The death of Stuart Walker, the openly gay 28-year-old who was murdered in Scotland over the weekend, has sent a shock wave through the small-town community of Cumnock in Ayrshire county, the coutry and the world.
We are all shocked at the death of Stuart and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, a spokesperson for the bar where Walker worked said in a statement.
A number of tributes, in the forms of flowers and hand-written notes, were left at Walker's home and in the industrial center where he was killed.
Miss + Love you always our dear grandson. Sleep tight, Gran and Papa, a note written by Walker's grandparents read.
Another note from friends said: There are so many words going through my mind at the moment. One is Why. Why our Stuart? The whole family has been ripped apart.
Life will never be the same again - or any party! We are all so devastated and heartbroken.
Lov n miss you so much, from Keri, Ryan and kids. XXXX.
There have also been a number of tribute Wed sites made, including on Facebook and on Respectance. Additionally, Scottish LGBT group Stonewall Scotland issued a statement about the murder.
The news of Stuart Walker’s brutal death is horrifying and our sympathy must go to his family and friends. Stonewall Scotland are deeply worried that the police feel there may be a possibility that his death was a hate crime and we urge everyone to co-operate with the police in their investigation.
The savagery of the murder has only stunned people around the world further. Walker, whose body was discovered around 5 a.m. Saturday morning, was apparently beaten severely and possibly abused sexually before he was set on fire and left to die.
''Stuart had been out with friends in the Cumnock area earlier during the night and was last seen alive by a family friend near to the fire station in Glaisnock Street around 2:30 a.m. hours on Saturday morning -- nearly two and a half hours before he was found, Ayr Detective Inspector John Hogg said in a statement.
''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.
''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.
''At this time we do not know if these parties are linked to our investigation or not, so again, any information on that is important.
''Officers are checking CCTV and carrying out door to door [questioning] in the area and we would encourage anyone with information to approach them or to call Ayr Police Office.
While very little is clear about when and why Walker was killed, police are not ruling out the notion that Walker was targeted because of his sexual orientation.
Yet, Walker was a well-known and liked person in the small town of Cumnock, and residents cannot fathom why Walker would be the victim of such a terrible and brutal crime.
You could talk to everyone in this town and you would never hear a bad word about him. That’s what puzzles me, I just can’t understand why anyone would do this, Cumnock resident Derek Monoghan told The Scotsman.com.
“He was just an excellent boy. He was quiet, he would not say boo to a flea. He never had any trouble, there’s just no reason why anyone would do this to him, Lyndsay McClue told Scotsman. “He was open about being gay, but he never got any grief for it.”
Whether or not Walker's murder is actually a hate crimes, violence against homosexuals in Scotland is not a small or isolated problem.
In March, 2010, a survey published by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender support group Stonewall Scotland revealed that two-thirds of homosexuals in Scotland have been the victim of anti-gay verbal abuse, and one third have been the victims of hate crimes and physical attacks. Many said that that was “just part of life” in Scotland.
“Too many people in Scotland experience hate crimes – and many don’t report it, because they think it won’t make a difference or because it happens on such a regular basis. A quarter told us they accept the abuse and the attacks as part of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in Scotland.
That attitude might change after Walker's murder. Not reporting abuse allows the abusers to get away with it. They, their peers and the next generation of Scots won't learn that hating (and hurting) someone because of their sexual orientation is not OK.