Police have uncovered the remains of three more people – bringing the total to six – from garden planters on a Toronto property tied to alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur, and expect to lay more charges as they review missing persons cases spanning back years for possible connections to Mr. McArthur.
Mr. McArthur has been charged in the deaths of five missing men connected to the city's Gay Village. Homicide Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga confirmed Thursday that one of the bodies recovered belonged to Andrew Kinsman, providing some closure to family and friends of the 49-year-old who disappeared last June.
The other five bodies, which were recovered from a home on Mallory Crescent in the Leaside neighbourhood where Mr. McArthur stored his tools in exchange for landscaping work, have not been identified. Police are still trying to determine if two other missing men are connected to the case and acknowledge they don't know how many more victims there may be.
"It is getting bigger and we are getting more resources … it is going to be a very extensive investigation," Det.-Sgt. Idsinga told reporters.
Police will now begin excavating the property's backyard under the supervision of a forensic anthropologist, Kathy Gruspier, and examining planters taken from other properties around the city.
While police have charged Mr. McArthur with five counts of first-degree murder, including for that of Mr. Kinsman, they had, until Thursday, not been able to attach names to any of the remains found on the property.
On Thursday morning, police contacted friends and family of Mr. Kinsman to let them know that his body was one of those unearthed at the house. By the afternoon, a website that had been set up to help organize the search for Mr. Kinsman was edited to read, simply: "We have found Andrew, but will always be missing him."
Meaghan Marian, a housemate of Mr. Kinsman, said that "in some sense" they now have closure. "That word, however, is imperfect," she said, adding that now they can stop searching and "focus on appreciating Andrew's generosity, kindness, and humour."
Ms. Marian added that she hopes that the families of other missing men, "do not have to wait any longer for the peace Andrew's friends have today."
Det.-Sgt. Idsinga says work will continue to bring that same sort of closure to the loved ones of the other missing or murdered men.
Skandaraj Navaratnam and Abdulbasir Faizi went missing in 2010. Police have long connected their disappearances with a third man, Majeed Kayhan, who police believe is one of Mr. McArthur's victims, but their disappearances remain officially unsolved and unexplained. The Globe has previously reported that Mr. Navaratnam worked with Mr. McArthur on his landscaping business.
With news that six bodies in total have been discovered, it's possible that resolution may be coming. It's not yet clear whether the five other bodies belong to some of the names known to police or whether they are new victims.
Ahead of the police announcement, Sarrah Becker, who remembers Mr. Navaratnam as her "adopted gay uncle," said she continues to hold out hope, however irrational, that he simply ran away, and is still happy, and alive, somewhere far away. Even still, she admits that's almost certainly not the case.
Four years on, she says she regularly walks down into the ravines of the Don Valley, near her house, keeping her eyes out for any sign of Mr. Navaratnam.
That string of open fields and wooded areas have been searched extensively in the past by friends of both Mr. Navaratnam and Mr. Kinsman. The groups came together to search for Mr. Kinsman last summer, nearly seven years after Mr. Navaratnam disappeared.
Police will continue painstakingly excavating the backyard of the Mallory Crescent residence, which overlooks the stretches of the Don Valley that were searched intermittently for years. Police believe more answers will come underneath a grassy patch, covered under a large tent. Police have been using an Ontario Provincial Police ground-penetrating radar to inform their search.
For nearly three weeks now, police have thawed the ground, using heaters powered by a mobile generator. Det.-Sgt. Idsinga said the excavation will take up to a week and a half.
Renee Willmon, a forensic anthropologist and doctoral candidate at Western University, said in an interview that Mr. Kinsman could have been identified first for a number of reasons. DNA profiles for him and his family may have been more readily available. Since he went missing last summer, "it is possible that soft tissue could have remained to aid in the identification, if he had any surgical implants there may have been a serial number that could easily be associated with him," she said. While police did not reveal what led to the positive identification, Mr. Kinsman had two knee replacements.
Dr. Gruspier's supervising role in the excavation will enable her to use a combination of notes, maps and photographs "so that the scene can essentially be reverse engineered to determine how any evidence or remains that are discovered were initially put into the ground," Ms. Willmon said.
She said Dr. Gruspier would look for clues such as the soil colour, texture and distribution to assess whether a grave was deliberately dug, whether any pre-existing features of the landscape were taken advantage of in choosing the areas to investigate further, and what type of tool may have been used to dig the grave.
Investigators also plan to excavate a second site but Det.-Sgt. Idsinga declined to give its specific location.
Forensic officers are also still combing through Mr. McArthur's flat, on the 19th floor of an apartment tower that is a 10-minute drive east of the Mallory Crescent house.