A human rights organization in South Africa is accusing authorities of failing to properly investigate the deaths of four gay men. Local media outlets have suggested that the men are the victims of a homophobic serial killer.
"The continued use of culture in order to disguise criminal intent against LGBTI people has to be strongly condemned," said Javu Baloyi, a spokesman for the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), in a statement to The Huffington Post.
"The Commission is ... concerned about the long delays in cases relating to this issue. CGE views these acts as criminal acts and the perpetrators deserve to face the full might of the law," Baloyi said.
The victims, each in their 30s, were found dead between December 2010 and September 2011. All of the victims were bound and strangled, according to The Star.
The first victim, identified as 36-year-old Jim Cathels, was found dead in his Berea home in December 2010.
Roughly six months later, in June of this year, 33-year-old Reno Oscar O'Hara was found dead inside the home of Ivan Vladislavic, a South African short story author and novelist. O'Hara had been housesitting and was discovered by Vladislavic when he returned from a trip to the United Kingdom.
On Sept. 11, the body of Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo, 36, was found inside his flat in Kliptown, Soweto.
The latest victim, 39-year-old Barney van Heerden, was found dead in his Orange Grove home on Sept. 19. Half-full glasses of wine were found on a kitchen table, suggesting that Heerden may have known his attacker.
Heerden's case varies slightly from the others in that the killer poured acid onto the victim's body after death. Forensic specialist Dr. Mark Welman told The Star that the killer may have been attempting to destroy DNA evidence. Some, however, believe that there was a far more sinister motive.
"I find it more likely he brought acid as a method of torture [and] experimented with it," Washington, D.C.-based criminal profiler Pat Brown told The Huffington Post.
There were no signs of forced entry in any of the cases. Because of the similarities in the victim's sexual orientations and the fact that many of the men used Internet dating websites, local activists and media outlets have suggested that a serial killer could be responsible.
Earlier today, IOL News reported a possible fifth victim: Manolis Veloudos, a choreographer and dancer from Hyde Park, Johannesburg. Veloudos was found dead in his Greenside home in April 2010. Like the other victims, Veloudos was bound and murdered. Unlike the others, he was bludgeoned to death with his laptop.
According to Veloudos' niece, Evita Veloudos, there was surveillance camera footage of her uncle with an unknown man on the night of the murder. But IOL News reported that authorities have since lost the footage. If he was a murdered by the same killer, that would make Veloudos the first victim in the case.
The South African Police Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.
Speaking today with Looklocal News, SAPS provincial spokesperson Lt. Col. Lungile Dlamini said that the murders are being investigated as individual cases.
"We have excluded robbery as a motive but, at this stage, there is no further information that may suggest that the incidents are the work of a serial killer. Police are still following leads to identify suspects," Dlamini said.
Not everyone, however, is convinced.
"It would be remiss of investigating authorities to not consider possible links," Welman told The Star.
"There is unquestionably a serial killer loose in South Africa -- at least one," Brown told The Huffington Post. "Since there are Internet dating sites involved, no signs of breaking or entering, wine on the table, no items of major value missing and no sign of a struggle prior to the binding, we can eliminate burglary or hate killing as the motive. ... This is a serial killer who likes to watch his victims die -- a common enjoyment of most serial killers."
The CGE has yet to respond to Dlamini's comments. In the statement provided to HuffPost, Baloyi condemned the murders and called for a full investigation.
"It is our firm belief that the Department of Constitutional Development and Department of Justice have to come to the party by ensuring that gay people receive the necessary attention and that these murders are properly investigated," Baloyi said.
It is only a matter of time, Brown warns, before the killer strikes again.
"The police definitely need to analyze the similarities and connections between these crimes," she said. "This is a serial killer who will likely continue, although now he may change areas or methods of meeting his victims."
MORE INFAMOUS SERIAL KILLERS
Notorious cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer sits with his defense team during his 1991 trial. Dahmer went on a killing spree in the 1980s during which he murdered 17 men and boys. He often had sex with the corpses before dismembering them and, in some cases, ate pieces of human flesh. After his conviction, Dahmer was killed by a fellow inmate in prison.
John Wayne Gacy was arrested in 1978 after murdering 33 men and boys. He was known as the "Killer Clown" for his work as a children's entertainer. When Gacy became the suspect in a young man's disappearance, he invited police to his home for coffee. Cops noticed a smell that could emanate from a decaying body. They returned with a search warrant and found 29 victims stuffed into crawlspaces.
