A reserved Sri Lankan man who was among hundreds of Tamil asylum-seekers to land on Canadian shores in 2010 has been identified as the eighth victim of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.
Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam arrived on Vancouver Island as one of 492 refugees aboard the ship MV Sun Sea, and later settled in Scarborough. He was named by Toronto police Monday as the dead man whose photograph investigators had released last month after all other attempts at identifying him had failed.
“He only came here to protect his life,” said Pranavan Thangavel, who got to know Kanagaratnam on the journey from Thailand to Canada aboard the rickety cargo ship. “But he’s not with us now. It’s really bad news.”
Kanagaratnam’s identification late last week resulted Monday in yet another first-degree murder charge against McArthur, who is alleged to have killed him between September and December 2015.
Just 37 at the time of his death, Kanagaratnam is the youngest of the men McArthur is alleged to have killed. He had never been reported missing in Canada.
Kanagaratnam was identified with the help of an international government agency, Det. Sgt. Hank Idsinga told reporters Monday. The lead homicide investigator in the McArthur case declined to elaborate, but confirmed that Kanagaratnam’s remains had been identified by forensic experts among “at least” seven sets of dismembered human remains found in large planters at a Leaside property where police allege McArthur concealed his victims.
The identification came together only within the past few days. Last week, as he released a touched-up version of the photograph of the dead man and a new illustration, Idsinga said police were cautiously optimistic they had narrowed the man’s identity to one of 22 on a list of possibilities. However, Idsinga confirmed Monday that Kanagaratnam’s had not been one of the names on that list.
Police have never officially revealed the origins of the photograph of the dead man now identified as Kanagaratnam, but police sources have told the Star and other media that investigators recovered images of dead men on McArthur’s computer.
After five weeks of “enormous” stress and anxiety, with police sifting through hundreds of missing person occurrences and dozens of leads, Idsinga said, Kanagaratnam’s identification was a major relief.
“While we are saddened, we are also tremendously proud and relieved to have been able to bring closure to the friends and family of Mr. Kanagaratnam and the seven other victims,” Idsinga said.
But investigators are still piecing together key details, including how and when McArthur and Kanagaratnam met. Unlike every other man McArthur is alleged to have killed, Kanagaratnam does not have any known link to Toronto’s Gay Village and “doesn’t quite fit the profile that we’ve seen before,” Idsinga said.
McArthur, a 66-year-old landscaper, was already charged in the deaths of Andrew Kinsman, 49; Selim Esen, 44; Majeed Kayhan, 59; Soroush Mahmudi, 50; Dean Lisowick, 47; Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam, 40, and Abdulbasir Faizi, 42.
The remains of all the men except for Kayhan were found in large planters located on a Leaside property linked to McArthur through his landscaping work. The bodies have been identified through dental records, fingerprints or DNA.
According to an obituary in a Tamil-language newspaper over the weekend, Kanagaratnam was born in Nainatheevu, off the coast of the Jaffna Peninsula in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. He attended St. John College in Jaffna, where his parents still live. He had distant relatives within the Greater Toronto Area, but no immediate relatives in Canada.
He arrived in Canada aboard the MV Sun Sea, which left Thailand on July 5, 2010, carrying 492 Sri Lankan Tamils who intended to claim refugee status after escaping the civil war in their home country.
The boat was intercepted off the coast of B.C. by the Canadian navy on Aug. 12, 2010. The passengers were detained after allegations that some were members of the LTEE, a Sri Lankan separatist group also known as the Tamil Tigers. Many of those aboard the ship settled in Vancouver, while others moved to Toronto, home to a large Tamil diaspora.
But Kanagaratnam’s refugee claim was rejected, Thangavel told the Star in an interview. After that, Thangavel said, “the only way he can live here was to hide himself.”
Idsinga said police have been using an officer who speaks Tamil to communicate and get more information about Kanagaratnam, which has made talking to his relatives more complicated than the other victims in the McArthur case.
“It’s very tough to ask questions without making them leading questions, when you’re talking on the phone through an interpreter,” Idsinga said.
His team asked the questions they needed to answers to right away, but are now giving the family five or six days to grieve before pressing further.
“I mean, they’ve gotten quite a shock over the phone,” he said. “It’s difficult to communicate, and I guess the language and the culture barriers make it that much more difficult.”
Police confirmed last week that their ongoing investigation includes 15 unsolved homicides, dating to 1975 and as recent as 1997. Early next month, police will conduct searches of at least 75 properties with links to McArthur.