Catching Killers (2021) s02e03 Episode Script

Missing Men Part 1: The Toronto Village Killer

1 4:00 in the morning, the alarm goes off, so that I can be at work at 5:30.
When I arrive at the station, uh, put my coffee down, and the phone rang.
The person on the other end with a very strong accent but a very quiet voice said, "Are you the lead investigator on the Skanda Navaratnam missing person case?" Now, the moment he said that to me, I have to tell you, my stomach dropped.
I first heard of Skanda Navaratnam two years earlier when he was reported missing.
For months, we searched for Skanda, and we never found out what happened to him.
He definitely got, um, inside my head.
The person on the other end then said he was a detective from Bern, Switzerland.
He told me he had information that Skanda had been kidnapped, murdered, and then eaten by a cannibal.
My stomach is so nervous doing this.
I hate being in front of a camera.
It's worse than being in the hot seat in court.
I'm telling you, I just am not comfortable.
- It doesn't come across.
- Okay.
- So, is everyone good to crack on? - We're good to crack on.
When I joined the police service, I was 18.
Anyone who has to call 911 is gonna be in one of the worst moments of their life, and if I could be that police officer that comforts them for a moment, that's what I wanted to do.
When I received that phone call from Bern, Switzerland, I was working in the Village, the heart of the Toronto LGBTQ+ community.
The detective had come across a website called Zambian Meat, a website about cannibalism.
On the website, he started to speak to the member in Toronto.
The username was Chefmate50.
Chefmate50 told him that he'd kidnapped, murdered and eaten a brown-skinned man from the Village, in Toronto, somewhere between 2009 and 2011.
The detective narrowed it down to possibly being Skanda Navaratnam.
My gut is saying, "This is ridiculous.
" But then my head is saying, "Well, if there was, even in the remotest possibilities, a cannibal living in or around the city of Toronto, I had I had to investigate that.
" I start typing in "Z-A-M-B-I-A-N Meat.
" Right on the front page of the website was two men, and they were roasting a woman on a spit.
I couldn't get my head around what I was actually seeing on the screen.
I was shocked.
I was absolutely taken back at the fact that these websites existed.
I had to find out who Chefmate50 was.
The username had an associated email address of chefmate50@yahoo.
com Later in the evening, after getting judicial authorizations, I was able to review some of the emails that were provided through Yahoo Canada.
And as I started opening up the second, and the third, and the fourth emails, my jaw was dropping.
I had Chefmate50, um, sending emails to people all over the world, talking about how he wanted to torture them, how he wanted to eat them.
I told Homicide, "I need to see you.
There's possibly a cannibal right here in Toronto.
" Next day, I walked in the room full of the Toronto Police Homicide Unit.
There's this, you know, aura around them.
I'm in my, you know, normal store-bought suit, and they all look so professional.
They have cuff links with their initials, and they all use the same tailor.
I was anxious as to whether or not they would say, "Okay, you have enough to move forward in this investigation.
" But as they're going through the briefing package, and they're seeing some of the content of some of the emails, you can see them slowly slinking down in their seats.
And they went from these detectives who'd seen everything to the same feelings that I had.
This overwhelming, uh, feeling of, "Is this really happening?" I had a name through Yahoo Canada for the person depicting himself as Chefmate50.
It was James Brunton.
James Brunton was a family man who was married, who had a daughter.
He lived in a very suburban neighborhood in Peterborough, Ontario, which is northeast of Toronto.
And he had no criminal record.
He worked at the local hockey arena.
He also, uh, volunteered on a telephone hotline, uh, for people who were suicidal.
And he seemed, on the surface, uh, to be someone who was committed to his community.
But there was no definition of what a cannibal should look like.
Homicide determined that it would be good to have a team set up, and I was assigned as the lead investigator on what was called Project Houston.
I was extremely excited in the fact that they've taken me seriously, but now I've got to work in a way that I have never done before.
