Police have confirmed that more human remains were found Wednesday during their investigation into alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur – in the ravine of a Leaside property where they previously found the remains of seven men in planters.
The yet unidentified remains were pulled from the wooded area around 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, in a large black bag carried by a team of officials, and slid into the back of a coroner’s van.
The grim scene came just hours after Toronto police started excavating on the property, where − in January − they seized multiple planters, cracked them open and found the remains of Andrew Kinsman, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Selim Esen, Dean Lisowick, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam.
Mr. McArthur has been charged with murdering all of them, as well as Majeed Kayhan, a 58-year-old who fled from war in Afghanistan to the safety of Canada, only to disappear in 2012.
Mr. Kayhan’s body has yet to be found. “I’m hopeful it’s him,” Hank Idsinga, the lead detective on the case, said Thursday morning. But, he added, they just don’t know yet – the remains could be part of the seven sets already located, or they could be an entirely new set.
Police had “what’s essentially a very large compost pile” down the ravine, he explained. They’re currently digging into the compost pile and putting any material they find into buckets. Then, the buckets are passed down a line to sifting stations, to look for further remains.
Detective Sergeant Idsinga had been at home, sick in bed, when the remains were found on Wednesday. “Of all days,” he added. He’d learned about the grisly discovery in a message from his right-hand man, Detective David Dickinson. “I mean, you’re always optimistic. But you start digging, and a couple hours later, boom, we’ve got something? It was a little bit surprising,” he said.
Right now, it’s not clear whether bodies were moved from the ravine into the planters where they’ve previously been found. “If the remains that we’ve located get identified and they turn out to be partial remains for someone who’s already found in the planters, we might be able to give you a better answer on that,” Det. Sgt. Idsinga said.
Police wanted to search the ground at the Leaside house immediately after finding remains in the planters. But the earth in January proved to be cold, hard terrain. Investigators tried to warm it, but ultimately resolved to return when the seasons shifted.
In May, trained cadaver dogs indicated the possible presence of human remains in multiple locations across one larger piece of the property. After a month of co-ordination, including scheduling with the Centre for Forensic Sciences and communication with the homeowners, the excavation began on Wednesday morning.
“It’s going to be answers for someone,” Det. Sgt. Idsinga said.
The Leaside house, tucked neatly into a corner of a sleepy, curling row of homes on Mallory Crescent, is the only property out of approximately 100 that police dogs signalled might be of interest during their search. Mr. McArthur had worked there as a landscaper for years.
A tent was set up above the ravine, at the side of the property, partly blocked by a fleet of cars that included a command vehicle, a Durham forensic-investigation services van and a van from Toronto’s forensic-identification services. In a dark car at the side of the scene, Det. Dickinson sat, quietly at work.
Det. Dickinson is one of more than a dozen officers working the McArthur case, and has been tapped to eventually testify during Mr. McArthur’s trial − so his availability to discuss the investigation is different than Det. Sgt. Idsinga’s. His goal, he said, is just to give answers to the communities involved. He believes that even when the trial is over, there are families of missing folks who will wonder whether Mr. McArthur was involved.
“Part of this is humanitarian,” he said. He tapped the black-leather folder on the passenger seat, which he kept close at hand as he ventured up and down the ravine throughout the afternoon, saying he’d keep updating his notes until they had explanations.
The locations identified by the cadaver dogs were hot spots within one larger area, Det. Dickinson explained − a leafy area between the house and the railway tracks that run along behind it. A police service dog named Major was on-scene throughout the day on Wednesday. At one point, he was taken down into the ravine by his handler, Sergeant Derrick Gaudet, and returned with a reward between his teeth: a blue toy bone.
Around 4 p.m., a hurried group of officers and officials emerged from the trees, a team of them carrying a black bag. A black van, identified by an officer on-scene as the coroner’s van, had its back doors open and waiting. Then, they snapped shut and the van drove away.