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Greg Downer, who is leading the search effort, hangs a poster for Andrew Kinsman, who disappeared in June. ‘Whoever took Andrew had to have known what they were doing,’ he says.The Globe and Mail/The Globe and Mail

Patricia Kinsman has searched Toronto's ravine system every two weeks for the past three months looking for clues to her youngest brother's missing body.

"It's not hard to go out and search. But it's difficult to come back knowing that you found nothing," she said.

Her brother, Andrew Kinsman, inexplicably went missing in June. He is one of two men who disappeared this year from Toronto's vibrant Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, the heart of the city's LGBTQ community.

The Toronto Police Service launched a task force in August to find out what happened to Mr. Kinsman and Selim Esen. The task force was originally to last two months but was extended last week for another two months.

Some in the community believe their cases, as well as those of other men who have gone missing in the past few years from the area, are linked in some way. Others, such as Ms. Kinsman, aren't so sure because of the confounding lack of evidence.

Either way, the cases have mobilized a number of people in the neighbourhood to search for the missing men and to figure out what is going on in their community. Searches often take place on a weekly basis, and with fall bringing increased visibility in forested areas, they are now being scheduled daily.

The police task force, meanwhile, is combing through phone data, searching apartments and interviewing members of the community to locate Mr. Kinsman and Mr. Esen.

Dating apps are proving to be a key aspect of the police investigation. However, getting access to information from those apps, which requires judicial applications, can be time-consuming – one of the reasons why the investigation could be prolonged for some time.

"It's difficult to investigate because of the lifestyle of these missing persons," said Detective Sergeant Michael Richmond, who is overseeing the task force.

"Our information is that all of them had similar lifestyles – they were active on social dating applications – and, just by the nature of those, they likely met people who they had not met before, and that adds an element of danger."

While members of the LGBTQ community say they aren't living in fear because of the missing men, people are being urged to be careful with dating apps. One post on a Facebook group dedicated to searching for the missing is telling people to always let a friend know when they are meeting somebody from a dating app. It also urges community members to download apps that let friends track their location.

Police, family and friends all say the Kinsman and Esin cases are so striking because it is so unlike the men to go anywhere without notifying friends or family.

Ms. Kinsman called her brother a "creature of habit" who had deep roots in his community and was a well-known figure. And there was too much left behind in his apartment – prescription medication, even his cat – for her to imagine that he just ran off somewhere.

"In our hearts, we don't believe he would ever leave his cat – a cat he had for 17 years – without food or water," she said, adding that he loved animals and cared deeply about animal rights.

While Mr. Kinsman was very well connected in the community, Mr. Esen's case is tougher. Police describe him as "transient," saying he did not have any fixed addresses that they are aware of. He was known to carry a small silver suitcase with wheels, which he took from residence to residence. Police say nobody has heard from him since April 16.

At the same time, they are exploring links to the cases of three other missing men from the same area: Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan. Police had previously investigated their disappearances, which took place between 2010 and 2012, but eventually dropped the cases when no promising leads were found.

Those cases were even more difficult to investigate because the men were immigrants and had not lived in the community long enough to make many connections.

Greg Downer, a friend and co-worker of Mr. Kinsman's, pointed out that his friend would not have been an easy target for a kidnapping.

"I'm 6-foot-2 and I still have to look up to make eye contact with him," Mr. Downer said. "Whoever took Andrew had to have known what they were doing."

Mr. Downer has been at the centre of the community-driven efforts to find the missing men. Searching under the presumption that their bodies may have been discarded in Toronto's ravines, Mr. Downer moderates multiple groups on Facebook to organize volunteers. "Find Andrew Kinsman" and "Toronto's Missing Rainbow Community" have almost 600 members each.

"A lot of people want to feel like they're doing something to help," Mr. Downer said. "They're asking, 'What else can I do?'"

Their help is valuable, he says, because some families find it too difficult to search for their missing loved ones.

Mr. Downer is one of many in the community who believe the cases may be linked. He says all the missing men have a similar look about them and notes that one community member pointed out that all of them went missing during holidays and celebrations.

He also says it's possible their bodies aren't in Toronto at all. If they were kidnapped, he says, it's just as likely that they were driven away and could be anywhere.

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The Canadian Press