A man named Peter Sgromo has described a violent encounter he says took place last year with Bruce McArthur, a 66-year-old Toronto-area landscaper who was charged this week with the murders of five men. On January 18, Toronto police found remains of three dismembered people in flower planters at a property where McArthur did landscaping. Many of McArthur’s alleged victims were members of Toronto’s gay community, and at least one was known to be in a sexual relationship with McArthur.
In an interview with CBC News, Sgromo described a make-out session that got dark fast with McArthur, whom he’d known casually for more than a decade. After dinner together, McArthur offered to drive Sgromo back to his hotel in the “emptied out” van he was driving, according to Sgromo. Things escalated and then kept escalating in Sgromo’s account:
We were kissing, kissing turned into some petting. Then he undid my shirt, undid his shirt,” he said, recalling McArthur then grabbing him by the head, pushing him down.
Sgromo wasn’t ready for oral sex, he said, so he rose back up.
“Then he really grabbed my neck, violently twisted it, right to his crotch and his pants were undone. That’s when I really was quite disturbed.”
Sgromo said he got McArthur off him by grabbing his elbow. McArthur suggested that they go back to his place, but Sgromo said he said he needed to check on his sick dog in his hotel room. Once up there, Sgromo texted McArthur back to say he had to stay with his dog.
“And to me, that was my escape,” Sgromo told CBC. He says he didn’t hear from McArthur again.
The McArthur story has attracted attention not just for its extreme, morbid nature, but also for its potential racist implications. The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention issued a letter this week that took to task the Toronto police for not taking seriously years-old disappearances of the men of color who are McArthur’s suspected victims, until Andrew Kinsman, who was white, went missing in June 2017. To CBC, Jooyoung Lee, associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, compared this to missing white woman syndrome.
ASAAP’s letter reads in part:
We believe that the Toronto Police Service failed to provide adequate resources and effort in their investigations of the disappearances of Skanda Navaratnam (2010), Abdulbasir Faizi (2010), Majeed Kayhan (2012), and Selim Esen (2017). The disappearances of Navaratnam, Faizi, and Kayhan remain under investigation. Despite the initial public outcry, outreach and demand for an investigation in 2010 and then again in 2012 – Project Houston drew no conclusion for these victims. We hope that answers will come to light soon.
It is saddening and unacceptable that it took the disappearance of Andrew Kinsman to reopen public interest in the cases of the missing South Asian and Middle Eastern men. Families and friends of the respective men were not given the closure that they deserved in a timely manner. We strongly emphasize that racism and homophobia are systemic issues that affect every part of our society. A different standard of justice for racialized and LGBTQ+ people is the reality in our city and province.