TORONTO – 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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
VIDEO: Covering the Toronto police investigation into disappearances of men from Church-Wellesley Village
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.
Sina Shahlaee, who lives and works in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood and saw McArthur in the area, said it felt like police didn’t take the case seriously until it became too high-profile to ignore.
There has been more police presence in the area recently but it remains to be seen whether that will continue once the investigation is over, he said.
Shahlaee said he didn’t feel safe in the area after the two men vanished, adding he stopped going out at night. He then started carrying a personal safety alarm after a missing woman, 22-year-old Tess Richey, was found dead in a nearby building, a case police have said is unrelated.
The arrest has been “a relief,” he said. But it was also shocking to realize that the suspect was someone he had encountered in the neighbourhood, he said.
Now, he said, “what we want to know is what happened.”
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has defended the force’s handling of the case, saying on Thursday officers had been working with the evidence they had at the time.
VIDEO: Toronto’s ‘village’ community reacts to arrest in cases of two missing men
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.
The bodies of Esen and Kinsman have not been found but police said they were combing through five properties – four in Toronto, one in Madoc, Ont. – connected to McArthur, a self-employed landscaper.
McArthur had sexual relationships with both men and all three were on dating apps, police said.
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