Newly unsealed court documents reveal that while Toronto police investigated the disappearance of the man now believed to be Bruce McArthur’s first victim, they initially looked at another infamous murderer as a possible suspect — Luka Magnotta.
The documents belong to the Project Houston investigation that was launched in 2012 to look into the disappearance of Skandaraj Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan — all from Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village and now identified as three of McArthur’s eight victims.
The task force was launched after Toronto police received an anonymous tip from Switzerland about a Toronto-area man who frequented online forums relating to cannibalism. The informant claimed the man had mentioned the name “Skanda” in conversations about cannibalism.
The tip led police to a man who was later convicted on child pornography charges in 2014.
That man, James Alex Brunton of Peterborough, was then investigated as a possible suspect in the disappearance of Navaratnam.
After an elaborate probe into Brunton, the documents reveal that a “circumstantial connection” was found between him and Luka Magnotta.
For example, years worth of emails and chats between Brunton and young men revealed child pornography, discussions of kidnapping and cannibalism.
Brunton also made mention of another cannibal enthusiast named “Nathan” that he claims to have met at a downtown Toronto strip club called Remington’s. Investigators noted that Magnotta worked as a dancer in a Toronto club of the same name.
Police also discovered that Magnotta had lived in Peterborough as a teen, not far from Brunton. This led to the issuance of a warrant in September 2013, where police dug into Magnotta’s digital devices. They found Magnotta had posted three online advertisements “looking for Middle Eastern men” just a few months before Navaratnam disappeared in 2010.
Police were unable to find concrete evidence that would tie Brunton or Magnotta to the three missing men that sparked Project Houston and the investigation did not lead to any murder charges being laid against either of them.
However, Brunton pleaded guilty to several counts of child pornography charges in January 2014 and Magnotta was convicted that same year of murdering and dismembering exchange student Jun Lin. He is serving a life sentence.
Bruce McArthur’s name does appear briefly in the 2013 judicial order of Project Houston.
The email address “silverfoxx51” was discovered on both Navaratnam and Faizi’s electronic devices — now known to belong to McArthur. A number was found attached to the email address in Navratnam’s deleted email contacts.
A police search of the number revealed a contact card from a 2005 vehicle stop where the driver did not have a valid insurance card. The person named on that card was Bruce McArthur.
McArthur would eventually plead guilty to Navaratnam’s killing, along with the murders of seven other men in January. He is serving life in prison, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.