WARNING: This story contains graphic language and material. Viewer discretion is advised.
UPDATE (Jan. 29, 2019): Bruce McArthur has pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder
The day after alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur was arrested for the murders of two men, Sean Cribbin received a call from Toronto police.
Cribbin hadn’t told them that in the summer of 2017, he’d had a casual sexual encounter with McArthur after meeting the alleged serial killer on dating apps. According to Cribbin, it ended with him unconscious.
But Cribbin says police seemed to know and asked if he had seen any cameras in McArthur’s apartment.
“I didn’t remember any cameras, but as the [interview] was winding down, I knew at this point there were photos of me,” said Cribbin, his voice trembling. “[They] said to me that I was bound. I was in pretty much, for lack of a better term … a kill position.”
“It hadn’t dawned on me until we got further along in the conversation how much danger I was in that day and how close I was to not coming back,” he said.
“It’s something that haunts me, gives me nightmares.”
McArthur now faces six first-degree murder charges in a series of killings targeting gay men in Toronto. On Monday, police released a photo of a deceased unidentified man who they believe may be another victim.
Cribbin’s account of his interview with police suggests McArthur may have filmed or videotaped the other men he is accused of killing. Police would not comment on this detail.
In an interview with Sirius XM’s Arlene Bynon and broadcaster and LGBT community leader Shaun Proulx, and obtained by Global News, Cribbin said he first encountered the alleged serial killer several years ago on gay dating apps, including Recon and Growlr. He said he was first struck by McArthur’s profile pic.
“He looked like Santa Claus, even on his profile – his pic had a picture of him as the Mall Santa,” Cribbin said, referencing the now infamous photos of McArthur, who worked as a mall Santa Claus in Scarborough.
“It’s creepy now – but at the time it’s like ‘Oh, he does community work.’”
Sporting a long, thick beard and shaved head, Cribbin is well known in Toronto’s gay community. In 2005, he was crowned Mr. Leatherman Toronto, a competition involving members of the city’s leather and kink community.
The 50-year-old currently lives in The Village with his partner, Steven Sauder, in an open relationship. Global News spoke with Sauder, who confirmed Cribbin told him about the encounter with an alleged serial killer and corroborated events that followed McArthur’s arrest.
After several fateful missed connections, Cribbin and McArthur agreed to meet for a daytime sexual encounter at McArthur’s Thorncliffe Park apartment in late July.
Cribbin said despite having a pickup location in front of his building, he agreed to meet McArthur a few blocks away. Looking back, he believes McArthur wanted to avoid security cameras surrounding the apartment building.
“When I got in his truck – the first thing he did was put his hand on my knee – and I don’t know if that was to calm me down or put me at ease,” he said. “But there were no red flags for me to think I was in any danger at this point.”
“He didn’t strike me as someone who’s going to kill me.”
A daytime meeting
Driving back to the apartment, Cribbin began talking about the disappearance of men in the Village and the possibility of a serial killer in the city.
McArthur didn’t respond, Cribbin said, and instead discussed his landscaping business.
“I’m just thinking back – what was going through his head when I was going off about a serial killer?” he said.
Arriving at what he described as a tastefully decorated and expansive 19th floor unit, Cribbin said McArthur told him his roommate was gone for the evening and the two would have the place to themselves.
Cribbin said he was offered a non-alcoholic cocktail, which he quickly downed knowing it contained GHB.
GHB is a drug which, in small doses, causes a euphoric feeling and can heighten a sexual experience. The drug can be used similarly to Rohypnol and is also known as a “date rape” drug as it can quickly cause unconsciousness in higher doses. The difference can be just a few drops.
But, according to Cribbin, what began as a consensual sexual encounter, in which Cribbin was willing to push his “limits,” quickly turned into a terrifying ordeal.
“I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “That made me uncomfortable and put the first red flag up that I wanted to go home because he wasn’t, I felt, respecting my limits.”