The first thing I had to determine was, "Are there any other missing men I should be aware of and looking for?" So, I went to the Canadian National Missing Persons database.
I immediately identified a second person.
Abdul "Basir" Faizi, who'd gone missing in December 2010 from the gay village, just three months after Skanda.
I took a look at the photo of this missing person and of Skanda Navaratnam.
They were both brown-skinned, they were both middle-aged, they both had dark hair, they both had mustaches, they both had a small beard.
I went back to the database, and I found a third missing person.
Majeed Kayhan, missing from the gay village two years later, in October of 2012.
I'm looking and thinking, "Oh, boy.
" I felt in my gut that it was the same person that was responsible for whatever happened to the three men, but without any bodies, I had no concrete evidence that there was a serial killer out there.
I needed to see if there was any evidence linking James Brunton to the missing men.
I needed an IT person who was tech-savvy, who could create a profile and enter Zambian Meat.
We're in business.
Never done it before.
Yeah, it's strange.
But it's interesting.
It's neat.
The first person I thought of was Charles Coffey.
When you're a kid, you see the exciting movies and shows, and investigations were always like a puzzle.
I've always loved that aspect of it, and always dreamed about being a police officer.
I received a phone call from Detective Harris, and she explained to me how Skanda, Faizi and Kayhan, three missing males, were possibly victims of cannibalism.
It's It's a topic that you don't realize is real, and being asked to investigate such a topic, I was I was excited, but I was also disturbed, realizing that there was cannibalism out there.
The next day, I was able to create an account and successfully became a member of Zambian Meat.
There was people who were looking to be killed or slaughtered, as well as people who were performing the slaughtering.
I was able to create a glossary defining the hierarchy.
A "Long Pig," which is a potential willing victim, uh, a "Chef," which is, uh, considered a qualified cannibal, and a "Master Chef," which is a qualified cannibal, uh, can butcher and prepare meat.
It's, uh You know, it's extremely surreal.
I don't know how else to explain it.
Brunton used the username Chefmate50, explaining that he was the real thing, that he has tasted and consumed human meat.
Uh, he would go into great detail on how he had performed the slaughtering of of human beings.
Descriptions on how to properly kill, cook, and store, uh, human flesh.
It was very direct, uh, very intricate, very knowledgeable.
I needed to get more information on James Brunton to prove if this man was dangerous, or just a sick fantasist.
We needed to get into his home and clone his computer, so that we could forensically go through it.
For weeks, we were trying to get in the house surreptitiously, and there was never an opportunity.
Either James was there himself or his wife was there.
I would be working from 7:00 in the morning to 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning every day.
I'd been setting up teams, going out doing surveillance.
There was a lapse of eight days where I just didn't see my daughter.
When I was 28, Julia was born.
Her and I were on our own, uh, from when she was one year old.
I raised her, um, as a single mother, and, uh, she's You know, she's everything.
When I came home, I would open her door and just quietly walk in.
I just wanted to see her, I wanted to lie next to her.
I would just take that deep breath in, and it would have that scent of her, and that scent was so calming for me.
Julia and I would plan to do things, but as the investigation progressed, the more time I spent at work, and the less time I spent with Julia.
In December, I received judicial authorization to get all of Brunton's emails in real time.
I saw an email about James going to visit his daughter with his wife down in the United States for Christmas.
Finally, that was our opportunity to safely get into the house without being discovered and clone the computer.
But this was gonna be the first Christmas since the day that Julia was born that I wasn't going to spend with her, and it was just destroying me inside.
I walked in the door, and she was waiting for me.
She can just pick up my demeanor right away, and she's like, "What's wrong?" And then I told her, "Honey, I'm not gonna be able to be here tomorrow for Christmas, and I'm really, really sorry.
" I know I started crying.
Um You know, I I kept feeling like I was disappointing her.
I had to leave my house at 4:00 in the morning.
