The police have finally taken action in the eight mysterious murders of gay men in Gauteng by forming a task team to investigate the crimes.

The move comes after the media and activists put increasing pressure on the authorities to take the similarities in the murders seriously and to investigate if they could be linked.

Both activists and family members of the victims had accused the police of making little progress in the cases.

The murders were being investigated separately by eight individual investigating officers. In frustration, one victim’s family hired a private investigator in an effort to discover the truth behind his murder.

On Tuesday, Shain Germaner at The Star newspaper, who has been at the forefront of reporting on the murders, was told by provincial police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini that the task team will now have centralised access to the evidence and details of the murders.

He stressed, however, that at this point the attacks have not yet been officially linked to each other.

The announcement came on the same day as OUT, the Pretoria-based LGBT health and well-being group, met to form its own task team to look into the attacks and pressure the authorities to take more decisive action. OUT welcomed the latest news.

Since 2010, at least eight gay men have been murdered in Gauteng. These murders remain unsolved and they share many similarities. All the victims were gay, they were murdered in their private homes, little or nothing was stolen, there was no sign of forced entry, and most of them were strangled.

There is a suspicion that at least some of them met their attackers through online or cell phone dating services.

Another man, Thebe Mogamisi from Bloemfontein, has been missing since 31 December 2011 after he travelled to Johannesburg to apparently meet a man that he had met online.

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