Barney van Heerden – the most recent victim

A source close to the investigation of the murder of five gay men in the last 18 months in Johannesburg has joined activists in expressing concern about the way that police are handling the matter.

The source told Mambaonline that police were “not doing a good job” in investigating the killings.

The source said that police had not even considered the possibility of at least some of the men using online dating profiles to meet their killer, despite this being discussed in media reports.

The source also revealed that each case was still being handled by a separate investigating officer, none of whom had apparently spoken to each other, compared notes or met – despite the similarities in the case.

In light of these similarities, the source was surprised that the police had not yet appointed a task team to investigate all five murders.

In the first case, Manolis Veloudos was murdered in April last year. He was followed by Jim Cathels, Oscar O’Hara (33), Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo (36) and most recently Barney van Heerden (39) last month.

All the men were killed in private residences, with no sign of entry, and were bound. All but one was strangled to death and at least some of the men were known to make use of online profiles to meet other men.

As evidence mounts that there appears to be a killer or killers preying on gay men in Johannesburg, the Commission for Gender Equality condemned the attacks on gays and lesbians in the country.

The Commission said that it is “concerned about the long delays in cases relating to this issue” and that “the perpetrators deserve to face the full might of the law” and “serve long sentence in jail if proven to have committed these atrocities”.

It added that “that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has to come to the party in ensuring that the plight of LGBTI people” is addressed.

To-date, LGBTI activists’ efforts have been primarily focused on the spate of corrective rape and murders of lesbian women. In these cases, most of the incidents have also been characterised by inefficient or inept investigation and prosecution.

While a “Hate Crimes Task Team” has been set up by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development to investigate murders, rape and attacks on LGBTI people, the task team has remained silent in the face of the latest developments.

Meanwhile, local media outlets – other than The Star newspaper, which has led the investigation around the latest murder cases – have been slow to cover the story. International media, including the BBC, have, however, already begun to report on the murders.

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