen in a photo posted online. Facebook

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood, said in a written statement that news of the arrest is “shocking and upsetting,” but it serves as a “validation” of community concerns.

“Recent missing persons cases have seen friends, families, and strangers organize search groups, convene meetings, and provide police with any evidence available,” she wrote in part.

“The Church-Wellesley Village is a place of celebration and sanctuary for the LGBTQ2S community. With this progress and ongoing investigation, I am hopeful that more information will come forward in the coming days and help everyone begin to heal.”

READ MORE: Friends of missing Toronto man Andrew Kinsman appeal for information on disappearance

Idsinga and Saunders encouraged residents with any information to contact police at 416-808-2021 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.

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“There may be people out there that have some information or some evidence that they may feel is not relevant, when it fact it could be,” Saunders said.

“So hopefully with this awareness piece, it’s an opportunity for us to put the pieces together that are missing and give us an opportunity to have more clarity.”

With files from Catherine McDonald and Rebecca Joseph

A Toronto police forensics vehicle was seen in front of Bruce McArthur’s Thorncliffe Park apartment Thursday afternoon.
A Toronto police forensics vehicle was seen in front of Bruce McArthur’s Thorncliffe Park apartment Thursday afternoon. Katherine Aylesworth / Global News

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