I'd got about four hours' sleep, and up and out the door I went.
I drove to the car park close to Brunton's house.
We had our mobile support teams there, tech crime teams there, we have our locksmiths there.
Emotionally, I was drained, but you always have to put a game face on.
I started handing coffees out and saying Merry Christmas to everyone.
Got a few "Merry Fucking Christmases" back.
They don't want to be there.
They wanna be at home with their families.
I stay out in the parking lot while the tech team sneak through the back lane and get in through the door.
We didn't have warrants to search the entire home, so we started mirroring the hard drive from his computer onto an external drive.
I was certainly hopeful that we'd find something on the computer because if it was just holiday snaps and innocent photos, I had ruined my Christmas Day with my daughter for nothing.
Once the tech support team were able to clone the computer, that information was extracted and brought back to Charles.
There's hundreds of thousands of pieces of information.
Chats, uh, emails, um, photos, videos, web searches.
Going through Brunton's emails, I came across a, uh, conversation where, uh, he had described a cabin two and a half hours north of Toronto, with a large room, three chairs.
He talked about having killed people in the back portion of the cabin.
And there was talk about a hoist to allow bodies to have their blood drained.
It was almost shock and awe.
Like, "Is this real?" This was big.
We had a location where Brunton allegedly committed murder.
We now had to determine, "Where is this cabin?" We threw a large map of the area on the table, and we did a large circle two and a half hours from Toronto.
But it's hunting a needle in a haystack.
You're talking hundreds of square miles.
As I was looking at all of these possible areas, I thought back to Skanda's phone records.
It showed that he'd made a call from the Bancroft area just two days before he went missing.
Bancroft's a two-and-a-half-hour drive north of Toronto with a lot of dense woods surrounding it.
This could be the place.
We got police drones flying above the trees looking for any glimpse of where the cabin might be within that area of Bancroft.
But the trees were so close together, it was difficult to get a good look at some of the cabins.
We have to put boots on the ground and get people out there, and try to find hard evidence that links Brunton to any of these missing men.
Debbie was saying we have to go find this cabin, and I was already kind of putting my hand up.
That's something that I would totally be into doing.
Josh McKenzie had been my partner for three years.
- You're comfortable, Josh? - I'm good.
Josh is a farm boy.
He can survive in in his snowshoes and tracing through the wilderness.
Debbie's one of the hardest-working people I ever worked with.
She always treated me like an equal, you know, allowing me to run cases on my own and give me experience, and really helped shape me as an investigator.
I always liked the work outside of the office.
I liked going out, finding things, figuring things out.
I drove to Bancroft with another investigator.
We got out of the car and started walking.
It's very remote.
You know, it's trees everywhere.
I saw one purple ribbon tied on a tree.
And looked and saw a second one a couple of trees down.
Somebody was trying to create a path leading somewhere more secluded.
We took a few steps.
A gunshot ricocheted through the trees and then suddenly stopped, and it was completely quiet.
It's not hunting season.
There's no reason why we should be hearing gunshots.
I remember looking at my phone, and we didn't have any cell phone service.
I started thinking, "Oh, man, should we need to call for backup or need help in any way, we couldn't do that.
" I was taking slower and slower steps when I saw a long beam suspended probably about 15 to 20 feet in the air.
It had hooks on it and ropes to a pulley system that you could raise to different heights and suspend, really, whatever you wanted on it.
Behind the pulley system, there was a cabin.
The other investigator and I, we separated, making sure that we had all of our surroundings covered.
I looked through the window.
I saw a table and three chairs, just like the one that was described in Brunton's emails.
There was a fire pit at the back of the building, and on top of that, there was a piece of an iron fence.
Like a massive grate for a barbecue.
Near the fire pit, there was a number of boots and shoes just nailed to this tree.
Some of those shoes had burn marks on the toes.
My mind started spinning at that point.
I found this spot where I was able to get one bar of cell phone service.
