Between 2010 and 2017, eight men disappeared in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Six of the men were of Middle East or South Asian descent and several had struggled with addiction and homelessness. Two of the victims were White men. All of the eight men were, however, from Toronto’s gay community and most of them had frequented Toronto’s gay village, although several of them were not openly gay. All the targeted men were living on the margins of the Canadian society, and their disappearances initially attracted little attention.
The men who disappeared were later to be described as vulnerable, and their vulnerabilities were exploited, including their immigration concerns, mental health challenges and the fact that some of them led double lives. The initial investigation was inconclusive as it was unable to determine if the disappearances were related or if a crime had been committed. There was even speculation among many of the locals that a serial killer was on the loose.
In 1969, Canada decriminalised same-sex relations for adults and in the 1970s, gay men flocked Toronto to live free and open lives and these included a new generation of men from South Asia and the Middle East. The new arrivals reveled in Canada’s acceptance but they still remained vulnerable and were suspicious of authority, reluctant to attract attention and perhaps too eager to fit in.
There has always been a small community of gay men who thrill at risky sex, bondage, humiliation and even torture. Such men submit to their putative captors, assured that they are engaging in role playing, and their captors methodically and ritualistically push them, sometimes, beyond their edge.
In 2010, reports started to come through of men missing from the village. The first person to go missing was Skanda from Sri Lanka, a Tamil and gay. Andrew Kinsman, a 49-year-old, went missing on June 26, 2017, after the Pride Day, and Selim Esen, 44, had been reported missing about two months earlier.
On the evening of June 28, 2017, Kinsman’s friends were concerned that he had not been seen for two days and they gained access to his apartment. They found no sign of disturbance, although Kinsman’s cat was out of food and water. They reported Kinsman’s disappearance to the police the following day.
Unlike the other missing men, Kinsman was openly gay and had deep roots in the community. He was known as a stable and responsible man, and friends felt he would not suddenly leave, and certainly not leave his cat and his prescription medicine behind.
Kinsman was active on social media, but investigators found his cell phone was turned off the day he disappeared. It was, however, unlikely that Kinsman was a victim of violence, considering his big stature.
Friends and colleagues instituted community-driven efforts to find him and other missing men. The efforts included establishing social media groups, which had, in total, about 1,200 members, and these groups shared information about the missing men and organised volunteers for search parties. They also raised public awareness with missing person posters for Kinsman. The investigations suggested that the disappearances were all connected and fed fears in the community.
At the end of July 2017, the police created a new taskforce to investigate the disappearances of Kinsman and Esen, and look for any links with the unsolved disappearances of other persons. The investigation was difficult because of the lifestyle of the subjects, who dated online and frequently met people they had never met with before.
One of the lines of investigation was to examine the call data of the missing persons and their social media communication. Judicial authorisations for data from the servers caused delays in the crucial early days of the investigations.
Appeals were made to online dating groups to provide an option for users to consent to have their data released to the police if they went missing. Safety hotlines were also instituted for those reluctant to speak to the police.
Kinsman’s disappearance provided a breakthrough in the investigations, when a crucial piece of evidence, which could have been lost, was recovered. His disappearance had been reported within 72 hours and the investigators found that on the day Kinsman disappeared, he had an appointment with a one Bruce.
That day, surveillance video outside Kinsman’s residence showed a person matching Kinsman’s appearance approach a red vehicle. The surveillance image did not include a license plate or a clear picture of the driver. The vehicle was, however, identified as a 2004 Dodge Caravan. There were more than 6,000 such cars in Toronto, but only five were registered to someone named Bruce; of those the only 2004 model belonged to Thomas Donald Bruce McArthur.
By late August or September, the police matched the vehicle with one from previous surveillance videos taken from around Bruce McArthur’s residence, but by then the vehicle was no longer at his residence.
...to be continued
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