‘They need a scapegoat,’ officer who released Bruce McArthur says of Toronto police

The Toronto police officer facing disciplinary charges related to a 2016 arrest and release of serial killer Bruce McArthur has accused the force of turning him into “a scapegoat” to divert attention from other errors made during the investigation.

Sgt. Paul Gauthier made the comments in a letter, emailed to colleagues on Wednesday, which has been obtained by CBC Toronto. (See below.)

Gauthier is accused of breaching the force’s policy on how to handle reports of domestic violence.

Lawrence Gridin, Gauthier’s lawyer, says the charges relate to allegations that when he obtained a statement from a man complaining about McArthur, he did not record it on video as the policy requires. He is also accused of failing to take photos of the complainant’s injuries within 72 hours.

Gauthier adamantly disputes those charges in his two-page letter. He claims to have followed all proper procedures and that the decision to release McArthur was approved by his supervisors.

“Based on years of investigative experience, I didn’t believe there were grounds to charge McArthur,” he wrote.

Not aware of investigation

Gauthier goes on to say that, at the time, he was not made aware of McArthur’s connection to Project Houston. McArthur had been interviewed as part of that investigation, which was launched in 2012 after the disappearances of three men he was later found to have killed.

“I had no idea there had even been a project with respect to missing men from the LGBT community downtown,” he wrote.

Gauthier claims that concerns about his investigation only surfaced after Chief Mark Saunders “embarrassed himself” by saying that members of the LGBT community could have come forward to police sooner with information about McArthur.

My employer has effectively set me up to be their fall guy.– Sgt. Paul Gauthier

He suggests that Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the lead investigator on the McArthur case and a former partner of Saunders, began investigating the 2016 arrest in order to divert attention away from the chief’s comments.

“The past year has taken a tremendous toll on me both personally and professionally. There have been many sleepless nights thinking about Mcarthur’s unspeakable crimes, his victims and their families, and the fact that my employer has effectively set me up to be their fall guy for all this. Simply because they need a scapegoat,” he wrote.

Not present at tribunal

Gauthier is charged with insubordination and neglect of duty, but the allegations had not previously been released by police because he was not present for what was meant to be his first appearance before the police tribunal on Tuesday.

Gridin has said he is confident the evidence will show his client did not hamper the investigation into McArthur’s crimes.

The lawyer has also argued the case should be heard by a judge rather than, as usual, by a high-ranking officer appointed by Chief Saunders.

But the prosecution and the superintendent who oversaw Tuesday’s hearing said it was too early in the process to make submissions on that issue.

McArthur pleaded guilty last week to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of men with ties to Toronto’s Gay Village.

He was arrested in January 2018 and shortly afterwards, the force’s professional standards unit launched an internal investigation related to the case.

McArthur deemed ‘credible’

The review was sparked during a probe of two previous investigations into missing men from the Gay Village.

McArthur had been interviewed by police a few years ago in a separate, unrelated incident.

McArthur’s sentencing hearing was told that a man called 911 and gave a statement to police in June 2016 after escaping from McArthur’s van.

An agreed statement of fact read in court said the two knew each other and had agreed to meet in the van. When the man arrived, he found the back seat was gone and the floor of the van was covered with a plastic sheet and a fur coat.

Court heard McArthur told the man to lie down on the coat and then grabbed his wrist “with an angry look on his face.” He then grabbed the man’s throat and started strangling him, court heard.

The man tried pleading with McArthur and eventually managed to roll free and escape, court heard. “He was unable to swallow properly again for a week,” the statement said.

After the man reported the attack, McArthur was arrested and gave an exculpatory statement to police, it said.

“An officer released McArthur without charges, believing his statement to be credible,” court heard.

Police later found photographs of the man on McArthur’s electronic devices, court heard. In some, he is wearing a fur coat that appears identical to the one with which McArthur posed the men he killed, the statement said.

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