Just hours into an extensive excavation, police investigators found human remains behind the Leaside home where alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur worked as a landscaper, police said Thursday.
A team of investigators and a forensic anthropologist began a painstaking excavation behind the grey home on Mallory Cres. on Wednesday, after canine units brought in weeks ago gave indications further digging was required on the property.
Investigators found the remains shortly after they began sifting through what police described as a compost in a steep ravine directly behind the home.
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Human remains of seven of McArthur’s alleged victims were already found on the same property earlier this year — but they were all buried inside large planters. Wednesday’s discovery marks the first time remains were found elsewhere on the property, near Bayview and Moore Aves.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, lead homicide investigator Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga said he could not comment on what that may mean until the human remains have been identified.
He acknowledged he was “a little bit” surprised at how quickly the discovery was made.
“We had the canine units down there, and . . . we’ve got a lot of false positives from the canine units, so we were cautiously optimistic about finding anything else,” he said. “We had anticipated being here for weeks, and when we found them that quickly it was a bit of a surprise.”
The remains are now undergoing examination by pathologists at the Ontario Forensic Pathology Services, and it’s not known when they will be identified. Idsinga said the timeline depends on the method of identification, namely, whether it’s done through fingerprint analysis, dental records or DNA, which would take “days, weeks or months.”
Idsinga said it was possible the human remains may be those of more than one person, or they may be those of one of the seven men whose remains have already been found inside the planters.
McArthur, 66, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam and Majeed Kayhan. Their deaths range from 2010 to 2017.
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The body of Kayhan, who McArthur is alleged to have killed in October 2012, has not been found.
Toronto police is working with Ontario Forensic Pathology Services, Durham Region police and the Ontario Provincial Police on the excavation of the ravine.
“We are prioritizing areas which give us the strongest indications with canine units,” Idsinga said in an update Thursday morning. “The excavation continues, and we anticipate being here for, at least until next week.”
Allowing the media brief access to the ravine excavation site, about a dozen investigators and forensic anthropologist Kathy Gruspier could be seen at work on a large swath of steep, forested land directly behind the Leaside home. They were removing buckets of soil, then carrying it down the hill to sifting tables where the soil could be closely examined.
The area behind the home is what police are calling a compost pile, containing leave, brush and dirt. Idsinga would not say whether McArthur himself started the compost pile, saying that was “something for the courts to determine.”
Asked whether the intent of the compost pile was for garden waste, Idsinga said: “I don’t know what the intent was.”
Idsinga said it took weeks to co-ordinate the excavation with the City of Toronto, which is responsible for the ravine, to “take environmental issues into consideration.” Some trees were cleared to allow access for equipment, Idsinga said.
McArthur, who was arrested in January, is scheduled to appear in court later this month.
Since May, police sent cadaver dogs out to 100 properties linked to the former landscaper. However, the Mallory Cres. home was the only place where the dogs indicated further excavation was required.
With files from Ilya Banares
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and policing. Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @wendygillis