Bruce McArthur made international headlines last year after bodies were found hidden in potted planters

By Harriet Sokmensuer
January 29, 2019 03:45 PM
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Bruce McArthur, the 67-year-old Toronto landscaper and serial killer who hid his victims’ bodies in planters, admitted to murdering eight men Tuesday, PEOPLE confirms.

McArthur made international headlines last January when he was charged with murdering two missing men after their dismembered bodies were found hidden in the bottom of planters on a property where McArthur had done landscaping work on and stored some of his tools.

He was later charged with six additional counts of first-degree murder following the discovery of six more remains.

On Tuesday, McArthur pleaded guilty to the murders of Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Soroush Mahmaudi, Dean Lisowick, Majeed Kayhan, Skanda Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, according to a statement from Toronto police obtained by PEOPLE.

During the hearing, it was revealed McArthur planned out the murders. The once-married 67-year-old, who also played Santa Claus at a local shopping mall, targeted men in the city’s Gay Village.

“A total of six of the eight murders were sexual in nature,” according to the statement. “Involving ligature and confinement and some of the victims’ bodies were staged after they were killed.”

More insight was given into the evidence prosecutors had against McArthur including jewelry belonging to two of the victims found in McArthur’s home and a duffel bag with duct tape, a surgical glove, zip ties, syringes and a black bungee cord. A journal belonging to one of the victims was also recovered.

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Long before McArthur’s arrest, regulars in Toronto’s Village knew something was wrong each time a new “Missing” flyer went up.

“We told police we thought it was a serial killer,” activist Alphonso King Jr. previously told PEOPLE, “and they flat-out told us no.”

Credit: Facebook

The disappearances began in 2010 when Sri Lankan immigrant Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40, vanished after he was seen leaving a bar with an unknown man. That same year, Abdulbasir Faizi went missing from the Village, followed two years later by the disappearance of Kayhan. Police launched an investigation — dubbed Project Houston — in 2012 to look into the disappearances of Navaratnam, Faizi and Kayhan.

However, the investigation was closed in 2014 when investigators “couldn’t establish whether these gentlemen had met with any foul play,” Toronto Police Service Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga previously told PEOPLE.

In August of 2017, police launched Project Prism — a new investigation into the case — after Esen, a philosophy student and recovering drug user, went missing in April and Kinsman went missing in June.

During their investigation, authorities removed 15 planters from 30 properties McArthur had done work on.

Credit: Chris Young/The Canadian Press/AP

On Tuesday during the hearing, lead investigator Detective David Dickinson read a statement addressed to the victim’s family and friends.

“It has been a long and traumatic process and many made the difficult decision to attend in person today,” he said, according to Toronto police. “Our thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones and the community as a whole. We would not be here if not for the assistance provided during this investigation by all of them.”

McArthur will be sentenced on Feb. 4.