How did Bruce MacArthur go from Santa in a mall to serial killer?

How did Bruce MacArthur go from Santa in a mall to serial killer?
How did Bruce MacArthur go from Santa in a mall to serial killer?

How did Bruce MacArthur go from Santa in a mall to serial killer?

  • Mobin Azhar
  • journalist

How did Bruce MacArthur go from Santa in a mall to serial killer?

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Bruce MacArthur

Warning: This article contains disturbing details

A documentary series titled “Santa Claus: Serial Killer” explores the circumstances of the murders of Canadian landscaper Bruce MacArthur, who also worked in a mall dressed as Santa Claus.

Despite having had more than one contact with the police and even having received a conditional sentence years earlier for a violent assault, MacArthur killed eight men between 2010 and 2017. He was eventually arrested during a police operation in Toronto, after which investigators discovered the remains of his victims in the pots and planters of the garden where he worked in the city’s suburbs.

At his trial, MacArthur, 67, pleaded guilty to eight first-degree murders.

His victims are Salim Esin, Andrew Kinsman, Majid Kayhan, Dean Leswick, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Abdul Basir Vaizi, Sakandaraj Navaratnam and Sorosh Mahmoodi. Most of them were related to Toronto’s gay community and were from the Middle East or South Asia.

But because MacArthur admitted his crimes during the trial, the court didn’t hear much evidence in his case.

I traveled to Toronto to produce a documentary series for BBC Television to find out how MacArthur managed to kill eight men in seven years without his crimes being discovered. There, I spoke to people who knew MacArthur, family members and friends of the victims, and a detective who suspected a serial killer was involved years before MacArthur’s arrest.

The Secret Lives of the Victims by Bruce MacArthur

Many of the men killed by MacArthur could not always disclose with whom they had sexual relations, in part because of their religious backgrounds. While filming the documentary series, I discovered that this was one of many factors that put her in a vulnerable position.

Krishna Kumar Kanagaratnam, for example, deliberately lived in the shadows because his asylum application was rejected after fleeing Sri Lanka. No one reported his disappearance because his friends and relatives feared that raising the alarm could expose him to deportation.

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Victims from top left: Salim Esin, Andrew Kinsman, Majid Kayhan, Dean Liswick, Kiroshna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Abdul Basir Faizi, Skandaraj Navaratnam and Sorosh Mahmoodi

Another victim, Abdul Basir Faizi, was of Afghan origin and came to Canada as an immigrant. Faizi lived with his wife and children and spent most of his time in a factory.

On the night of his disappearance, he was visiting a hamburger joint in Toronto’s gay village as well as a gay sauna. It was reported that Abdul Basir’s wife was “really shocked” when she was told of his movements the last night he was seen. Like many of MacArthur’s victims, Abd al-Basir led a secret life.

To this day, many members of the Afghan community still find it difficult to speak publicly about what happened to Abd al-Basr and the other Afghan Canadians who were attacked by MacArthur. Speaking to some of the victims’ families and friends, I discovered that part of it was due to taboos surrounding sex and sexual orientation.

The victim, Majid Kayhan, lived off Church Street, near Toronto’s Gay Village. He moved there after the relationship between him and his wife broke down. Eventually they divorced.

His gay friends called him “Hamid,” and according to them, he was in a relationship with a man known to Majid’s family as his “roommate.”

Majid’s nephew Saber says his uncle’s marriage didn’t last, but he was on good terms with his children. Saber adds, “He loved his children and had a good relationship with his wife. There were normal contacts between them.”

Despite reports that Majid was having an affair with a man, his family say he was not gay.

Saber says, “It certainly wasn’t [مثليا]. I knew him well. He was manlier than anyone I know. She didn’t like those things. He could have been cheated on somehow.”

Escape secure for a potential victim

Sean Crippen was lucky not to be another victim of MacArthur after meeting him in July 2017. He met and exchanged messages with him through an online dating site where MacArthur used the alias “Silver Fox” or “Silver Fox”. . . .

MacArthur’s profile, or his own profile, spoke of being a “gay guy who likes to wear leather clothes” and that he “likes to push a man to the limit”. Sean went to MacArthur’s Toronto apartment where he intended to have sex with him.

However, Shawn lost consciousness after taking the drug “gamma-hydroxybutyric acid,” known by the acronym “GHB.”

“When I woke up, I saw him standing there looking at me,” says Sean. “He never mentioned that I passed out for 20 minutes. I thought it was a bad date.”

But Sean was actually lucky to have escaped with his life. His meeting with MacArthur came a month after he killed his victim #8.

Some time later, an investigator called Sean and said a picture of him had been found on MacArthur’s computer.

Sean describes the photo: “He had a hood over my head and tape over my eyes. He also pressed my neck with a whistle when he took the picture. It happened over the course of 20 minutes.”

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She traveled to Toronto to produce a documentary series for the BBC trying to find out how Bruce MacArthur managed to kill 8 people in 7 years without getting caught.

Sean was unaware of this photo until police told him of its existence, but this odd ritual of photographing victims was actually part of MacArthur’s repeated behavior.

Police found numbered files on his computer for each of the eight men he killed. His victims also wore a fur coat, and the files included many photos of the men before and after their deaths.

Looks like he kept those photos as a souvenir.

The banned GHB or “G” drug is readily available in Toronto, as in other world cities. The drug is used by some during sex because it reduces braking and repulsion, is tasteless and odorless, and can easily cause fainting.

While usually used consensually, it has also been used in some cases of rape and even murder. It turns out MacArthur used GBH on at least some of the men he targeted.

A GBH dealer who asked to be referred to as “Joey” says he once visited MacArthur’s house to take the drug and have sex with him.

“He had enough G for both of us,” says Joy. “I started getting really scared and asking myself weird questions, like do I have a good relationship with my family, do I have brothers and sisters.”

“Now that I think about it, I realize that he probably would have liked to know if anyone would miss me if I disappeared. I told him I felt ill and that I was going to leave. There was no life in his eyes . He seemed like a bad guy to me. Every time he was mentioned, I get scared. His name.”

Like Sean Crippen, Joey escaped with his life after meeting MacArthur. But eight other men weren’t so lucky.

missed opportunities

When he was finally arrested, there was criticism from the Toronto gay community that MacArthur had gone undetected for seven years – not least because he had ties to the police and known ties to some of the victims.

One of the investigators who worked on the case of Abd al-Basir Faizi, who disappeared in December 2010, said she told colleagues they might have been dealing with a serial killer.

Detective Marie-Catherine Marceau was working with the Ontario Police Force at the time.

“If you walk into the office and say, ‘I think there’s a serial killer,’ everyone laughs,” she says. “Of course, that’s because the chances of you encountering a serial killer in your career are very slim.”

“I immediately picked up the phone and tried to call the Toronto Police Department. There was a message left and the person I left a voicemail message for didn’t answer my call. I felt like I was going insane… At the time I sent an official email.”

In this letter, Marie-Catherine highlights the similarities between two men who were in hiding at the time, both black and both with ties to a Toronto gay village.

Marie-Catherine says Toronto police didn’t respond to her letter.

Toronto Police say there is no record of receiving the letter. MacArthur then committed his crimes, killing six other men before being arrested. Indeed, Abd al-Basir Faizi was his second greatest victim.

An independent investigation into the way the Toronto Police Department handles missing persons cases found “serious deficiencies” in the investigations into the serial killer’s crimes, while commending the outstanding efforts of individual officers and concluding that the errors “are not due to bias or intentional discrimination.

Those who knew and loved the Eight Men would always feel the void these men left in their lives. As I was shooting the series, I came across a community deeply impacted by these murders.


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