Toronto police Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga, the lead homicide detective on the McArthur case, has previously acknowledged that police investigated the possibility that Navaratnam’s death was connected to an online cannibalism ring, but that theory was later disproven.
Earlier this year, the Star and other media outlets brought forward an application to obtain the ITOs, the majority of which were sealed by the courts and not public documents. On Friday, Ontario Court Justice Cathy Mocha released some basic information about the orders, including the dates, locations and types of orders made.
“The presumption is that the public should have access,” Mocha said, referring to the so-called open court principle, which deems that the decisions of the court should be public, barring special circumstances including legitimate concerns about an accused person’s fair trial rights.
McArthur’s lawyers fought the media’s application, saying the release of even basic information about police ITOs in connection to McArthur and the missing men could be detrimental to their client. Among the concerns raised by lawyer James Miglin was that releasing information about the ITOs could allow the media to reconstruct the investigation, including when the police focus shifted to McArthur.
Mocha found there was no “real or substantial” risk to McArthur’s fair trial rights, noting that his lawyer’s concerns were “for the most part conjecture.”
The reasons police provided when seeking the warrants or production orders have not been made public. However, the released information shows the majority of the ITOs connected to the case are “production orders,” which direct a person or an organization to provide documents and records to police.
Among the organizations from which police, over the course of the years-long investigation, requested documents or information are: Canadian Tire, Porter Airlines, Rogers, Air Canada, Yahoo! Canada, Google, Pink Triangle Press, Bell Canada, the Ministry of Transportation and banks including CIBC and the Bank of Nova Scotia.
The locations investigators searched include Toronto police properties. Days after McArthur’s Jan. 18 arrest, police obtained search warrants for the intelligence building of the Toronto police, Forensic Identification Services on Jane St., 51 division police station on Parliament St. and 33 division on Upjohn Rd.
Last month, police forensic investigators completed a four-month search of McArthur’s two-bedroom apartment in Thorncliffe Park. The intensive search resulted in the seizure of 1,800 exhibits and the taking of more than 18,000 photographs. The search began a day after police raided McArthur’s 19th-floor apartment at 95 Thorncliffe Park Dr. on Jan. 18 and arrested the 66-year-old self-employed landscaper.
At that time, McArthur was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two men who went missing in 2017, Andrew Kinsman, 49, and Selim Esen, 44. As the police investigation progressed over the following months, McArthur was charged with the murders of six more men: Majeed Kayhan, 59, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, Dean Lisowick, 47, Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, 40, Abdulbasir Faizi, 42, and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam, 37.
Kayhan, Navaratnam, and Faizi were previously the subjects of a special police probe, dubbed “Project Houston,” looking into the disappearances of the three men from Toronto’s Gay Village between 2010 and 2012. That investigation ended in 2014.
As previously reported by the Star and other media, McArthur was later questioned by police in 2016 regarding an allegation that he was physically abusive to someone, but was let go. Homicide detectives who are now probing McArthur did not know about the 2016 questioning until after McArthur’s arrest in January, according to sources familiar with the incident.
In March, Idsinga confirmed he initiated a complaint into “concerning” behaviour of officers who “potentially did not do what they were supposed to have done,” but has not provided any detail. That internal investigation is ongoing.
On the same day McArthur was arrested in January, police executed a search warrant at a home on Mallory Cres. in Leaside where McArthur did landscaping. It was there police found the remains of seven men inside planters. Their identities were confirmed through DNA testing, dental records and fingerprint analysis. The remains of Kayhan have not been located.
The investigation has since grown to include scores of public and private properties linked to McArthur, based on his client list and tips from the public. Last month, cadaver dogs were brought in to assist investigators in determining which properties require possible excavation.
It is unclear how many properties have been identified for excavation or where they are. If human remains are identified or suspected to be present, forensic anthropologists are expected to lead recovery efforts, while forensic identification officers record the scene through video, photos and drawings.
In March, Mayor John Tory called for an independent review of the Toronto Police Service’s handling of missing persons cases. The Toronto Police Services Board has since struck a committee to propose which issues the independent review should examine. However, the review will not look at police conduct related to McArthur due to the police force’s continuing investigation and the accused’s upcoming trial.
With Star files