British Gay Man Beaten, Burned to Death, Left at Side of Road

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday October 24, 2011

A gay man in Britain was savagely beaten, then set on fire and killed. His burned body was found at the side of a road in Scotland early on the morning of Oct. 22, according to an article in UK newspaper the Daily Mail on Oct. 23.

"Strathclyde Police confirmed the body had scorch marks and the victim had suffered horrific injuries," the article said, noting that the body of 28-year-old Stuart Walker was found in an industrial area of Cumnock, a Scottish town in East Ayrshire.

Walker's burned body was found by a passerby at 5 a.m. He had last been seen at about 2:30 a.m., police said. The young man had been out with friends.

"It is imperative that we find out where he was between 2:30 a.m. and 4:50 a.m. hours, who he was with and why this happened to him," said Det. Inspector John Hogg.

"From our inquiries so far, we understand that there may have been a number of house parties in the nearby Netherthird housing estate in the early hours of the morning--between 2am and 3am hours," Hogg added.

Police speculate that the brutal beating--which left Walker with "horrific injuries," the newspaper account said--and his having been set on fire may have been motivated by anti-gay bias.

However, the BBC noted in an Oct. 24 article, authorities had no evidence that the killing was a bias crime.

"At this time we have nothing to indicate that this is a homophobic crime," Hogg told the BBC. "Until we know the exact circumstances surrounding this murder, we will not rule anything out and will keep an open mind on any possible motive for his terrible crime."

However, Hogg verified that the young man's murder was "an extremely violent crime," the BBC article reported.

The community was "shocked and horrified" by the killing, according to a local government official, Adam Ingram, who told BBC Radio, "Stuart was a very nice young man, very popular and well-known within the Cumnock community, and their thoughts and hearts are going out to the family at the moment.

"It's shocking and horrifying, and it's come completely out of the blue," added Ingram. "It's clearly shaken the local community."

Walker had been employed at a local hotel before starting a new job at a bar mere days before his murder. A former hotel co-worker told the press she could not "believe this happened to such a great guy. I hope they catch those who did this to him. Hopefully justice will be served and I hope those who did this go to hell."

Walker's family also spoke out about the pain and heartbreak the young man's brutal murder had inflicted on them. Walker had missed his grandmother's birthday party, reported British newspaper the Daily Record on Oct. 24, and his relatives knew nothing of his slaying until after the festivities.

"We knew something was wrong because he was really close to his gran and wouldn't have missed her party for anything," said John Mullen, 28, a cousin to the victim.

"He was close to everyone who knew him," continued Mullen. "He was everyone's best pal.

"Whoever has done this has ripped our family apart and broke everyone's heart," Mullen added. "If anyone knows what happened, we would plead with them to come forward."

In Heidelberg, Pennsylvania, two men doused a gay companion with rum and set fire to him, news reports said. 37-year-old Steven Iorio told Pittsburgh news station WPXIabout the assault for an Oct. 18 story.

The assault on Iorio took place last month. Iorio had passed out after drinking, an according to a witness the two men, Brandon Washington and David Blair, poured rum on him and then set him on fire. According to a friend, Tina Cook, the men "wrote disturbing things on his pants and drew on his face" before setting Iorio alight.

The report said that the attack on Iorio was motivated by his being gay.

The assailants have been charged with "aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation," the article said.

Earlier this month, shockwaves rippled through the American LGBT press at reports that a gay man in Africa had been beaten in the street and then burned to death by a mob. The accounts were accompanied by horrific video of the mob beating, pursuing, and lighting the man on fire. Accounts were unclear as to where the killing took place, though some named Uganda as a possibility. EDGE reported on the slaying on Oct. 11.

The reports were also unverified as to the man's identity and the reason for his execution at the hands of the mob. Some disputed that the victim was gay or that his being gay was the reason for his being killed and burned. One EDGE reader claimed to have checked "WITH AFRICANS" and discovered that the man's death was not an incident of anti-gay hate, although that reader did not say why the man had been attacked and killed.

So-called "overkill" is a characteristic of anti-gay hate crimes. In such cases, the victims are beaten well past the point of being killed, and are sometimes disfigured or mutilated. On occasion, their bodies are burned.

Although gays are afforded greater rights in Britain than in the United States, reports say that bias crimes targeting LGBT individuals there have increased recently.

"Crimes against transgender people went up by 14 per cent during 2010 and, in some cities, attacks motivated by sexual prejudice are up by as much as 170 per cent annually," reported British newspaper the Independent on Oct. 23.

"The rise in homophobic crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland went from 4,805 offenses in 2009 to 4,883 in 2010," added the Independent article. "Campaigners say the figures are just the 'tip of the iceberg' as research suggests three out of four people are still too afraid to report these crimes."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.