The sister of a Canadian man who has been missing for nine years believes he is a victim of the Santa Claus serial killer who murdered eight men in Toronto after a witness came forward saying that she saw them together before he disappeared.
Judi Riley’s brother Jon went missing on April 24, 2013, at the age of 47, after he left a note saying that he was going to Toronto to meet someone for a few days for work.
She told MailOnline: ‘Jon was last seen by our mum.She saw him before she went to a brunch coincidentally hosted by the OPP Ontario Provincial Police.
‘There was nothing unusual about that morning or the days leading up to his disappearance.’
But she explained: ‘He did have mental health issues, he was vulnerable in that regard.Also he was very trusting. A bit naïve I would say,’ she said.
Jon never returned home and has never been found.
Judi Riley’s brother Jon, pictured together, went missing on April 24, 2013, at the age of 47, after he left a note saying that he was going to Toronto to meet someone for a few days for work
He vanished during Project Houston, an 18-month police investigation which started in November 2012.It was launched to look into the disappearances of three men from the Gay Village in Toronto.
‘During Project Houston, the police were interviewing the community of the Gay Village and it was well known in that timeframe that people needed to be careful of a serial killer.
‘Anyone outside of that community did not know about Project Houston’, Judi said.
Bruce McArthur, the ‘Santa Claus’ serial killer, had slaughtered eight men between 2010-2017- all of them disappeared from Toronto’s ‘gay village’.
He was later found to have killed one of the men investigated in Project Houston.
The dismembered remains of several of his victims were found buried in planters at a suburban property at which he worked as a landscaper.
He was arrested in January 2018.On January 29, 2019, he pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.
She said that Jon was last seen by their mother and there was nothing unusual about the morning he disappeared or the days leading up to when he vanished. Pictured: Judi and Jon when they were younger
Jon, pictured, vanished during Project Houston, an 18-month police investigation which started in November 2012.It was launched to look into the disappearances of three men from the Gay Village in Toronto
Judi Riley appears in the final episode of the six-part BBC series Santa Claus: The Serial Killer, a documentary about Bruce McArthur, presented by Mobeen Azhar, who was looking into the case.
In the episode, Judi was speaking about Jon, whom she believes could have been connected to McArthur and been another possible victim of him, as both worked in landscaping and were seen at a café together in the days before he disappeared.
Before Bruce McArthur was prosecuted, the police would not speak to Judi.But after he was prosecuted, she tracked down a lead investigator who she called.
She said: ‘I was able to fish out of him that there were 9 file folders on BM’s desktop – each labeled with a victim.
He said there were photos of each victim corresponding to the name on the file inside the folder.
‘He told me the last file was labeled John but didn’t match the victim who was found tied up when BM was arrested in BM’s apartment.
‘He told me the computer held thousands of photos – in addition to the desktop files.He said they have identified all of the people in the photos (which can’t possibly be true).’
Bruce McArthur, pictured, the ‘Santa Claus’ serial killer, had slaughtered eight men between 2010-2017- all of them disappeared from Toronto’s ‘gay village’
Before Bruce McArthur was prosecuted, the police would not speak to Judi.But after he was prosecuted, she tracked down a lead investigator who she called and was told that he had files on his computer of the men he had killed. Pictured: Judi with a picture of Jon
Judi told MailOnline: ‘At first I didn’t see any correlation with Bruce McArthur whatsoever but the moment I found out he was a landscaper and as I started to put the pieces together I was in full-blown panic mode.’
She added that he would travel to Toronto in between his remote computer jobs for manual labor work so that he could save money and then spend the summers sailing and camping on his sailboat.
After November 2012, she said he stayed in hostels and shelters in Toronto where he found those jobs.
He stayed at the same places as one of the victims.Bruce McArthur solicited laborers from that place, she added.
She explained that employees would fax jobs over to those places and in the morning the staff would read off the jobs.
Judi said that Jon had also advertised on Craigslist that people could sail on his sailboat which she said was another possible way that they could have met.
Pictured: A missing persons poster for Jon Riley, who has been missing for nine years, with details on how to contact police with information
Speaking on the documentary, a woman called Dee spoke on the phone with Mobeen and described seeing them together shortly before he went missing.
Dee said: ‘I met Jon once in the village at the Second Cup coffee shop which is on Church Street and he was on the patio with Bruce McArthur.
