Toronto journalist, Justin Ling, takes a deep dive into the Bruce McArthur case…
When Justin Ling first started looking into the disappearances of three Toronto men, he had a feeling that it was just the beginning. It was 2015 and Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam, Majeed “Hamid” Kayhan and Abdulbasir “Basir” Faizi—three men who would later be confirmed as the first three victims of serial killer Bruce McArthur—had all vanished without a trace. Police had made no progress on finding out what happened to them and weren’t even convinced foul play was involved.
All three men were immigrants, middle aged, and had ties to Toronto’s Gay Village. Ling, who is a member of the LGBT community himself, believed the disappearances were connected somehow. He spent three years investigating, combing police reports for more possible victims, talking to the detectives who were assigned to the cases and building relationships with friends and family of the missing men.
The general consensus was that there was a serial killer targeting the LGBT community—but the police wouldn’t publicly admit they believed the same thing until January 18th, 2018 when Bruce McArthur was arrested and charged with three counts—which eventually turned into eight counts—of first degree murder.
Missing from the Village: The Story of Serial Killer Bruce McArthur, the Search for Justice, and the System That Failed Toronto’s Queer Community follows Ling’s personal and professional connections to the case, how even when there wasn’t much to report on or any new information, he couldn’t forget the missing men. As he tells the story of who Bruce McArthur was and the timeline of his crimes, he also weaves in evidence of the long-strained relationship between the Toronto Police Service and the LGBT community.
Among many other crimes connected to the Village, Ling touches on the still-unsolved death of transgender woman Alloura Wells in 2017 and the murder of Tess Richey, whose body was found by her own mother after police failed to conduct a thorough search in the Village where she was last seen. The TPS has proven over and over again that they don’t take the LGBT community seriously and Missing from the Village is about that as much as it is about the McArthur case in particular.
After McArthur was arrested, Police Chief Mark Saunders went so far as to blame the LGBT community for not providing the information they needed earlier. “[McArthur] had friends, family. Loved ones. He would be inside bars. He was Santa Claus and all of these things. And, all the while, nobody knew—if anyone would know before us, it’s people that knew him very, very well. And so that did not come out. And I’m not going to point fingers because we’re past that. With the loss of life, it is catastrophic, here.” Thankfully, Bruce McArthur is behind bars but how many other crimes will never be solved because of their ties to the Village?
Throughout the book, Ling takes care to put the focus on McArthur’s victims. Each of the eight men—who may have been nothing more than a name and a single photo to many people who followed the case in the news—was a human being with a full life, family, job, friends and, of course, problems of his own. Skanda, Hamid, Basir, Soroush, Kirushna, Dean, Selim and Andrew, deserve to be remembered and Ling makes space for their stories.
Missing From the Village illustrates exactly how McArthur got away with murder for so long—and how the Toronto Police Service failed to protect the LGBT community as a whole. Connecting the case with the BLM movement and its call to defund the police, Ling believes this case is another example of why law enforcement needs a complete overhaul. Overall, Missing from the Village is more than a new true crime bestseller. It’s also about what needs to change to make way for a safer city—and world—for everyone, and how we’re all responsible for doing our part to make it happen.
Missing From the Village: The Story of Serial Killer Bruce McArthur, the Search for Justice, and the System That Failed Toronto’s Queer Community ($32.95) will be released on September 29, 2020.