Only 192 kilometres southwest of Toronto, the city became the "serial killer capital of the world" from 1959 to 1984, according to Michael Arntfield, a criminology professor at the University of Western Ontario. With only a population of roughly 200,000 people at the time, the city may have had as many as six serial killers, more per capita than everywhere else on the planet.
In his new book, Murder City: The Untold Story of Canada's Serial Killer Capital, Arntfield reveals the dark history of the Forest City. Thanks to the work of an OPP detective who followed his hunches and took detailed notes while following the killings, more is known about suspected murderers who wreaked havoc in the area.
Arntfield, who also served as a London police officer for 15 years, says during the 25-year period, there were 32 homicides, with all victims being women and children. These deaths were likely caused by serial killers, the author says.
Monsters such as the Mad Slasher, Chambermaid Slayer and Balcony Killer are suspected of having roamed the city's streets. Some of the murderers were never captured, Arntfield says, but he suspects they escaped to Toronto, where they continued to harm the innocent.
The author of this chilling book sat down with CBC Toronto host Dwight Drummond to discuss this disturbing period. The following is a condensed and edited version of the interview:
You owe much of the information to OPP officer Dennis Alsop, how important was his documentation to your research?
It is extraordinarily important. A lot of the stuff that happened during this period, there is no other living record of it — much of it was thought to have been lost to history. But he took the time to diligently document his thoughts, his hunches, his findings, things that could be acted on but also things that would go no further than him.
And ultimately contained in that codex, as I call it — the basement book of the dead — are answers to these cases and he knew they couldn't die with him so he left them behind to be found as a sort of a time capsule. His son then gave them to me knowing my work at the university with respect to unsolved homicides.
Let's talk about one of the alleged killers, a man you identify as the neighbour.
After great deliberation and consultation with the families in the first of the murders, I've decided not to name him or reveal any other identifying information about him other than he was the neighbour of the first victim, Frankie Jensen, in February 1968. There is no question in looking at Dennis's documents from this period, his diary entries, his own thoughts, his own narrative, that the neighbour was responsible. and the steps taken by the neighbour to avoid capture and elude investigators really speak to that.
After the first murder, he then targeted a second boy in the London area, [but] Dennis was not given the go ahead to make an arrest.
What happens next is Dennis stays on him, conducts surveillance on his own time, never really gives him any breathing room, so he leaves town.
In 1975, we have five-year-old Tracey Bruney in Etobicoke. In 1981, we have Erick Larsfolk in the company of his best friend, John McCormack. Neither body have ever been found. Do you believe this is all connected to the man that he referred to as the neighbour?
We then see four remarkably similar murders — in terms of ammunition and signature — in the Toronto area in the immediate vicinity of the area, in which he is living at the time after moving from London.
While these lives are being taken in Toronto, Alsop is trying to sound the alarm to his superiors that this is the work of a serial killer and it started in London and has moved to Toronto.
In the book, there is a very chilling document that was found in his codex ... and it is the first of several teletype transmissions he sent, like an early version of a fax, and it is sent to the higher ups in Toronto saying, listen, London is under siege by [what he refers to as] sexual psychopaths, which is not a common term certainly for a police officer to be using at the time. He is saying there are at least two or more sexual psychopaths preying on this city. We need reinforcements. He was effectively alone in the hinterland. And there is no evidence there was any response. It fell on deaf ears and really the city was left to its own devices with him as the sole person chasing these killers.
They call it the Forest City, forests are picturesque and suggest a sort of bucolic nice tranquil place but there are also dark places that harbour secrets and dangerous people. There is something about the design of the city circumscribed by these remote areas, and this is why Dennis also inherited all these cases because victims were taken, abducted, murdered inside the city and taken or disposed of outside the city. He would inherit those cases because outside the city was purely OPP territory and at the time, that was the jurisdictional practice.
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