Psychopath on the loose?

The recent discovery of dismembered skeletal remains in backyard planters and a Toronto police allegation that a serial killer is responsible for the gruesome crimes have prompted at least one homicide expert to suggest the perpetrator is likely a psychopath.

Criminologist and former police officer Michael Arntfield said the revelations suggest the victims' bodies were moved and hidden. It's a relatively rare tactic "strongly co-related with offenders who are in the psychopathic spectrum," he said, as opposed to those suffering from a mental health issue or acting spontaneously out of anger or under the influence of a narcotic.

"These are people who have fantasized about this for some time, who put considerable mental and physical energy into scouting and identifying locations, preparing for any contingency," says Arntfield, who is also a professor at Western University in London, Ont.

"The degree of planning and execution with respect to the M.O. (modus operandi) and disposal methodology suggests an offender who's been at this for some time, and through a sort of trial-and-error has found a way to get away with it."

The shocking details have drawn international attention for their macabre elements: remains stashed in large planters, the police seizure of several more planters around the city, suspicions that more body parts are buried on other properties.

It's the disposal methods that grab the attention of Boston-based serial killer expert Enzo Yaksic, who founded an information-sharing collaborative that created a massive database of serial-homicide offenders and their attributes.

He believes the audacious act of stashing remains in private yards would be immensely alluring to a killer by offering a sense of "immeasurable power" to secretly wield over city officials and victims' family members.

A relatively public burial would also allow a perpetrator to reignite the memory of the crime and relive it any time they choose to pass by the location.

"Serial killers get a thrill when they know things other people don't know," says Yaksic, also director of the Murder Accountability Project and co-founder of the Atypical Homicide Research Group. "The thrill for them is revisiting these scenes knowing something that the police and society don't know."

The Toronto case is unusual in this respect, says Yaksic, noting most serial killers leave their victims at the scene to avoid increased risk of detection.

Self-employed landscaper Bruce McArthur, 66, faces five charges of first-degree murder. The allegations have not been proven in court.

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