‘He looked out of place, he seemed to be uncomfortable, he was very shy.Bruce McArthur was very animated and very loud and they were talking about how they had been doing landscaping together.
‘I wouldn’t have called the police if there was any doubt in my mind.
‘The police reached out to me as part of the investigation. They said just because I had encountered John Riley with Bruce McArthur it didn’t mean that Bruce McArthur had killed him.
‘But it was too much of a coincidence that Jon Riley came to the village, was doing landscaping with Bruce McArthur and had disappeared from the face of the earth.
‘I find that far too coincidental.’
Speaking on the documentary, a woman called Dee spoke on the phone with Mobeen and described seeing Jon and Bruce, pictured, together shortly before he went missing
However, speaking to Mobeen, Detective Hank cast doubt over possible connections: ‘Mr Riley disappeared in 2013 and we know McArthur was logging his victims from 2010 onwards.
When asked if he could have been involved, Detective Hank added: ‘I don’t think so, no.
‘We have had discussions with Mr McArthur post conviction but he is a bit of a manipulator and if there is something out there he has not told us about it and maybe that’s because there is nothing out there or maybe that’s because he chooses not to tell us.’
Mobeen discovered that Bruce had worked as a Santa Claus in a local shopping center before he committed the murders.
Karen and Ron Fraser, the couple whose garden Bruce used to bury remains, showed him a tape in which he spoke about the work he was doing.
He was once a friend of Karen and Ron’s, doing gardening work for them.Speaking of the tape, Mobeen said he showed empathy and sympathy.
Karen said: ‘That’s right, that’s what we thought. Maybe he just never thought he was going to get caught.’
Investigators sift through compost looking for human remains behind Fraser’s home in 2018
Fraser and her husband are seen outside their home in Toronto as investigators began searching for the remains of McArthur’s victims in January 2018
Speaking on Jon’s case, Judi said that police would not take a missing persons report at first.
After the Bruce McArthur murders, a panel of one judge and some attorneys investigated what happened with the police investigation.
Judi said she had called that panel ‘over and over’ until they spoke with her.
She continued: ‘I had the opportunity to speak with them and share my story about the difficulties of reporting a person missing in Canada and that the laws needed to change.
After the 36-month investigation the judge called her and asked if they could write a letter on behalf of their family requesting a proper investigation into the disappearance of her brother.
Police are are now investigating for the first time since 2013.
Judi told MailOnline: ‘In November 2021 they took my DNA and my mom’s DNA and filed it in the new Familia DNA database for the missing.At the time they were identifying victims of Bruce McArthur they did not have my brother’s DNA. There are no answers so far.’
‘For the first time since my brothers disappearance it is being investigated. On this journey I have learned the shortcomings of missing persons in Canada.The judge from the panel has been advocating for change. They put together a summary of how the system should change. One year later nothing has changed.’
She explained that police had been ready to wrap up the case before this investigation opened.
Detective Hank told Mobeen in the show: ‘We’ve got a situation where there’s definitely failings by the police.We have got this monster who is able to manipulate individuals and the police.’ Bruce McArthur is pictured center in a court sketch from a hearing where he was sentenced to life in prison
Detective Hank told Mobeen in the show: ‘We’ve got a situation where there’s definitely failings by the police.We have got this monster who is able to manipulate individuals and the police.’
Judi spoke of her brother: ‘Jon is amazing, he is the quintessential big brother. He is very outdoorsy.
‘The tense when I speak about him I try to keep him in present tense because he is missing.
‘I miss Jon enormously and my life will never be the same without him.So much of who I am as a person comes from having Jon as someone to look up to and to hang out with.
‘He doesn’t sweat the small stuff and is an eternal optimist. I try to honor him by living my best life because I know he would not want me to live my days blanketed in grief.I now limit my time each week and try to also limit my grief to the windows of time while I continue to investigate.
‘Jon would never stop looking for me if I had disappeared. I will do the same for him. If I can’t find my brother I will at the very least change the way police handle the missing in Canada in his honor so no other family will go through what we have experienced.
‘I do not know what happened to my brother.It is a big question mark. I believe there is a chance there is a connection. Only Bruce McArthur knows the answer and he is not talking.’
Toronto Police said Jon Riley’s disappearance is an Ontario Provincial Police investigation.
The first episode of Santa Claus: The Serial Killer is on BBC Three at 9pm on 6th November
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