As accused serial killer Bruce McArthur makes yet another court appearance in connection with the murders of eight men with ties to Toronto’s gay village, questions persist as to why police have not released his mugshot.
The 66-year-old self-employed landscaper was arrested and charged with eight counts of first-degree murder following a high-profile investigation, which included the excavation of remains from a property in central Toronto.
Despite the intense media coverage, the public has only been able to see images of McArthur plucked from his Facebook page and online dating profiles.
In one widely shared photo, the white-haired man is seen posing in front of Niagara Falls with his arm casually resting on a fence as a rainbow peeks through in the background. The image, assumedly posted by McArthur himself for his profile, looks like any other cheery tourist shots taken in front of a landmark on a sunny afternoon.
In another photo often attached to news stories about the case, a smiling McArthur appears to be taking a selfie in a setting with warm lighting.
They’re in stark contrast to the typical gloomy mugshots of other suspects believed to have committed similarly heinous crimes that are often shared by police – particularly in the U.S. It appears to be more common for police departments south of the border to distribute mugshots or booking photos of suspects in custody than it is in Canada.
And while every police department is different, unflattering photos of apprehended suspects regularly appear on the websites and social media pages of sheriff’s departments across the U.S. and then published by the media.
In the case of the Toronto Police Service, however, the criteria for releasing a suspect’s mugshot seem to be narrower.
Meghan Gray, a spokesperson for the force, told CTVNews.ca that mugshots are only released to “further investigations.”
For example, in the case of a suspect who is still at large and who is believed to pose a risk to the public, she said. Police may also decide to release an image of a suspect in a missing person’s case if it has the potential to help their search efforts.
In July, a Toronto police spokesperson told The Canadian Press that police have opted to share mugshots when they believe there could be more victims, such as in the example of a sexual assault investigation. That was the reasoning behind their decision to reveal Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard’s wide-eyed mugshot this summer, according to Pugash. The musician has been charged with three sexual offences involving two females.
The possibility of other victims seemed to apply in McArthur’s case – particularly when the accused killer was linked to the disappearances of only two men when he was first arrested in January 2018 and investigators said at the time they believed there were more victims.
During the Toronto police press conference announcing McArthur’s arrest, Acting Insp. Hank Idsinga explained why they had not released his mugshot yet.
“In order to protect the integrity of any witness statements or other information that may come forward, we are not prepared to release Mr. McArthur’s photograph,” Idsinga said at the time.
In September, Toronto police said they have no investigative reason to release his photo and they don’t expect to do so in the future.
None of the allegations have been tested in court.
With files from The Canadian Press