My phone rings, and I pick it up, and it's Josh.
He's like, "Deb, you're not gonna believe this, but there are pairs of boots, and they're all just hanging from this tree.
" I knew what he was thinking, and he knew what I was thinking as well.
You know, were these mementos? Were these shoes from men who have now been, um, cannibalized? I told Josh to gather the shoes so I could extrapolate some DNA to see whether they match any of the three missing men.
A few days later, I was going through some of the emails that were on Brunton's computer.
I could see that Josh McKenzie was getting up and walking towards me.
The DNA from all of the shoes was negative for any of our missing men or anyone in the national data bank.
We still didn't have any hard evidence to move forward in the investigation.
Every time I spoke to a family member or a friend of one of the missing persons, they were wanting answers.
I couldn't give them those answers, and that, internally, was constantly causing pressure.
At work, I was very stoic, but the moment I got home, I wasn't as tolerant or as patient as I should be.
Julia would just wanna tell me something simple, um, you know, about her day, and I would just block it out, or I wouldn't have the time to listen, and I would turn it into an argument.
In those moments, she would just say, "It's okay," and she would give me a hug, and I would just break down.
I spent the next couple months searching through Brunton's computer for evidence.
I'd wake up and during breakfast, I'd already be thinking about the case.
It's some of the most disturbing material anyone will ever see.
I couldn't talk to my wife about the investigation.
She never really fully understood what I was going through.
I'm not gonna bring my family into such a warped, horrific world.
I discovered a series of emails in which Brunton was, uh, conversing with a, uh a young male.
In these conversations, I uncovered a contract that was from October, uh, 2009.
"I, being of sound mind and body, and fully understanding of all the consequences, do hereby enter into an agreement with a person known as Chefmate from Zambian, hereafter known as Master.
It is agreed that after my 18th birthday, I will enter into his hands and place myself in his full control.
" "After that, Master can have my body to butcher and eat as desired.
" Just absolutely disgusting.
This boy is one year younger than my daughter.
And this predator is preying on him.
Just Yeah.
How can any human being ever speak to somebody like that, let alone take advantage of someone who's only 15 years old? Makes me sick.
Through help with our Sexual Exploitation Unit, we traced the teenager's address to a home in Colorado.
Thank God he was alive.
He explained that he had no intentions on going through with the contract.
But Brunton pressured the teenager to commit, and when the teenager refused, Brunton asked him to send pictures of him naked.
Child pornography is one of the most heinous crimes that a person can do, and I remember being angered by that.
Um I was personally angered.
That gave me thought to further investigate everything and see if there was any more evidence relating to that.
I opened a file from 2003, May 1st.
I started realizing I was looking at a video of inside a locker room of a hockey, uh, arena with young males.
They were changing in and out of their hockey gear and into their clothes, and, um, Brunton was filming them while they were changing.
These boys, they're in a hockey rink where they feel that they're safe and in a safe environment, and you have this predator in the changeroom taking advantage of their trust.
This was child pornography and child exploitation, and I now had grounds for an arrest.
But if I arrested Brunton right now, I may never get the evidence that I need to connect Brunton to the three missing men.
It was killing me inside.
And knowing what he was doing in the ice hockey arenas, time was no longer on our side.
Our plan of action was to get an undercover officer to go onto Zambian Meat, to pretend to be a Long Pig, someone who wants to give himself up and be eaten by a Master Chef.
The moment the profile went live on Zambian Meat, Chefmate50 sent our profile an email asking to speak to him.
Brunton told our undercover officer he wanted to take him to his cabin in the woods, where he promised to slaughter and then eat him.
Our undercover officer agreed to everything that Brunton wanted and gave details of a flight he'd be taking into Toronto on the morning of May 11th, 2013.
It's like, "We've got him, he's coming, we're gonna get the answers we want.
" I'm so excited at this moment that all of this will finally happen after all of these months of investigation.
On the day of the takedown, everything was in place.
