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editorial

The unfolding investigation into alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur grows more horrifying all the time.

Toronto police revealed on Monday that the 66-year-old landscaper has now been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, and that more victims are likely.

Hundreds of officers are on the case. Still, it is not too early to wonder how we got to this place, and whether police may have erred along the way.

As the tally of missing people mounted in Toronto's Gay Village in recent years, rumours of a serial killer swirled. Police mounted at least two big investigations into the disappearances, but they were loath to draw connections between the cases.

In fact, as recently as December, Toronto police chief Mark Saunders insisted there was no evidence of a serial killer preying on the LGBTQ community. That seems odd now; media reports suggest that officers had been investigating Mr. McArthur for months at that point.

Sooner or later, Toronto police will have to explain how an alleged serial killer was able to prowl Toronto for years while missing-persons posters spread across the Village.

The police will also have to reckon with the identities of the known victims to date. Most of them were part of one disadvantaged minority or another: either gay, or itinerant, or addicted to drugs, or brown-skinned immigrants to Canada, or some combination thereof.

To wonder if those characteristics slowed the police response is inevitable, given the decades of accumulated mistrust between Canadian police departments and marginalized people.

Robert Pickton's killing of dozens of women, many of them Indigenous, from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, testifies to the blind spots that can afflict law enforcement.

There is no evidence that police bungled the McArthur investigation, and every indication that they are doing what they can at the moment. But Toronto is facing the prospect that one of the worst serial killers in city history picked men off, one by one, from the margins of society, and got away with it for half a decade or more. We have to find out why.