The Toronto police were clear — they have no evidence of criminality or links between the cases of Selim Esen, 44, and Andrew Kinsman, 49, two gay men who went missing earlier this year.
But the 150 or so people who came to The 519 community centre in Toronto on Aug 1, 2017, for a town hall on missing LGBT people, were largely convinced that foul play is the likely cause.
“When I saw the pictures of these five, I couldn’t help but get a disturbing feeling in my gut,” said Greg Downer, who organized the event.
He was referring to not just Kinsman and Selim, but also to three gay men who went missing between 2010 and 2012.
All five missing men are middle-aged and swarthy, with dark hair and beards. Four of the five men are brown-skinned. And they all frequented the Church-Wellesley Village.
That’s why Downer is helping to organize a working group that can help look for missing LGBT people.
“Hopefully somebody else doesn’t go missing from our community,” he said. “But if they do, we’re there to help with things like setting up a Twitter account, setting up a Facebook page, having templates for posters and volunteers ready to hit the streets.”
The mood in the room was tense, with many people openly speculating that a serial killer is preying on gay men in Toronto.
But Inspector Peter Code maintained that police still don’t have any evidence that anything illegal has taken place or if any of the five cases are connected in any way.
“Even though we don’t have a linkage now, we are certainly looking at previous cases to see if there is any links,” he told the town hall. “Because there may be something that we did not see, not looking at all of these cases in totality.”
Toronto police have set up a dedicated team to look into the cases of Esen and Kinsman because of the volume of information that they’re receiving from the public.
“So we have to give those officers the opportunity to work on nothing else but this case,” Code said.
And he urged anyone in the public with information to come forward.
“Do not assume that we know the obvious things that you know,” he said. “Please contact us.”