Bruce McArthur, the accused serial killer charged in connection with the deaths of eight Toronto men, has pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder.
“Guilty,” McArthur quietly told the court as the registrar read out each of the eight murder counts.
McArthur made the plea in a courtroom at the 361 University Ave. courthouse Tuesday morning.
In a brief statement of facts presented by the Crown attorney, it formally acknowledged that McArthur killed Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam.
“Mr. McArthur intended and caused all of their deaths,” the statement said.
WATCH: Bruce McArthur pleads guilty to eight counts of murder
“During each of these murders, one or more of the following factors was present: Planning and deliberation, a murder committed in the course of sexually assaulting, or a murder committed while the victims were unlawfully confined.”
Most of the murders were described in court documents as “sexual in nature” and there were many instances cited where there was staging as well as evidence of ligatures being used.
WATCH: Toronto police provides update after accused serial killer Bruce McArthur pleads guilty to murders
In McArthur’s bedroom, the statement said officers found a bag with duct tape, a surgical glove, rope, zip ties, a bungee cord and syringes.
The court also heard McArthur kept items belonging to some of his victims. For example, Navaratnam’s bracelet and jewelry belonging to Lisowick were found in McArthur’s possession.
Throughout the proceedings, McArthur, who was wearing a plaid shirt and a black sweater with dark blue jeans, sat in the prisoner’s box looking toward the front of the court.
McArthur, a 67-year-old self-employed gardener, dismembered his victims’ bodies at a home on Mallory Crescent in Toronto’s Leaside neighbourhood where he kept his gardening materials in “an effort to avoid detection,” according to the statement. Investigators found remains in planters at the home and in a ravine behind it.
Karen Fraser, one of the owners of the Mallory Crescent home, addressed the media outside of court moments after the proceedings. She called Tuesday another “really strange, sad day.”
“For me, closure won’t happen,” Fraser said, adding she met two of McArthur’s victims “very briefly” for visits or during the course of his work.
“Just thinking about the last moments of those men. It comes to me quite often … I am haunted by that.”
She said McArthur did landscaping at her property for 10 to 12 years and was often at her home several times a day to get gardening supplies.
When asked of her impression after seeing McArthur in court, she described him as being “stooped” and having lost weight.
“I just saw a blank face,” she said.
“I knew a man who was always energetic, enthusiastic, always eager to get on to the next thing, and this is just a shuffling, broken man — as he should be.”
Haran Vijayanathan, executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, described McArthur’s plea as “relieving.” However, he said there will still be a “gap” for affected families and friends.
“We’ve already heard some of these stories as the news was breaking with the detectives coming out and talking about some of the issues. There were rumours in the community already and just to hear coming out of the courtroom with the legal folks, it really settles in and it’s quite alarming that someone would actually do this,” he told reporters Tuesday morning after the hearing.
“It’s kind of shocking and scary all at the same time, but I think there is more information to come and I’m hoping that folks in the community and their families are seeking the support that they necessarily need to get through this.”
WATCH: Village reacts to Bruce McArthur guilty plea
Toronto Police Homicide Squad Det. David Dickinson described the lengthy investigation as a “traumatic process.”
“I’m hoping it’s closure for a lot of people. I’m hoping it’s starting that process,” he said.
“We’re trying to comprehend it now. Obviously it’s a lot of emotions, obviously sadness. There’s some closure for me too today … we did this for the families, we did this for the communities. People wanted answers, and I’m hoping we brought some of those answers to them.”
Dickinson said officers will continue to examine cold cases to see if there’s any connection to McArthur.
Police have faced heavy criticism from the public and the LGBTQ community in particular for their handling of the missing persons cases. As recently as six weeks before McArthur’s arrest, the service, including Chief Mark Saunders, said there was no indication the disappearances were the work of a serial killer.
WATCH: ‘He’s evil.’ Karen Fraser reacts to accused serial killer Bruce McArthur’s guilty plea
Saunders apologized in February after seeming to suggest in a published interview that police might have cracked the cases earlier if members of the public had been more forthcoming with investigators.
An external review is looking into the way in which Toronto police investigated the missing men reports.
Meanwhile, McArthur is scheduled to reappear in court on Monday. The court will hear victim impact statements before the sentence is handed down.
— With files from Katherine Aylesworth and The Canadian Press
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