TORONTO — A suggestion by Toronto's police chief that an alleged serial killer would have been arrested sooner if the public had been more cooperative with investigators has angered LGBTQ residents and could worsen already strained relations, community leaders said Tuesday.
Chief Mark Saunders told the Globe and Mail that "nobody" came to officers with information in 2012 when police launched a special task force called Project Houston to investigate three missing South Asian or Middle Eastern men from the city's gay village.
Police didn't arrest landscaper Bruce McArthur until this year and have since charged him with six counts of first-degree murder.
"I've heard a lot of sources say certain things, and had those sources said those things thing when we had Project Houston, I think there is a very strong potential that the outcome could have been different," Saunders said. "We knew that people were missing and we knew we didn't have the right answers. But nobody was coming to us with anything."
Haran Vijayanathan, executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention advocacy group, said Saunders should retract the comments.
"This is actually just going to push that divide a bit further and not allow people to work together," Vijayanathan said. "The chief is creating his own problems now."
Toronto city Councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam, whose district includes Toronto's Gay Village, said she was shocked by the comments and called them inaccurate.
"I know for a fact that the community rallied around asking for additional resources and attention to the missing men (as early as 2010 and 2011)," she said.
Members of the LGBTQ community were long voicing concerns about a potential serial killer and pushing for answers in light of the disappearances, which were deemed suspicious.
Police found the dismembered remains of six individuals this year in large planters at a home where McArthur did landscaping work and that he used as storage.
Investigators have identified three sets of remains so far — 49-year-old Kinsman, 50-year-old Soroush Mahmudi and 40-year-old Skandaraj Navaratnam.
McArthur, 66, is charged with first-degree murder in their deaths, as well as the presumed deaths of 44-year-old Esen, Majeed Kayhan, 58, and Dean Lisowick, either 43 or 44. Police believe there are more victims.