Months before his last two alleged victims disappeared, Bruce McArthur had a sexual encounter that ended with the other man reporting to Toronto police that Mr. McArthur tried to strangle him, The Globe and Mail has learned.
The alleged assault, which a police source said took place in 2016, appears to be at least the second time Mr. McArthur was interviewed by investigators in the years before he was eventually arrested and subsequently charged with six counts of first-degree murder.
Police also spoke to Mr. McArthur in 2013 during Project Houston, an investigation into three missing gay men, The Globe previously reported.
Two of those three missing people – Skandaraj Navaratnam and Majeed Kayhan – are among the six men that Mr. McArthur, a 66-year-old Toronto landscaper, has been charged with murdering.
A friend of Mr. Kayhan's told The Globe that he spoke with Project Houston investigators for at least four hours in 2013, and that he suggested they question Mr. McArthur.
The police actions have led community members, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto Police Services Board chair Andy Pringle to press for an independent external review. On Thursday, Ontario Attorney-General Yasir Naqvi said he was pondering the calls for a provincial inquest.
"The tragic deaths of members of the LGBTQ2 community are deeply troubling," Mr. Naqvi said in a statement. "We recognize that there are many unanswered questions. We are reviewing the request to call a public inquiry and will be maintaining an open dialogue with the City of Toronto on next steps following the conclusion of any criminal proceedings."
In the latest development, two people independently told The Globe that Mr. McArthur was interviewed by Toronto police after another man complained to them that he was choked during an otherwise consensual encounter.
The two people – a police source and a friend of the complainant – spoke separately to The Globe, before Toronto police disclosed this week that there would be an internal review of the way officers handled a past interaction with Mr. McArthur in the months before his Jan. 18 arrest.
Geoff Davis told The Globe that he is a friend of the man who said he was assaulted by Mr. McArthur.
Mr. Davis said his friend reported to police that he connected with Mr. McArthur through a dating app and that they were kissing when Mr. McArthur grabbed him by the throat.
The friend, who declined to speak to The Globe, didn't tell Mr. Davis the date of the incident. However, his account matches that of a police source with knowledge of the investigation into the missing men.
The source said that, in 2016, a man complained that Mr. McArthur hooked up with him on a date and, while they were in his vehicle, attempted to choke him.
The man said he managed to fight Mr. McArthur off and reported the incident to police, the source said.
However, Mr. McArthur also went to police, to allege that it was the other man who was the assailant, the source said.
Investigators didn't press charges because they were faced with two conflicting versions of the incident, the source said, calling it a he-said-he-said situation.
The police source said the 2016 incident was discovered last year when Mr. McArthur came to the attention of Project Prism, a second probe into missing men initiated in August, 2017, that eventually led to his arrest.
Earlier this week, Toronto police began an internal review after Prism's lead investigator, homicide Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga, reported a possible past misconduct involving officers and Mr. McArthur.
Det. Sgt. Idsinga didn't provide details, but said it happened between the end of Project Houston in 2014, and the start of Project Prism in 2017.
The incident will now be investigated by the force's professional standards unit. "They're going to take what I forwarded them and take a look at that incident," Det. Sgt. Idsinga told The Globe.
The Toronto Star reported on Thursday that the incident Det. Sgt. Idsinga referred to the professional standards unit involved Mr. McArthur being questioned by police in 2016 "regarding an allegation that he was physically abusive to someone."
It is not clear if the officers who handled the 2013 interview with Mr. McArthur kept a record that could have been consulted by their colleagues who took the 2016 complaint.
The friend of Mr. Kayhan's said in an interview that one of the last times he saw him was in the fall of 2012. The friend said that was when Mr. McArthur showed up at Mr. Kayhan's apartment in the Gay Village. Mr. Kayhan went missing in October that year.
The friend was away from Ontario for several months. When he came back to Toronto in the summer, he saw flyers seeking public help to find the three missing men.
The friend said he went to police and was interviewed for four to five hours and was asked who Mr. Kayhan associated with. He said he suggested the officers speak to Mr. McArthur. He told police that Mr. McArthur and Mr. Kayhan had gone camping together and had been sexually intimate.
He only knew him as "Bruce," but told police Mr. McArthur had profiles on dating apps.
The friend said the officers then asked him if he was alluding to the landscaper.
In addition to being charged with murdering Mr. Navaratnam in 2010 and Mr. Kayhan in 2012, Mr. McArthur also faces first-degree murder charges for Soroush Mahmudi, who disappeared in 2015; Dean Lisowick, who vanished some time between 2016 and 2017; and Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen, who went missing last year.
Ted Healey, a friend of Mr. Kinsman's, said the latest revelations have created conflicting emotions between gratitude that police eventually made an arrest and disappointment that the case might have not been handled best in the past.
"I am saddened by the implication that some lives could have been spared including my friend, Andrew Kinsman, if the 'right questions' were asked," Mr. Healey said in an e-mail to The Globe.
"But since the police are not forthcoming with details I will just have to be patient to get the answers I, and his friends and family, are looking for."
He noted at the same time that all the detectives he dealt with were professional and thorough.