File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Bruce McArthur is shown in this image posted to his social media page.

Loved ones of Bruce McArthur’s victims say they are shattered by his crimes

TORONTO — One by one, family and friends of men murdered by Bruce McArthur walked to the front of a crowded courtroom and spoke of the devastation, anger and personal struggles they experienced as a result of the serial killer’s crimes.

Many said they had long grappled with the disappearance of a son, father, brother or friend only to learn last year that their loved one had been killed and dismembered at some point between 2010 and 2017.

Their often emotional victim impact statements were presented Monday and Tuesday at a sentencing hearing for 67-year-old McArthur, who pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder. All his victims had ties to the city’s LGBTQ community.

“I don’t know that I can properly describe the pain and suffering that I and my family have gone through over the years and I believe that this suffering will continue to affect us forever,” wrote Jalil Kayhan, whose brother Majeed Kayhan, was killed in 2012. “I still have not comprehended how this crime happened.”

Court heard that many of McArthur’s victims were immigrants and of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent. Some lived parts of their life in secret because of their sexual orientation.

“My family is very traditional,” Kayhan’s brother wrote, adding that his sibling, who was originally from Afghanistan, had two children, three grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. “This has impacted all of their health and well-being.”

Police arrested McArthur in January 2018 and charged him for the murders of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen. They later charged McArthur for the murders of Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kanagaratnam.

Some close to the victims told court of the challenges their loved ones had overcome before being killed.

Kanagaratnam, who was murdered in 2016, came to the country aboard the MV Sun Sea after fleeing Sri Lanka in 2010, said a friend who made the journey with him. They sought refuge in Canada but Kanagaratnam was denied refugee status a few months before he went missing.

“Torture and murders like these are incidents that occur all too frequently in Sri Lanka,” said Piranavan Thangavel. “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.”

Navaratnam, who disappeared in 2010, also came to Canada from Sri Lanka and his best friend told the court about the impact of learning of his death.

“The news crushed me,” said Jean-Guy Cloutier, who reported Navaratnam missing. ”When a person goes missing it brings up another level of anxiety and a loss that is hard to describe. Having someone that I loved dearly killed is another level of loss and life-changing.”

Cloutier said he has not felt safe since his friend vanished.

Mahmudi’s wife, Umme Fareena Mazook, had a Crown attorney read out her statement while she sobbed in court.

She reported her husband missing in August 2015. She found out in January 2018 from police that Mahmudi had been murdered by McArthur.

“The severe degree of my emotional distress had a major impact on my relationship with my son and my friends as my emotional and mental health changed drastically,” she wrote in her statement.

Mazook said she had to leave her job due to the psychological trauma resulting from her husband’s disappearance and struggled financially, with little money left after paying rent to afford food.

Kareema Faizi said she, too, struggled after her husband’s disappearance. Court heard he was last seen at a bath house in the city’s gay village on Dec. 29, 2010.

Court heard she works 18 hours a day to provide for her two daughters, who were six and 10 years old when her husband vanished.

“My daughters suffer terribly knowing what happened to their father,” she wrote. “They pretend to be strong in front of me. But when they are alone in their room, they take a picture of their father with them. I hear them crying constantly.

Richard Kikot, a friend of Esen’s, said his buddy had lived for a period of time on the streets but had been trying to improve his mental health by enrolling in a program where he learned about poverty and homelessness.

“He would often spend nights walking the streets of the city,” Kikot said of his friend who was murdered in April 2017. “Not aimlessly but purposely. He was a romantic. He believed in the power of love.”

The Crown is seeking a life sentence for McArthur with no parole for 50 years.

Such a sentence would send a clear message “that those committing eight murders would never be paroled,” said Crown attorney Craig Harper.

“McArthur did not confess,” Harper said. ”It is the diligent work of police that led to the evidence that led to his conviction.”

McArthur’s lawyer argued for his client to be eligible to apply for parole in 25 years.

“To be eligible for parole at 116 years is unduly harsh,” James Miglin said.

As Tuesday’s hearing wrapped, the judge presiding over the case asked McArthur if he had anything to say.

“No your honour, I’ve discussed this with counsel and I don’t want to say anything,” McArthur said.

Court has heard that McArthur took photographs of his victims’ bodies posed in various states of undress and kept the images on his computer. McArthur would then dismember his victims and dump their remains in planters around a residential Toronto property or in a ravine behind the home.

Justice John McMahon is expected to deliver McArthur’s sentence on Friday.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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