Victim: Rulov Senekal

In a startling revelation, the police stated in parliament on Tuesday that they have identified a suspect in four of the mysterious murders of gay men in Gauteng.

The DA called on the Minister of Police to comment on the apparent lack of action in investigating the eight murders of gay men in the province over the last two and a half years.

The party was approached by friends and families of the victims frustrated by apparent inaction in the investigations. Last month, the DA’s shadow minister of transport, MP Ian Ollis, submitted questions to the ministry on the matter.

In a written response, Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Tuesday that one man, who remains at large and is known only as ‘Tony Boy’, has been linked to at least four of the attacks.

However, Gauteng police previously repeatedly insisted that there were no links between the cases.

Shockingly, the minster’s response also states that, contrary to what Gauteng police had announced earlier this year, no  task was ever set up to investigate the murders. One captain, Happy Vilankulu, has instead been tasked with the job in connection with the four linked murders.

A source close to the cases said that he believes that police announced the non-existent task team “to just shut up” growing concerns about the investigations.

The minister’s response further suggests that the investigations appear to have come to a halt. This is in large part due to incomplete toxicology test results and outstanding requests for cell phone records.

Victim: Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo

Ollis told Mambaonline that he is extremely concerned that a lot of the cases are not being followed up. He noted that one post mortem from August 2011 has not yet been completed.

“The point is that they have not established a task team to coordinate the investigation and to try to catch the perpetrator. In most of the cases the victim was strangled and in most cases there was no sign of forced entry at the crime scene. There is a pattern,” Ollis said.

He suggested that homophobia within the police may in part be behind the apparent lack of progress.

“What you notice is that cases like the rape of women and in hate crimes against gay people there seems to just be lethargy about taking the cases seriously. And I don’t think that’s acceptable. You can see it with the corrective rape murders – there is no enthusiasm from police officers on the ground.”

Ollis said that he would continue to pursue the matter. “I am going to ask more questions in parliament. We need to find out why the test results are not in and why the police are not establishing a task team. The police should be doing more to investigate this in a coordinated fashion,” he said.

Since April 2010 at least eight gay men have been murdered in Gauteng under similar circumstances. All the victims were gay, they were murdered in private homes, little or nothing was stolen, there was no sign of forced entry, and most of them were strangled.

Suspect: Nhlanhla Msimango

There was wide speculation that the victims may have met their attackers through online or mobile dating services, although this has not been confirmed. The most recent murder was that of the Joburg Theatre’s head of wardrobe Rulov Senekal in Braamfontein, Johannesburg on 25 February this year.

The minister’s response revealed that there are two suspects in Senekal’s murder. One is known as Thuba Nube. He allegedly visited the victim six times before the murder, including on the day of the murder. There is video footage of the suspects leaving the scene of the crime with stolen property in black bags.

Another man, Nhlanhla Msimango, has also been previously linked to one of the murders; that of Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo (36) in Soweto in September 2011. He remains on the run. The minister’s response suggests, however, that ‘Tony Boy’ could be one of Msimango’s aliases and that he is in fact the suspect linked to three other cases.

The murders of gay men began with Manolis Veloudos, who was killed in April 2010. He was followed by Jim Cathels in Berea in December 2010; Oscar O’Hara (33) in May 2011; a 47-year-old un-named landlord in Northcliff in August 2011; Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo (36) in Soweto in September 2011; Barney van Heerden (39) in Orange Grove, also in September 2011; HIV/Aids activist and television presenter Jason Wessenaar (39) in his Pretoria West home in December 2011; and finally Rulov Senekal in February 2012.

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