Bruce McArthur’s first known victim speaks out

What’s it like to be one of the earliest victims of a serial killer…and somehow to survive a murderous attack?

Mark Henderson knows. 19 years ago, he was assaulted by a man he knew by sight in Toronto’s gay village, the Church-Wellesley neighborhood. The man followed him into his apartment building, then beat Mark within an inch of his life right outside Mark’s own apartment door.

What followed was a long, nightmare-ridden journey of healing, of seeking justice, getting a slight taste of it, and then having to watch in horror as other men started disappearing from the same part of town where he himself was very nearly killed. And then finding out that the man who nearly killed him had not only been freed by an overly lenient and clueless judge, but even pardoned for his attempt on Mark’s life…effectively erasing his name and history from the criminal database of the very police force that was tasked with protecting the community from people like that eventually successful would-be killer, Bruce McArthur:

I’ve already noted how so many of McArthur’s victims were racialized queer men, easily overlooked or not taken seriously by a mostly-white, mostly-straight police force. Some of them were in the closet, with wives and families unaware of this side of their lives. This too contributed to their demise; homophobic cultures are woefully commonplace all around the globe. As immigrants making their way in a new land, they were easier targets for a home-grown killer. And with Toronto police history being riddled with strikingly recent episodes of homophobia and LGBT+ persecution, no doubt the cop shop and the justice system also provided McArthur with ample cover for his violent and murderous tendencies.

How much longer will our society go on enabling the Bruce McArthurs that walk undetected among us? As long as our justice system continues to turn a blind eye to the marginalized. And that means that everyone will have to learn more about privilege, and what becomes of those who lack it the most — lessons especially important for those in charge of enforcing our laws.

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