Bruce McArthur (police handout)

Bruce McArthur guilty plea sparks call to widen missing persons review

Toronto police spent 18 months looking into disappearance of three missing men before concluding no foul play

The head of an independent investigation into how Toronto police handle missing persons reports has called for an expansion of her mandate to include cases involving serial killer Bruce McArthur, her lead counsel said Wednesday.

In a letter to the chairman of the city’s police services board, Gloria Epstein said McArthur’s unexpected guilty plea Tuesday removes the need for a restriction on his case that was meant to safeguard his right to a fair trial, according to Mark Sandler.

“We are asking that the restrictions be removed to enhance Justice Epstein’s ability to examine the full range of relevant events and make necessary recommendations going forward,” Sandler said in an email.

“We believe that the proposed changes to the terms of reference will assist us in answering the questions posed by members of the community about the investigations of missing persons in Toronto, particularly in relation to those who are vulnerable or marginalized.”

In response, the chairman of the board, Andy Pringle, said the scope of review was already under consideration given McArthur’s plea. The board would consider Epstein’s request at a future meeting, Pringle said.

READ MORE: Bruce McArthur pleads guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder

“Once the criminal proceedings have formally concluded, the concern of jeopardizing those proceedings will no longer exist,” Pringle said in a statement. “Therefore, the board has been actively considering how to review the broader issues and questions, and is exploring the most appropriate options at this time.”

Those options, Pringle said, also include engaging with the Ministry of the Attorney General to explore whether it had any of its own plans to look into these issues.

Following McArthur’s arrest early last year, the board approved the independent probe amid significant concern in the LGBTQ community about how police had looked into missing-person reports. Those concerns included fears that the handling of such investigations was being tainted by “implicit or explicit, specific and systemic bias.”

The review is focusing on policies and procedures related to missing-persons investigations as well as on how Toronto police officers investigated the disappearance of members of the community who were later found to have been killed.

For example, Toronto police spent 18 months looking into the disappearance of three missing men before concluding in 2014 there had been no foul play. The men were ultimately found to have been among McArthur’s eight admitted murder victims.

Epstein, a former justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, began her review last summer.

However, her terms of reference precluded “prejudicing any ongoing criminal investigation or criminal proceedings.” The stricture applied specifically to the prosecution of McArthur, who pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday. All his victims had ties to Toronto’s gay village.

Earlier this month, Epstein named members to an advisory panel to help her work. She has said she expects to finish her work around April 2020.

Asked today about McArthur, 67, and the possibility of a public inquiry into his crimes, Premier Doug Ford said he thought police were being “dumped on a little bit” and called for more public support for their efforts.

“I never said we aren’t going to,” Ford said of calling an inquiry. “We won’t rule out any further investigations on it.”

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Economic inequality, immigration still need work in Victoria: Prosperity index

Housing, environmental health factors show improvements in 2019: report

WATCH: Soon-to-be guide dogs take part in the Amazing Puppy Race

10 puppies training to be guide dogs took part in a social Easter egg hunt

Victoria City Councillor Laurel Collins wins federal NDP nomination

Collins will run for Victoria in the upcoming federal election

Eco warriors to shut down Douglas Street on Earth Day

Environmentalists to call on banks to divert investments into green infrastructure

Victoria church bells toll in solidarity with Notre Dame Cathedral after devastating fire

Churches around the globe ring bells to honour iconic Paris cathedral

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. senior sentenced for sexually abusing special-needs granddaughter

73-year-old Cortes Island man will go to jail for three years

Howe Sound Queen sailing toward retirement

Vessel now up for auction ends regular runs between Crofton and Vesuvius at the beginning of June

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Most Read