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No evidence killing was hate crime, says chief constable

THE head of Scotland's biggest police force said there was still no evidence to class the murder of a gay man as homophobic as he insisted he was confident his force would secure a conviction for the killing.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the murder of barman Stuart Walker, Strathclyde Police Chief Constable Steve House said that, while the killing could yet be classified as a hate crime, there was currently “no definite reason for doing that”.

Speaking at a meeting of his force’s governing body, Mr House reiterated an appeal for public information on the murders of three members of the Sharkey family in Helensburgh in the summer.

He also pointed to a recent murder in the Lanarkshire area where the force spent more than 160 days painstakingly digging sites across the area until the body was recovered as an example of the force’s perseverance in solving homicides.

Mr Walker, 28, died after suffering what police describe as “horrible injuries”. His body was discovered shortly before 5am on Saturday at Caponacre industrial estate in Cumnock, Ayrshire.

Mr House said: “At the moment we have not established that the reason for this murder was homophobic. The reason I choose my words is that we feel no pressure on us to categorise it one way or other. We go with facts. If anyone feels there’s a homophobic element we will classify it as such and if it looks like a homophobic attack we’ll deal with it as a hate crime.

“At the moment we don’t have a definite reason for doing that.

“If that changes we will consider this homicide in those terms.

“We have a number of positive lines of inquiry and I am confident that, with the professionalism of officers and the involvement of the public we’ll bring someone to court for this murder.”

Mr Walker’s battered and burned body was found by the roadside on an industrial estate in his home town of Cumnock, Ayrshire, in the early hours of Saturday. He had been at a party with friends just hours beforehand.

It emerged yesterday that he had been questioned by police over alleged child indecency weeks before his death.

A report was sent to the procurator-fiscal in connection with the incident, allegedly involving a 12-year-old boy.

The case was still being investigated when Mr Walker was murdered but has been closed as a result of his death. Police said there did not appear to be any link between the claims and Mr Walker’s murder.

A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said: “There was a report sent to the procurator-fiscal in relation to an alleged indecency on a 12-year-old boy.

“There is no suggestion this incident is in any way connected to the murder of Mr Walker at the weekend .”

The barman’s death has sent shockwaves through the local community. More than 12,000 people have left messages on Facebook pages set up in his honour, with posts from friends and family as well as from strangers as far afield as California, France and Finland.

Thousands more took to Twitter to write messages of condolence to his family.

On Wednesday David Cameron urged the public to help solve the murder of Mr Walker after Sandra Osborne, Labour MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, raised his case at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons.

Sending his condolences to Mr Walker’s family, Mr Cameron said: “It was once said that the police are the public and the public are the police.

“The police cannot solve crimes without the help of the public and I hope everyone will co-operate in the best way they can.”

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