Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam fled Sri Lanka and spent weeks aboard a shaky ship before he arrived in Canada seeking asylum in 2010. He was in search of a brighter future and a safer life than the one he led back home.
Eight years later, police discovered his remains in Toronto. He was one of serial killer Bruce McArthur’s eight victims. He was 37 when he was killed.
Written statements from family members and a friend that were read in court Tuesday paint a fuller picture who Kirushna was and his passage to Canada with 491 others aboard the MV Sun Sea.
They described him as innocent, trusting, and helpful.
“We travelled over three months in the open sea, just to seek the safety of our lives,” fellow passenger Piranavan Thangavel wrote in his statement.
“For us now to hear of such a horrible death, we who live in this world as refugees feel like there is no safety for us anywhere in the world.”
Kirushna’s mother, Santhanaladchumy Kanagaratnam, travelled to Toronto for the proceedings. She sat on a bench outside the courtroom Tuesday morning with tears in her eyes, unable to express her feelings because of a language barrier.
During the proceedings, Crown attorney Craig Harper told court that McArthur preyed on men who were on the margins.
“Some were forced to live parts of their life in secret because of their orientation. Some lacked stable housing,” said Harper.
“McArthur exploited the vulnerability of these men to continue his crimes undetected.”
On Monday, Harper told court that McArthur collected hundreds of photos of his eight victims.
Some of the photos were taken from the men’s social media accounts while they were alive. Other photos he took himself, as he staged, murdered, and then dismembered their bodies.
McArthur stored them in digital files labelled with a nickname for each man: Skanda, Basir, Hamid, “4,” “5,” Slider, Turkish Guy, and Andy, according to the agreed statement of facts. Kirushna was “5.”
The other men’s real names were Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman.
The Crown said McArthur would not have known the name of the man in folder 5. But to his family and friends, Kirushna was more than a number. He was a beloved son, brother, and friend.
“I feel guilty that I couldn’t save my brother. I feel guilty that I’m still alive on this earth,” his brother, Kisekumar Kanagaratnam, said in his victim impact statement. It was handwritten in French.
Kirushna’s sister, Kirushnaveny Yasotharan, wrote that she is suffering from severe depression.
“I don’t want to live in this world which became so terribly cruel,” she wrote.
McArthur appeared in the Toronto courthouse Tuesday wearing the same outfit he wore the day before: dark blue jeans, a plaid shirt and dark sweater. He sat hunched over in the prisoner’s box, and gazed only at the floor. He had long fingernails and a bandage on his right thumb. His hands shook.
At the end of the day’s proceedings, Justice John McMahon asked McArthur to rise in the prisoner’s box.
“Is there anything you would like to say, Mr. McArthur?” he asked.
McArthur rose after hours of silence. Still gazing at the floor, he said, “Uh, no, your honour.”
His sentencing will continue Friday.