A suspected serial killer in Canada, accused of dumping his victims in plant pots, has been charged with a sixth murder, leading police to fear there may be many more.

Bruce McArthur appeared in court via video link on Friday (23 February) and was charged with killing his former lover Skandaraj 'Skanda' Navaratnam, 40.

The 66-year-old gardener was arrested on 18 January and charged with the murder of Andrew Kinsman, 49, and Selim Esen, 44, who were last seen in 2017 in a Toronto neighbourhood known as the Gay Village, in the south of the city.

But since then he has also been charged with the murders of Soroush Marmudi, 50, Majeed Kayhan, 58, and Dean Lisowick, 47.

Police found the human remains of at least six people, buried in large plant pots at a home in central Toronto, where McArthur was employed as a landscape gardener. The men were identified through their fingerprints and dental records.

A number of the men, who were all gay, were either homeless, had drug habits, or hid their sexuality, while Dean Lisowick worked as a prostitute.

Police said McArthur's victims tended to be people on the margins of society whose disappearance attracted little attention.

The latest victim the gardener is accused of killing is Navaratnam, a refugee from Sri Lanka, who was last seen leaving a gay bar in Toronto's Gay Village on 6 September 2010. He was reported as officially missing by a friend ten days later.

Gay dating apps

Detectives said McArthur employed and had a sexual relationship with Navaratnam, while his Facebook profile also showed he was friends with the victim.

The gardener met his victims in the Gay Village and on gay dating apps for older and large men, such as SilverDaddies, where he used the name SilverFoxx51, said police.

But Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga said police are checking at least 30 other sites, where they believe other murders might have been committed going back over a period of almost two decades. These areas include some of Toronto's wealthiest neighbourhoods, where McArthur plied his gardening business.

Idsinga described the scale of the search as "unprecedented" for the Toronto Police Service.

The detective added: "There's hundreds of outstanding missing persons occurrences that we're looking at. We are tracing his whereabouts as far back as we can go."

Assault charge

Clients knew McArthur as a kindly, grey-haired worker, but police said he had a furious temper and was no stranger to violence.

In 2003, he was convicted of beating a male prostitute with a metal pipe two years earlier in an area of Toronto's Gay Village. He was found guilty of possession of a dangerous weapon, assault with a weapon, and assault causing bodily harm.

McArthur was given a two-year suspended sentence, but was also banned from the streets that make up the city's gay area. He was also banned from taking drugs, consorting with male prostitutes and owning a gun.

The gardener had been married and has a grown up son and daughter who were raised in Oshawa, a town just over 60 miles east of Toronto. However, in 1999 his marriage, which lasted at least 13 years, began to fail as he began relationships with men.