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Sergeant Paul Gauthier at the Toronto Police headquarters in February, 2011.

CTV Toronto

The disciplinary hearing of a detective accused of failing to act in the case of serial killer Bruce McArthur began Tuesday with the officer’s lawyer challenging the independence of the tribunal and criticizing the police chief.

Sergeant Paul Gauthier of the Toronto Police Service is charged in connection with a 2016 incident in which police failed to follow up on a complaint that Mr. McArthur tried to strangle a man during a sexual encounter.

Mr. McArthur eventually pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of eight men between 2010 and 2017, including two victims who were killed after the 2016 incident.

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Sgt. Gauthier was not present at the disciplinary hearing. His lawyer, Lawrence Gridin, told the tribunal about a Dec. 8, 2017, news conference at which Police Chief Mark Saunders heard concerns that a serial killer was preying on gay men.

“He denied there was any evidence” of a serial killer, Mr. Gridin said. “The information at the press conference was not correct. Mr. McArthur had been a suspect for a month.”

Mr. Gridin said he brought up Chief Saunders' comments because he wanted an independent judge to handle the case rather than the adjudicating officer, Superintendent Richard Hegedus.

“You have no independence from the chief of police,” he told Supt. Hegedus.

Sgt. Gauthier was charged with insubordination and neglect of duty. Details of the allegations against him were not released because he was not present.

However, the incident was described Monday at Mr. McArthur’s sentencing. An agreed statement of facts read in court said that on June 20, 2016, Mr. McArthur had invited an acquaintance to his van. Inside, the floor was covered with a plastic sheet and a fur coat. Mr. McArthur told the man to lie down. Then, with an angry look on his face, grabbed his throat. The man begged and pleaded before he managed to escape and call 911.

Crown attorney Michael Cantlon said Mr. McArthur was arrested but “gave an exculpatory statement. An officer released Mr. McArthur without charges, believing his statement to be credible.”

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The name of the victim has not been made public. A friend said the man is of Middle Eastern origin and is now living in a country where it would not be safe to disclose his sexual orientation.

Sgt. Gauthier is a 20-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service. In a previous statement, Mr. Gridin said his client’s decision in 2016 was made “in conjunction” with a supervisor.

Sgt. Gauthier’s case was adjourned to Feb. 26.

According to police affidavits filed in court, investigators said Mr. McArthur became a suspect by early November, when the blood of his last victim, Andrew Kinsman, was found in his van. But it was only after Jan. 17, 2018, when photos of the victims were found on his electronic devices, that he was considered a suspect in several murders.

Sgt. Gauthier also appeared before the disciplinary tribunal in 2017 on allegations that he failed to proceed in a sexual-assault investigation – despite a DNA match – while he was with the sex-crimes unit. The case was eventually withdrawn, and he was disciplined within his unit.

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