Between 1975 and 1978, 14 men from Toronto’s gay community were murdered, and seven of those murders remained unsolved today. Now investigations are underway into whether any of these unsolved Toronto gay murders are connected to those of recently arrested serial killer Bruce McArthur. The 66-year-old man lived in Toronto at the time, and the unsolved murders share similarities with McArthur’s more recent victims.
“We have pulled the cases from the 1970s that you’re talking about, and we’re going through those with a fine-toothed comb to see if there are any links at all,” says Toronto Police Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga. “Would it surprise me if Mr. McArthur was linked to some murders from his late 20s? It wouldn’t.”
McArthur, who was in his 20s at the time, worked as a sales clerk at a department store building called Eaton’s. Canada decriminalized same-sex sexual encounters in 1969 (without offering them any non-discrimination protections), so in the ‘70s gay men flocked to the city’s gay village, which at the time consisted of a four-block stretch with dive bars at either end.
Details of the 1970s Toronto gay murders
A resident named Brent Hawkes said that at the time gay men often left bars in groups to avoid gay bashings by thugs and police. As gay men started disappearing from the area, people became afraid, believing a serial killer was on the loose.
Several men were found in their apartments naked, sometimes tied to their beds, strangled and either stabbed or with their heads beaten in, their apartments ransacked.
David Penny, a former constable with Toronto Police’s 52 Division, has said that despite their similarities, the police didn’t consider the Toronto gay murders to be connected. At the time, Penny says, many police officers “wouldn’t have anything to do with that community and vice versa. … It wasn’t adversarial, but it was the ’70s. I’m sure there was some sort of prejudice, if you want to use that word, but that’s just the way it was.”
Though forensic details about McArthur’s confrmed victims remain unknown, police have verified that he dismembered his victims and hid their body parts on the properties of his landscaping customers.