Outside of the airport, I had hostage negotiators, I had SWAT teams on standby, and I had snipers up on the roof in case the undercover officer was put in jeopardy while getting into the car with Brunton.
We had mobile support teams out in Peterborough so that they could keep an eye on Brunton's home, and everyone was reporting back to myself over the radio so that at any given time, I would know what was happening in all of these different locations.
I was anxious and excited at the same time.
Brunton drove out of his driveway, he went directly to the 115 highway.
We had our mobile support teams following him.
He got onto Highway 401, which is exactly the route you would need to do to get to the airport.
And then all of a sudden, the mobile team tells us he's turned off the highway.
And I'm thinking, "Why is he turning off the highway? What's going on?" Brunton turned into a parking lot of a mall.
So, the mobile team followed behind him.
They're letting me know Brunton's in the washroom.
I'm thinking, "Okay, it was a pit stop.
He's gonna get back in his car, and he's gonna continue to the airport.
" I'm getting real-time information from the mobile team that Brunton is leaving the mall.
He's passed the 401 West exit.
He's now getting on the 401 East.
I'm thinking, "What? He's coming to the airport, he's gotta go west, not east.
" What's happened? Did he spot the mobile team? Or did he get cold feet? They follow Brunton right back to his house.
He goes inside, and he doesn't come back out.
I felt defeated.
But we can't let him still stay out in the public when we know what he's doing in regards to child exploitation and child pornography.
We have to arrest him now.
We have to effect the arrest.
Brunton was arrested in his house and brought to the station.
In the last 48 hours, I would have been lucky if I had two hours' sleep.
I'm thriving on adrenaline at this point.
As I'm walking towards the interview room, I know that Brunton is waiting on the other side of that door.
I didn't know what to expect, what personality I would see.
Is he the husband and father, or is he Master Chef? He's got his head down, and he's got his hands crossed on the table.
And he's not looking at me.
I said, "We have evidence from your computers that you've been filming boys in the hockey arenas out in Peterborough.
" I'm reading off what his charges were, and he had no reaction.
"We have evidence that you're involved in a cannibal website.
We have evidence, virtually, that you've admitted to killing somebody.
" You could see his whole demeanor change.
Like he was proud of it.
He said that he had admitted to killing, he had admitted to eating human flesh, but it was all fantasy-based, and that he'd never really done that.
I didn't wanna believe him.
But I couldn't prove otherwise.
It's extremely frustrating, because we still don't have the answers that we're looking for.
I had the officers come in and take him to his cell.
I watched him walk out, and I still wondered, "Are we gonna find anything at the home?" The entire house was forensically examined.
What was located was more evidence in relation to child pornography and child exploitation charges, but nothing in relation to the three missing men.
Learning that, that was hard.
I was thinking to myself, "Now what? Like, where else do we go? What else do we look at? How are we gonna solve this?" Sixty-five-year-old James Alex Brunton walked out of court today after being sentenced for making, possessing, and distributing child pornography.
I really have nothing to say.
I'm, uh, very sorry for what happened for my wife and family.
Today, he was sentenced to time served plus three years' probation.
There was nothing that linked Brunton to the three missing men.
Did I want there to be something? Absolutely.
Did I want to find some closure for those families? Absolutely.
But Brunton wasn't our guy.
The case had taken a toll on me.
Meanwhile, you know, I had a daughter at home who was also needing her mother, and I wasn't there as much as I should have been.
Um, and that was pulling.
That was pulling on me.
It was just the best decision for us as a family for me to retire from policing.
I would still go back to the Village quite often.
I still couldn't let go of the missing men.
They continually haunted me.
I wanted that closure for the community and for the families, and selfishly, for myself as well.
I'd been away from the police service for two years.
I'm relaxing with Julia, we're watching some TV when I received a phone call from my boss from the time that I was investigating the missing men.
He said, "It's happened again.
Previous EpisodeNext Episode