Court in session, as serial killer Bruce McArthur waits to learn whether he’ll ever be eligible for parole

Serial killer Bruce McArthur, having pleaded guilty to the first-degree murders of eight men, will learn today how much time he will have to spend in prison before he’s eligible for parole.

His plea to those murders, which carry an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, means that at the very least, the 67-year-old former Toronto landscaper will be 91 years old before he can face a parole board.

The Crown has taken advantage of a 2011 law that allows judges to hand out consecutive periods of parole ineligibility in cases involving multiple murders. It has asked Superior Court Justice John McMahon to impose a sentence that would make McArthur ineligible for parole for 50 years.

McArthur’s defence lawyers have asked for the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years before parole eligibility.

In his summation on Tuesday, Crown attorney Craig Harper argued there is nothing about McArthur or his crimes that merits the most lenient sentence. It would also leave open the possibility that friends and family of his victims would, for years, face the prospect of having to confront McArthur at a parole hearing.

Crown lawyer Craig Harper has asked Superior Court Justice John McMahon that McArthur be sentenced to life, with no chance of parole for 50 years. (Pam Davies/CBC)

But McArthur’s defence counsel James Miglin said his client’s age should be taken into consideration. So, too, should the fact that his guilty plea is a public acknowledgment of responsibility and remorse, he said.

‘Impossible to overstate’

Miglin said it was “impossible to overstate” the consumption of resources saved by McArthur’s plea and how it spared the family and friends of the victims and the community at large the emotional toll of a trial.

McMahon also raised that same point with the Crown, asking Harper why McArthur shouldn’t be given some credit for pleading guilty.

He asked if McArthur’s “character” should be judged at least in part by his behaviour over the past year, which included waiving a preliminary hearing, foregoing a trial and pleading guilty.

And he asked if he were to impose the Crown’s recommended sentence, what incentive would there be for other prisoners to take responsibility for their actions and plead guilty.

McArthur’s defence lawyer James Miglin has argued that his client should be sentenced to the mandatory minimum of life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Harper said that each case is different, and that when it comes to guilty pleas, people make them for a variety of reasons. While acknowledging the time and resources saved, and the emotional toll spared by McArthur’s plea, Harper said the Crown had a strong case and the strength of that case undoubtedly affected his decision.

McMahon will also have to determine the relevance of the sentence given to Elizabeth Wetlauffer, who is serving eight concurrent life sentences for murder and is eligible for parole in 25 years. Harper had argued that her case is different, that she had confessed to her crimes, unlike McArthur who “was caught.”

“He did not stop,” McMahon said.

Last week, McArthur pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the deaths of Andrew Kinsman, 49, Selim Esen, 44, Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, Abdulbasir Faizi, 44, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, 37, Dean Lisowick, 47, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Majeed Kayhan, 58.

Impact statements read in court

Most of the victims had ties to Toronto’s LGBT community, six were immigrants and either of South Asian or Middle Eastern decent.

Earlier this week, through victim impact statements read by friends and family members or the Crown, the court heard the emotional devastation wrought by the deaths of the eight men.

The public also learned, through an agreed statement of fact read out by Crown attorney Michael Cantlon, graphic details about McArthur’s grisly crimes.

McArthur, it was learned, repeatedly killed people using “ligature strangulation,” and would engage in “post-offence rituals” that included posing some of his victims and dressing them up. He also took hundreds of pictures of men after they had been killed.

McArthur kept some of their personal belongings, like bracelets and notepads, and also kept digital files of all the victims, categorizing them in subfolders.

The agreed statement of fact also provided new details about what lead police to McArthur. The court heard that following the disappearance of Kinsman, police, upon searching his apartment, discovered the name “Bruce” scribbled in his calendar on the date he was thought to have gone missing.

Video surveillance of the area also revealed Kinsman entering a Dodge Caravan at his apartment building around the time of his disappearance.

Police then cross referenced Dodge Caravans from 2003 to 2006 with the name “Bruce,” leading to five individuals, including McArthur, the court heard. Four were eliminated as suspects allowing police to zero in on McArthur.

Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty to killing these eight men. Top row, from left to right: Skandaraj Navaratnam, Andrew Kinsman, Selim Esen and Abdulbasir Faizi. Bottom row, from left to right: Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi and Majeed Kayhan. (John Fraser/CBC)

The agreed statement of fact also revealed new details about McArthur’s arrest on Jan. 18, 2018. On that day, McArthur had picked up a man he had met through a dating app and had been intimate with on several occasions.

McArthur brought him back to his apartment, where he would secure him to the bed with handcuffs and put a bag over his head, the court heard. Police, who had been following McArthur and realized he had brought a man to his apartment, knocked on the door. When McArthur answered, police entered, found the man secured to the bed and arrested McArthur.

On that same day, police held a news conference, announcing that Bruce McArthur of Toronto, a self-employed landscaper, was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Kinsman and Esen.

Police would later discover the remains of seven men in garden planters at the home where McArthur had worked as a landscaper. The remains of another victim were found in a ravine behind the property.

The case sparked anger from some members of the LGBT community who felt that police dismissed their concerns about a possible serial killer and may not have put sufficient resources into finding the culprit.

The force has also been criticized for its approach to missing persons cases, particularly those involving people from marginalized communities.

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