The Ontario government is not planning to hold a public inquiry into how police dealt with Bruce McArthur, instead hoping that the judge heading an independent review will be able to expand its mandate to include the case of the serial killer.
Attorney-General Caroline Mulroney told reporters on Thursday that the province will await the findings of Justice Gloria Epstein’s review into how the Toronto Police Service handles missing persons cases. Justice Epstein has already asked the Toronto Police Services Board to lift restrictions in her mandate that stopped her from examining contacts between Mr. McArthur and police. Her final report is due in April, 2020.
“We’re going to wait to see what Justice Epstein has to say on the matter ... I hope, I would encourage the scope to be as broad as possible,” Ms. Mulroney said.
There appeared to be some crossed lines between the minister and the police board, which is an civilian body. Board chairman Andy Pringle said the board wouldn’t change the review’s mandate until Ms. Mulroney had clarified whether the province was considering a public inquiry.
“This response was important to the board in determining how to address Justice Epstein’s request to revise the terms of reference for her review," Mr. Pringle told the board Thursday.
Mr. Pringle added that the review should be comprehensive and include the McArthur case. “We seek to restore and fortify confidence in our police,” he said.
Mr. McArthur, a 67-year-old Toronto landscaper, pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder last month, removing concerns that a review or a public inquiry would affect court proceedings.
The case raised questions about whether Mr. McArthur could have been stopped sooner. He killed eight men with ties to Toronto’s Gay Village between 2010 and 2017. He was interviewed twice by police, in 2013 and 2016, but not charged.
A 210-page police affidavit unsealed on Wednesday gives more details about the two occasions when he was interviewed by police years before his 2018 arrest.
The first three victims – Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan – went missing between 2010 and 2012.
Both Mr. Navaratnam and Mr. Faizi shared a common contact, someone using the handle silverfoxx51. It was written in one of Mr. Faizi’s notepads and was among deleted contacts on Mr. Navaratnam’s phone, which also listed Mr. McArthur’s cell number.
Police interviewed Mr. McArthur on video on Nov. 11, 2013. He said he knew Mr. Navaratnam and Mr. Kayhan, but not Mr. Faizi.
The affidavit gives no explanation why a police search of their databases didn’t bring up his 2003 conviction for assaulting a gay sex worker.
According to the agreed statement of facts read at his sentencing, “McArthur was not a suspect at the time of this interview. Rather, he was treated as a witness.”
Mr. McArthur crossed paths with police again in 2016 when a man complained that the landscaper had tried to strangle him.
The complainant is of Middle Eastern origin. According to the affidavit, he and Mr. McArthur had been in a casual relationship for several years.
Around 6 p.m. on June 20, 2016, Mr. McArthur invited the man for dinner. They were in the parking lot of a Tim Hortons in North York and started kissing in Mr. McArthur’s van when “all of a sudden McArthur started freaking out. McArthur did not say anything; he grabbed [the man] by the throat,” the affidavit said.
The man called police, Mr. McArthur was arrested that night and interrogated.
He told officers that, as the kissing started in the van, he pinched the man’s penis. He claimed the man asked to be pinched harder “causing McArthur to believe he wanted it rough.”
The investigating officer, Sergeant Paul Gauthier, “indicated that McArthur appeared genuine and credible in his recall of the incident. It was determined that there were no grounds to lay charges,” the affidavit said.
Sgt. Gauthier is now facing disciplinary charges in connection with the incident.