The three suspects in the murder of Barney van Heerden

In an incident similar to a spate of recent attacks on gay men in South Africa, another gay man has been murdered in his home, apparently after meeting someone online.

Rapport reported on Wednesday that the body of Graham Flax (65) was discovered in the hallway of his apartment in the Costa Bravo apartment building in Sea Point, Cape Town, on Sunday night.

He appeared to have suffered a blow to the head and was blue in the face; suggesting some kind of suffocation or strangulation.

“On Saturday at 02:40, residents of the building heard him shout: ‘Let me out! Let me out!'” said police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk.

A laptop and a cell phone were stolen in the attack.

“He met someone somewhere,” Flax’s friend Atoll McLaggan told the newspaper. “Whether it’s a friend or a for-hire appointment, I do not know. He regularly went on internet dates.”

Rapport said that police have a suspect in custody but he has not yet appeared in court.

In January, the body of 50-year-old Graham Collop was found in his ransacked flat in Plumstead, Cape Town. He had been bound and strangled. There was also no sign of forced entry.

The circumstances of these attacks are similar to those of a series of murders of gay men in Gauteng over the past two years.

Police have previously said that they believe that a gang targeting gay men has been operating in Gauteng and Cape Town.

In December, Maxwell Nyathi, Mthokozisi Ndlovu and Themba Maseko appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court in connection with the murder of Orange Grove resident, Barney van Heerden.

Van Heerden (39) was found dead in his home in September 2011. He had been tied up and appeared to have been strangled. There was no sign of forced entry.

The suspects’ case has been postponed by the courts as police are still investigating the men’s possible connection to seven other murders in Gauteng. The authorities have also not ruled out that other members of the alleged gang might still be active, possibly in Cape Town.

Police believe that, at least in some of the cases, the criminals may have used chat rooms or online dating services to target their gay victims.

Meanwhile Van Heerden’s family and friends have confronted police at the Norwood Police Station, demanding answers as to why their investigation has been taking so long.

Eye Witness News (EWN) reported that the magistrate presiding over the case against the three men accused of Van Heerden’s murder threatened to release them if forensic evidence was not brought forward by the state by 18 April.

Van Heerden’s sister, Anchen Jooste, however, told EWN that she was feeling “much more positive” about the case after meeting with police officials.

EWN said that they had been told by police that they had signed confessions from the three suspects as well as evidence of their fingerprints at the crime scene.

Police have warned gay men nationally to be wary of whom they allow into their homes as, despite the arrests, other suspects may continue to target them.

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