David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" killer, terrorized New York with six murders and several other shootings that ended with his 1977. When police arrested him, Berkowitz, a mailman, said his neighbor's dog commanded him to strike. He's in Sing Sing prison In New York serving life, though he's eligible for parole.
Angelo Buono, a 47 year old auto upholsterer, sits in a Los Angeles courtroom Monday March 2, 1982 as he listens to opening arguments in the so called "Hillside Stranglings" case in which Buono is accused of killing 10 women and girls in the Los Angeles area between 1977 and 1978.
Ted Bundy at one time in the 1970s had a bright future in the Washington State Republican Party, but instead became one of the most famous serial killers and necrophiliacs. He often deceived his victims, all women, into thinking that he was injured and in need of help before attacking them. In 1976 he was arrested for an attempted kidnapping, but while acting as his own lawyer, he escaped. He migrated to Tallahassee where he killed two women in a Florida State University sorority house. He was convicted of those murders and while on death row in 1989 he confessed to 50 other murders. Correction: A previous version of this slide misstated the location of the Florida State murders as Pensacola, Fla.
Aileen Wuornos admitted to killing six men while she worked as a prostitute in Florida in 1989 and 1990. She initially claimed that she acted in self defense against johns who raped her or tried to rape her. But later she admitted that she robbed and killed in cold blood and would do it again if she were free. She was executed in 2002.
Anthony Sowell was convicted and sentenced to death in 2011 for killing 11 women and keeping their remains in his Cleveland home.
In this file photo taken Oct. 24, 1985, "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez displays a pentagram symbol on his hand inside a Los Angeles courtroom. The California Supreme Court Monday< Aug. 7, 2006, upheld the convictions and death sentence for serial killer Richard Ramirez, the so-called "Night Stalker" whose killing spree terrorized the Los Angeles area in the mid 1980s. Ramirez, now 46, was sentenced to death in 1989 for 13 Los Angeles-area murders committed in 1984 and 1985. Satanic symbols were left at some murder scenes and some victims were forced to "swear to Satan" by the killer, who broke into homes through unlocked windows and doors. (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)
Andrew Cunanan is seen in this 1997 mugshot from the FBI. Cunanan murdered five men from Minneapolis to Miami, including fashion designer Gianni Versace. As investigators closed in on him, Cunanan committed suicide in 1997.
Edward Gein, 51, of Plainfield, Wisc. enters Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane Nov. 23,1957, in Milwaukee. Gein admitted to slaying two women and dismembering their bodies as well as robbing graves. Gein flayed the bodies and used human skin and other body parts to decorate furniture and clothing in his decrepit farmhouse. His twisted tale was the inspiration for murders in movies like Buffalo Bill from "The Silence of the Lambs."
Gary Ridgeway slew 48 women in the Seattle area from 1982 to 1998. He was known as the Green River Killer, because his first five victims were found near the waterway. The case was one of the longest unsolved murder mysteries in the country, not to mention one of the bloodiest. Ridgeway pleaded guilty in 2003 and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Albert Fish was a child rapist and cannibal who confessed to torturing hundreds of children, beginning in 1880 in New York. He was convicted in and sentenced to death in 1935 for the murder of a single girl however -- Grace Budd, the 10-year-old daughter of Fish's employee. During the trial, Fish said he heard voices in his head that told him to attack children.
Early on his life, Coral Eugene Watts was identified by psychiatrists as a dangerous and violent individual. He lived up to those warnings as the so-called Sunday Morning Slasher and confessed to killing 80 women in Michigan, Texas and Canada in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He strangled, drowned, stabbed and beat his victims. He died in 2007 in prison from prostate cancer while serving a life sentence for two of the Michigan murders.
Richard Angelo, a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in New York, killed 25 patients in a bungled plan to turn himself into a hero. Angelo injected patients with a cocktail of dangerous drugs with the plan of restoring them to life and burnishing his reputation as a life-saving medical professional. Only 12 patients survived the "Angel of Death."
This is an undated booking photo released by the Washoe County Sheriff's office showing Joseph Naso. Authorities in California and Nevada plan to release more information about Naso, the 77-year-old man accused in four homicides spanning two decades. Naso, of Reno, Nev., was booked late Monday, April 11, 2011, on suspicion of the killings in 1977, 1978, 1993 and 1994.
TOP STORIES FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: