When a man reported to the Toronto police in 2016 that serial killer Bruce McArthur trapped him in his van and choked him violently, the sergeant in charge of investigating the incident was not able to conduct a video interview with the victim, Star knew.
Sgt. Paul Gauthier, the Toronto officer facing charges of professional misconduct stemming from the incident, is accused of conducting a negligent investigation into the June 20, 2016, indictment of McArthur, who was convicted last week of eight counts of homicide in first degree.
It is also alleged that Gauthier did not take photographs of the victim's injuries within 72 hours after the event, as required by the policy, Gauthier's lawyer confirmed to Star, although he noted that the victim's injury was documented.
After a meeting in which the man alleged that McArthur had strangled him – an attack that left him unable to swallow for a week – McArthur was arrested, but was released without charge. He went on to kill two more men in 2017, Selim Esen and Andrew Kinsman.
Gauthier was scheduled to make his first appearance on the Toronto police disciplinary court on Tuesday morning but was not present, meaning that the details of the Police Service Law charges he faces – neglect of duty and insubordination – were not disclosed at the public hearing.
But a police source familiar with the allegations and Gauthier's lawyer confirmed to Star that Gauthier, a former member of the sex crimes unit, would have broken the procedure when the victim's statement was not videotaped. Instead, a written statement was made, contrary to the policies on how investigators conduct investigations involving alleged domestic assaults.
The policy is in effect for domestic incidents because of the greater likelihood that a victim of intimate partner violence may portray a statement.
"Gauthier denies he did anything wrong," police lawyer Lawrence Gridin said in a statement late Tuesday.
Gridin told reporters on Tuesday he was confident that the evidence would show that Gauthier's work "contributed to McArthur's identification as a serial killer," rather than harming him. The decision not to charge McArthur was made in conjunction with Gauthier's supervisor "and based on the information available at the time."
During the brief hearing, Gridin requested that the case be overseen by an independent judge rather than the usual agreement in which a high official chosen by the police chief acts as a judge of fact.
The court seldom presents an independent hearing on charges of the Police Act but did so in other important cases where it is perceived that Toronto police should not scrutinize it – including a misconduct resulting from the G20 Toronto summit in 2010.
"You do not have independence from the police chief," Gridin told the hearing officer, Toronto police inspector. Richard Hegedus.
"This is a subject that obviously has some sensitivity; is a matter of great public interest, "Gridin said. "So this subject deserves the transparency and accountability that the Toronto Police Service strives for and this can only be achieved by appointing a judge."
In a speech to the hearing officer, Gridin began discussing how, in December 2017, police chief Mark Saunders held a press conference denying the existence of a serial killer in action at the Gay Village in Toronto.
"Now we know … that the information at the press conference was not correct," he said.
But Gridin was interrupted by Toronto police prosecutor Alexandra Ciobotaru, who said that in the early stages of the hearing, the comments should only refer to the behavior of the police officer in question. Gridin replied that he was providing the information to show justification to an independent judge.
Toronto police dealt with the 2016 incident under the microscope amid criticism that investigators failed for years to capture McArthur, who killed eight men between 2010 and 2017. Most of McArthur's victims were vulnerable – some were homeless, others were gay men leading to concerns within the LGBTQ community that bias may have impacted the investigation.
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New details about the incident were revealed in Ontario Superior Court on Monday during McArthur's ongoing conviction hearing, including a detailed summary of the facts heard in court.
The unidentified victim of 2016, who had a previous acquaintance with McArthur, said that he joined him for a meeting inside the McArthur van in a parking lot, and noted that he had removed a driver's seat so there was space to lie down. McArthur asked the victim to lie down in a coat on the floor of the van and instructed him to put one arm behind his back.
The victim said that McArthur then grabbed his throat and began to strangle him. He managed to escape the van and called 911.
McArthur went to the police station on his own and was arrested, but gave a statement of defense, the court heard. He was released without charge after an officer believed in McArthur's statement.
In 2014, two years before the van bottleneck incident, McArthur received a record suspension from the Parole Council of Canada for a violent 2001 attack on a male worker. By the time he received the suspension of the record, McArthur had already committed three murders.
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, said Tuesday that he supports hiring an outside judge for the disciplinary hearing, saying the officer will "vigorously defend himself" against the charges.
McCormack challenged the fact that Gauthier had been accused of misconduct before a broader review of the handling of the McArthur case by Toronto police could be conducted.
Before being accused in connection with the McArthur incident, Gauthier had already faced two unrelated charges of professional misconduct. The charges were finally dropped and the matter was dealt with internally.
According to a police document describing these allegations, Gauthier had not been able to arrest an alleged criminal when he had reason to do so – specifically DNA evidence that identified the alleged perpetrator through a positive link with an offender in the National Data Bank DNA.
Five years later, the Peel Regional Police arrested the same man for unrelated sexual crimes, when Gauthier's failure to arrest the man was carried out. The police document said Gauthier "could not guarantee that a full investigation would be conducted."
McArthur pleaded guilty last week to eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kinsman, Esen, Dean Lisowick, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj (Skanda) Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushnakumar Kanagaratnam.
Wendy Gillis is a Toronto reporter who covers crimes and policing. Access it by email at [email protected] or follow it on Twitter: @wendygillis