Mayor John Tory says Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders does not blame community members for not coming forward with information sooner on alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.
“My conversations with the chief about this matter have carried no sense whatsoever that he blames any victims,” Tory told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday.
“The chief, certainly myself as mayor, we’re all trying, through everything that we do, to build trust up, to improve information sharing, to improve communication back and forth, to make sure police have more of a presence.”
Tory’s comments were made following a report in the Globe and Mail published on Tuesday in which Saunders was quoted saying police might have identified McArthur sooner had people who crossed paths with him come forward more promptly.
“We knew something was up … We did not have the evidence,” Saunders told the newspaper. “If anyone knew before us, it’s people who knew him very, very well. And so that did not come out.”
McArthur, a 66-year-old self-employed landscaper, faces six charges of first-degree murder in the deaths of missing men from the city’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood.
Police believe there may be more victims.
Community members have been critical of police in their efforts to solve the cases of missing men.
Toronto city Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, whose ward includes the gay neighbourhood, says she was “shocked” by Saunders’ remarks, and that the community was instrumental in raising awareness for the missing men.
Wong-Tam says police repeatedly told concerned community members that there was no reason to believe a serial killer was active in the area.
Saunders had defended the work of investigators in both Project Houston, a probe into three missing men between 2012 and 2014, and Project Prism, which looked at the disappearances of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen last summer.
Tory said police are continuing their efforts to review how they conduct missing persons investigations and ways to improve engagement with the LGBTQ community.
“I want to make it very clear as mayor that there is no one that is suggesting any blame belongs on victims of horrific crimes that we are all grieving as a city with LGBTQ and the Church/Wellesley community generally, that there are reviews underway now to determine exactly what happened here and why and how we can do better,” Tory said.
“But the ultimate objective is one single objective which is to increase and restore any trust that was lost between the police and the community and we’ll have to keep working on that every single day.”
VIDEO: Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur charged in death of Skandaraj Navaratnam
—With a file from The Canadian Press