Cribbin – who is a long-time member of the leather and kink community – said bondage and submission role-playing is based on creating a safe and consensual environment, using “safe words” to indicate to a sexual partner when to stop.
“When you play with someone in this, the proper environment, it’s built on safe, sane and consensual,” he said. “There’s some expectation of trying to find that area where it’s close to the edge.”
“The only memory I have from it, is ‘I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t breathe.’”
“He was cutting off my airway … with his hands, with his body weight sitting on my chest,” Cribbin said before he lost consciousness. “He was basically raping my throat.”
Cribbin says he remembers waking up and could hear the sound of a person in another room. It was McArthur’s roommate. And Cribbin now believes that saved his life.
“All I can go on is what I think, and it’s the roommate coming home, interrupting whatever his processes or his ritual,” he said. “I was just the lucky one. That’s all. It could happen to anyone.”
The arrest of the 66-year-old self-employed landscaper on Jan. 18 sent shockwaves through Toronto and the city’s gay community. On Jan. 29, homicide detectives first used the term to “serial killer” to describe the accused. Members of Toronto’s LGBTQ community have criticized police force for failing to acknowledge fears that cases of men going missing from the area were connected to one killer.
To date, McArthur has been charged with the murder of Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Andrew Kinsman, 49, Selim Esen, 44, Majeed Kayhan, 58, Dean Lisowick, 47, and Soroush Mahmudi, 50.
Grisly details in the case began to emerge the day of McArthur’s arrest, when police say they kicked down the door to his apartment and found a man tied to his bed. As investigators began to comb through properties across the city connected to McArthur, it was revealed he allegedly dismembered some of his victims.
7th suspected victim announced
On Monday, Toronto police released the photo of a deceased male they say is a victim of McArthur and are asking the public to help identify him. His remains were discovered in planters seized at a home on Mallory Cres., where McArthur did landscaping work and stored tools.
“We have utilized numerous investigative techniques to identify this individual and so far have been unsuccessful,” said Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga, lead investigator in the McArthur case. “I did not want to release this picture and I am doing so as a last resort.”
Human remains of at least seven people were recovered from the Mallory Crescent property, four have yet to be identified.
Detectives have identified remains belonging to Kinsman, who was identified through fingerprint evidence, and Navaratnam and Mahmudi, whose identities were confirmed through dental records.
None of the charges have been proven in court.
Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist told Monday’s news conference that the causes of death have not yet been determined.
“This is a unique investigation in the history of our organization. It is drawing on the talents and expertise of essentially everyone in the organization,” Pollanen said.
Idsinga has said it’s been a “rough” time for everyone involved in the investigation, which he has called an unprecedented case for Toronto police.
“Everyone is tired, but everyone is working hard because they do have a vested interest in a successful outcome,” Idsinga told reporters March 5. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of hours but we are getting the job done.”
Idsinga has said they are now looking at “hundreds” of outstanding missing persons cases going back to the 1970s.
Global News contacted police, who declined to answer questions for this story, but a source says the incident involving Cribbin is part of the ongoing investigation.
Idsinga is asking anyone with information on McArthur to contact police.
“Any encounter they’ve had with Mr. McArthur, whether it be on the street or it be sexual, please contact us and hopefully we can add some pieces to the jigsaw puzzle,” Idsinga said Monday.
McArthur’s next scheduled court date is March 14. His attorney, Edward Royle, declined to answer questions when reached by Global News.
For Cribbin, he is haunted by the encounter last summer that could have ended with his murder.
“I am having some night terrors,” he said. “I’ve never been afraid of the dark. The fact that it happened in the daytime is quite ironic.”
Cribbin also says he has struggled with survivor’s guilt that he made it out – and so many others did not.
“I want to say to the families of the other victims that my heart goes out to them,” he said. “There’s too much evil in the world and I’m learning that more and more.”
To hear more from the interview, a special edition of the Arlene Bynon show, Canada Talks, on Sirius XM channel 167 will air Wednesday, March 7 at 10 a.m.
–With files from Catherine McDonald, and Carolyn Jarvis