A serial killer who dismembered his victims after meeting them within the largest gay community in Canada has admitted murdering eight men.
Bruce McArthur, 67, pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder in Toronto after being arrested in connection with several disappearances in the so-called Gay Village area.
Most residents of the neighbourhood, which is nestled in the downtown district of the city, are gay and each year it plays host to one of the largest pride festivals in the world.
The LGBTQ community had long voiced concerns about a potential serial killer by the time police set up a special task force to investigate several suspicious disappearances.
Police had previously played down suggestions there was a serial killer on the loose and did not arrest McArthur until January last year, following the disappearance of Andrew Kinsman.
The 49-year-old was a popular activist and former bartender who vanished the day after the annual gay pride parade, prompting widespread concern for his safety.
Not long after, the remains of seven men were found in large plant pots at the property where McArthur worked and an eighth victim was found in a nearby ravine.
The former landscaper was charged with the murders of Mr Kinsman, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.
Most of his victims were of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, and one of them had hidden the fact that he was gay from his Muslim family.
Their disappearances had attracted little attention until Mr Kinsman vanished, which led to police considering a potential link between them all.
Prosecutor Michael Cantlon told the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto the cases also involved sexual assault or forced confinement, and a number of the men had apparently been strangled.
Before he pleaded guilty, the court heard how McArthur had moved to Toronto in 2000.
He had previously lived in a suburb, where he was married, raised two children and worked as a travelling salesman of underwear and socks.
He later set up a landscaping business, which was small, but he periodically hired workers – including a 40-year-old man who disappeared in 2010.
The guilty pleas came a year before a trial was pencilled in to start in January 2020, and it means his sentencing hearing will now begin on 4 February.
In the meantime, police will continue to investigate cold cases with potential links to McArthur.
Detective David Dickinson told reporters outside court: “It’s not ending any time soon.”
He added: “We are pleased that McArthur has pleaded guilty, sparing the communities and families a lengthy trial. This is the best outcome. I hope we can start bringing some closure to the families and the communities.”
The case has drawn comparisons with that of London-based serial killer Stephen Port, who was convicted of murdering four young men whom he poisoned so that he could have sex with them while they were unconscious.
He met his victims on dating websites like Grindr.