Zipperz was a bar at the edge of the Gay Village, operating for 16 years at the corner of Carlton and Church Streets. Known for its piano players and retro dance feel, it attracted an older crowd. That’s where police believe Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam, 40, met his killer.
Navaratnam was last seen in the early morning hours of September 10, 2010, leaving Zipperz, leaving with a man. He is an alleged victim of Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur.
Navaratnam originally met McArthur in 1999 and they were “romantically involved” after Navaratnam worked for his killer as a landscaper. They continued dating, non-monogamously, until at least 2008, and their Facebook profiles are still linked.
Navaratnam, along with two other missing gay men, became part of Toronto Police’s Project Houston, a task force set up to investigate their disappearances. After 18 months, police could find no evidence of foul play, and without an apparent crime, McArthur was never a “suspect.” Project Houston was launched in November 2012 to investigate the disappearance of Navaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi and Majeed Kayhan.
Media reported that Navaratnam was attracted to older men, and he was the only one of the three Project Houston subjects who did not appear to live a double life, although his family never told his 80-year-old Sri Lankan mother that he was gay.
Navaratnam reportedly liked older men with white hair and goatees, a profile which McArthur fits.
As of March 2018, McArthur, 66, has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Andrew Kinsmen, Selim Esen, Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Skandaraj Navaratnam and Dean Lisowick. Police have conducted extensive forensic searches and found the dismembered, skeletal remains of three unidentified people in planters at 53 Mallory Crescent, where an older couple allowed McArthur to keep some of his landscaping equipment. Police are using fingerprints, dental records and DNA analysis to identify the remains.
Police report that McArthur is not cooperating with the investigation, and that it may take months or even years to complete, as they will be investigating missing persons reports over a period of decades. McArthur is currently on suicide watch.
Various organizations have criticized the police for their handling of the case, suggesting that had the first three men identified in Project Houston been white, the alleged killer may have been caught earlier. Police Chief Mark Saunders said in an interview that if people who knew McArthur had come forward during Project Houston with the information they came forward with during Project Prism and after McArthur’s arrest, the alleged killer may have been caught earlier.
Murder Village Map
Name: Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam
Date of Death: September 10, 2010
Manner of Death: unknown at this time
Location: unknown at this time
Suspect Name: Bruce McArthur
Conviction & Sentence: pending