Members of the Toronto police task force code-named Project Prism have unearthed the remains of at least three victims in the garden of a home in a quiet Leaside neighbourhood.
On Monday morning police revealed the presence of an excavation team at the house on Mallory Crescent, which is near Bayview and Moore avenues. They also detailed the results of what exactly the backyard has yielded to date. Police say the bodies were found in planters.
Investigators have erected a large tent with warming capabilities in the backyard to assist with further digging into the frozen ground.
Police have released the identities of three men who were previously thought to be missing in the Toronto area and have now charged Bruce McArthur with three additional charges of first-degree murder. He is set to appear in court on Feb. 14. The dismembered bodies have not been positively linked yet to any of the missing men, police said.
The suspect has appeared in court once already, on Jan. 19, to face first-degree murder charges in connection with the deaths of two other men, Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman. The latest victims are Majeed Kayhan, 58, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Dean Lisowick, 47.
McArthur now stands accused of a total of five first-degree murder charges, and he is being investigated for what police believe may be many other missing persons cases in the Toronto area, dating back years, according to homicide Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga, who met reporters at a press conference Monday.
McArthur lives in the Thorncliffe Park area, not far from the Leaside property, where he operates his landscaping business under the company name of Artistic Design. The revelations surrounding the discovery of dismembered human remains and the steps the suspect took to conceal them come as police carry out a wave of excavations spanning more than 30 properties across Toronto and outside the city. Any clients of McArthur’s landscaping services are being asked to contact Toronto police if they have not already been reached by the Project Prism task force.
One of the victims named in this latest series of charges, Majeed Kayhan, has been missing since 2012.
Throughout the day Monday, curious neighbours and members of the community passed by the Mallory Crescent house to see the crime scene and the large heated tent behind it. One man, Nick, who didn’t want his last name used, is a frequent visitor to the area and uses it as a relaxing spot for his daily coffee break.
“This is the last place in the world you’d think to find this kind of crime,” Nick said. “I wanted to buy a house around here, but nothing was available. I often park right there and think it’s still a nice area. I’ll sit there and have a coffee and look at the nice view of downtown Toronto from here. I’m trying to remember when I must have seen him coming and going, something I could give to the police.”
Nick made it clear that he was blindsided by how such a public and detailed search for two men missing from the gay village could develop into a crime scene just metres from his favourite view of the downtown core.
“We wouldn’t really see Toronto men going missing up until recently,” he said, explaining that he is a retired journalist who covered the crime beat. “I never would have thought we’d find them in this area, leisure-side, as we call it.”
Police have not said whether the suspect acted alone or with an accomplice. Of note are the varying reports of an assistant or apprentice that would often be seen working with the accused at his clients’ properties.
Parker Liddle is a senior who lives directly across from 53 Mallory Cres. and who claims to have seen the accused at the Leaside property with a younger, slimmer man, who would help McArthur transfer gear to and from his rusted maroon Dodge Caravan.
“They would take things from the minivan to the backyard, bring things from the backyard to the minivan, or from the garage,” Liddle said in an interview in his home Monday afternoon.
Liddle, who has lived across the street since 1993, doesn’t think he could identify the assistant’s face but described him as “much thinner and younger” than the accused landscaper. He recalls the assistant helping McArthur move large planters and other equipment to and from the property, on a regular basis, over the years. The homeowners were McArthur’s clients.
“I can’t even say how long I’ve been seeing him across the way, he’s been such a common feature over there for so many years. If I had to guess I’d say around six or seven years,” Liddle explained.