Santa Claus the Serial Killer: who is Bruce McArthur, how did Toronto killer get caught and where is he now?

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Over seven years, McArthur killed eight men from the Toronto gay community

The story of one of Canada’s most notorious serial killers, Bruce McArthur will be told in BBC Three’s new true crime documentary Santa Claus the Serial Killer. 71-year-old McArthur is responsible for the murder of eight men from Toronto’s gay community.

The landscape gardener who had worked as Santa Claus at Toronto’s Agincourt Mall targeted vulnerable gay men in Toronto’s gay friendly “The Village” district. His attacks would span seven years before he was finally caught.

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Red flags were raised after police linked him to the missing case of Andrew Kinsmen in 2017, this would eventually lead to his arrest and the discovery of seven bodies.

BBC Three journalist Mobeen Azhar discovered the story after reading about McArthur’s final victim, Kinsman. The documentary series will cover the heinous crimes and explore the police’s response, asking if they did enough to stop McArthur at the time.

So who was Bruce McArthur and how did he get caught? Here’s everything you need to know.

*This article contains descriptions of McArthur’s killings which may be disturbing*

Ontario Provincial Police search for human remains in 2018 (Pic: AFP via Getty Images)Ontario Provincial Police search for human remains in 2018 (Pic: AFP via Getty Images)
Ontario Provincial Police search for human remains in 2018 (Pic: AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Who is Bruce McArthur?

McArthur is a Canadian serial killer who murdered eight men during a seven year period. He was born on 8 October 1951 in Lindsay, Ontario. He lived with his sister and parents who would foster children from their neighbourhood.

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In 1979 he got married, with him and his wife having a daughter in 1981 and a son in 1986. It is believed he started to have affairs with men sometime in the 1990s, with his wife separating from him in 1998.

He owned a landscaping business and had worked as Santa Claus at Toronto’s Agincourt Mall. Whilst living in the city by himself he started to regularly spend time in the gay village and began relationships with men. He started to get a name for enough rough sex and joined a festish dating website.

Between 2010 and 2017, eight men from Toronto’s gay community went missing, with one of the incidents happening after the Gay Pride Parade. Many of his victims were of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and were not open about their sexuality.

How did he get caught?

Stories about men going missing from Toronto’s gay community began in 2010. Reported by Oxygen True Crime, Police started an investigation in 2012 after three men were reported missing: 40-year-old Skandaraj Navaratnam, 42-year-old Abdulbasir Faizi, and 58-year-old Majeed Kayhan.

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The investigation lasted for two years, with McArthur being interviewed as a witness in 2013 as he’d been linked to two of the men through a dating website.

In the next three years, three more men from the Toronto gay community disappear including 50-year-old Soroush Mahmudi, 37-year-old Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, and 47-year-old Dean Lisowick.

McArthur was arrested in 2016 after allegedly trying to strangle a man inside his van but told officers it was a misunderstanding. The National Post reported that police thought he was “credible” and “released him without conditions.”

In 2017, 44-year-old Selim Esen, 44 and 49-year-old Andrew Kinsman, 49 went missing. Kinsman was white and was a well-known figure in the Toronoto gay community, leading to the case being heavily reported.

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McArthur was eventually linked to the missing case of Kinsmen, after police searched five properties connected to his landscaping business they discovered the remains of seven victims hidden in flower planters.

Where is he now?

In 2019 the 71-year-old serial killer pleaded guilty to the murders of eight men from Toronto’s gay village between 2010 and 2017. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25-years. He will not be eligible until he is 91-years-old.

Where can I watch Santa Claus the Serial Killer?

Santa Claus the Serial Killer kicked off on BBC Three at 9pm on Sunday 6 November. Episodes are available to watch on-demand on BBC i-Player.

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