Teen Suspect In Scottish Gay Slay Makes Court Appearance

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 2, 2011

A teenage male suspect in the horrifying beating and burning death of an openly gay Scottish man appeared in court on murder charges on Oct. 31, reported UK newspaper the Daily Record on Nov. 1.

"My client faces two charges," said the lawyer for 18-year-old Ryan Esquierdo, "one of murder and one of theft. He made no plea or declaration." Esquierdo is being represented by Gerry Tierney, the article said.

"Bail was not sought and Mr. Esquierdo is expected to appear again next week," added Tierney.

Esquierdo's 22-year-old brother Robert was also questioned by police and denied any involvement in the murder of Stuart Walker, a bartender whose charred and "horrifically" beaten body was discovered just before 5:00 a.m. on Oct. 22.

Walker had last been seen alive about two and one half hours before. He had gone to parties in subdivisions near his town of Cumnock, in Ayrshire, in a rural area of Scotland.

Authorities said that the beating Walker suffered before being set on fire and burned to death had been "extremely violent and sustained." Reports also indicated that Walker, whose body was found partially unclothed, might have been subjected to sexual assault.

Police have not classified the murder as an anti-gay hate crime, although statistic show that as many as two-thirds of Scotland's estimated 300,000 GLBTs have suffered bias-driven violence and harassment and anti-gay attacks have risen across the UK in recent years. But police did say that they were not ruling anti-gay sentiment out as a possible motive in the killing.

Walker had been questioned in connection with a report of "indecency" involving a 12-year-old boy, but sources told the Daily Record that the man who made the claim against Walker did so under false pretenses as a means of getting back at him for a perceived insult.

Those sources also said that the man who filed the complaint was himself a sexual offender, and added that there had never been any basis to his claims.

"A lying rapist behind a "malicious" child abuse accusation against murder victim Stuart Walker," declared a Daily Record headline on Oct. 28.

The victim's "grieving family were devastated yesterday by reports that he had been accused of indecency against a 12-year-old boy," the article reported. "But the Record can reveal the man who made the allegation was a 44-year-old with a long criminal record including rape, assault, car theft and housebreaking." The article added, "And prosecutors planned to throw out the case."

The article related that Stuart had told the mother of the boy in question that she should cut ties with the boy's father. The man became enraged at this, the newspaper reported, and subsequently told the police that Stuart had "placed his hand down the boy's trousers," according to the story's source. "[The accusation] appeared to be utter nonsense and was going nowhere," the source added.

"There was no suggestion at the time Stuart had inappropriately touched any child and one theory is the partner sought revenge by reporting Stuart to the police."

A second source independently verified what the first source told the Daily Record.

"The guy who reported Stuart is trouble and everyone knows it. He's scum," said the second source. "We think this guy saw Stuart as an easy target as he's openly gay. Stuart was horrified about the report.

"It put him under a ridiculous amount of stress in what were ultimately his final days."

"Stuart's accuser has a conviction for raping a woman after pinning her down and threatening to kill her," the Daily Record reported. "He was also accused of breaching the rules of the sex offenders' register."

Police stressed that they had no reason to think, at this point, that the alleged incident had to do with Walker's murder "in any way," reported UK newspaper the Telegraph on Oct. 27.

False or not, the man's claims may have had some bearing on the slaying. Anti-gay hate crimes are frequently marked by "overkill," with much more violence being directed at the victim than is needed to subdue or kill. But Robert Esquierdo told the Daily Record that neither he nor his brother were behind the killing.

"I wasn't involved in any way," Robert insisted to the paper, which reported on his denials on Oct. 29.

"I've told the cops that. I'm not running about like an idiot anymore," Robert added. "I did when I was a boy but not now. Our family is being blamed for this and it's not true."

Robert went on to say, "I'm nothing to do with any of this. They've come and taken my DNA but that's what murder cops do when something like this happens."

Police also spoke to Robert and Ryan's father, Anthony, 48.

Walker's murder has sparked renewed calls for hate crimes to be addressed by serious police attention.

"This is not the first brutal attack on a gay man in Scotland. It is only the most recent, and among the most horrific," noted a Nov. 2 op-ed in the Edinburgh edition of UK newspaper The Journal. "But whether or not Mr. Walker's murder was driven by prejudice, the case has highlighted the lack of urgency with which policymakers in Scotland are confronting the issue of hate crime here."

The op-ed went on to note the "staggering" ubiquity of anti-gay harassment in Scotland."

"Crown Office statistics show a five-fold increase in crimes against LGBT people over a five-year period up to 2010, and The Herald cite a 2010 survey suggesting that two-thirds of Edinburgh's LGBT community have been the victims of homophobic verbal abuse," the article said.

"That is a staggering statistic. The need for social inclusion, and the right of every person to feel safe in their community, regardless of their ethnic background, religious belief or sexual orientation, is not a matter of debate: It is a moral imperative."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. 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.

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