Barney van Heerden

Gay men in Johannesburg have been warned of a possible serial killer after the revelation that at least four gay men have been murdered in the last ten months.

The Star’s Shain Germaner reported on Monday that police were working on four cases involving gay men who had been bound and then strangled to death in private homes in the Johannesburg area.

The first case to come to the public’s attention was the recent murder of Barney van Heerden (39) at his Orange Grove home on September 19, but now more cases have come to light.

The first is the murder of Jim Cathels, who was found at his home in Berea in December 2010. Four months ago, Oscar O’Hara (33) was murdered while house-sitting for his friend, author Ivan Vladislavic. Then, on September 11, Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo (36) was killed in his Kliptown, Soweto, flat.

All the men had been bound and then strangled. One difference in the murder of Nhlapo, however, was that after he had been strangled acid was poured on his body.

At least two of the men had online dating profiles and it has been speculated that they may have met their killer or killers online.

Forensic specialist Dr Mark Welman, told The Star that gay men should be wary of inviting strangers into their homes.

The newspaper noted, however, that the police do not yet appear to be treating the cases as being linked or as having been perpetrated by a possible serial killer.

“It would be remiss of investigating authorities to not consider possible links, and they should certainly be drawing on their specialised behavioural science unit on these cases,” Welman told The Star when given details of the four murders.

Anyone with information on similar crimes in recent months is requested to e-mail the details to Germaner at

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