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Crime News Serial Killers

Netflix's 'Catching Killers' Shows Cannibalism Led Cops Astray During Toronto Serial Killer Hunt

Det. Debbie Harris of the Toronto Police Service explains in Netflix's "Catching Killers" that an alarming online post first led them to sex offender James Alex Brunton instead of serial killer Bruce McArthur.

By Gina Tron

As officials in Canada tried to track down a serial killer who targeted gay men Toronto’s Village, they were thrown off by a post on a cannibalism fantasy forum.

In a new episode of Netflix's “Catching Killers,” Det. Debbie Harris of the Toronto Police Service recalled how a detective from Switzerland called her in 2012 to tell her that he had information that a missing man, Skandaraj "Skanda" Navaratnam, had been kidnapped, killed and eaten. Navaratnam had left a gay bar in The Village — an LGBTQ-friendly enclave — with an unknown man and hadn't been been seen since. 

She noted the detective abroad was alerted after a person with the username Chefmate50 made an alarming post on the what was then the cannibal fantasy forum Zambian Meat, claiming he killed and ate a man matching Navaratnam’s description in Toronto sometime between 2009 and 2011. 

While Harris said her gut told her the claim was “ridiculous,” she and other investigators still investigated the possibility.

She soon realized that they there were two other missing men who matched the description of the apparent murder victim in the post — Majeed Kayhan and Abdulbasir Faizi.

They then launched an investigation into all three missing men, which they dubbed Project Houston — after the famous phrase, “Houston, we’ve got a problem" — as previously seen on Oxygen’s "Catching A Serial Killer: Bruce McArthur."

Investigators were able to determine that the man behind the cannibalism fantasy post was James Alex Brunton, a married former hospital technician living in Peterborough, Ontario. While he was once called “Suspect Zero" by detectives, they later determined that his post was a mere fantasy. (He was, however, convicted of child pornography charges in 2014, CBC News reported.)

The man eventually determined to be behind the murders of all three missing men as well as five other victims was serial killer Bruce McArthur

McArthur had been married to a woman for more than 20 years before coming out in the late 1990s, and had a small landscaping business (in addition to a seasonal job as a Toronto mall Santa, according to the Globe and Mail). In 2018, police found the remains of seven men in large planters at a property where McArthur had worked and used as storage. The remains of the eighth victim were found in a ravine behind the same property in midtown Toronto.

He pleaded guilty in 2019 to eight counts of first-degree murder for killing and dismembering his victims between 2010 to 2017.