Sometime very early Saturday morning, openly-gay bartender Stuart Walker of Cumnock, Scotland was beaten and then burned alive, by someone.
Currently, that is all the information that police have about Walker's murder. He was found by a citizen of the county Ayrshire at 5 a.m. on Oct. 22, in an industrial park on the outskirts of town. Police weren't even able to identify the body until Walker's family reported him missing after he missed his grandmother's birthday party and failed to show up for work.
''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.
At this point, everything else is speculation. What's clear is that he was subjected to a violent and sustained beating before he was lit on fire. Police now suspect that Walker might have been sexually assaulted before he died, and they are centering the investigation around Walker's sexual orientation.
I don’t think it was a random attack by someone who will strike again, Divisional Commander John Thomson told The Daily Mail. I suspect Stuart may have known this individual or met this individual shortly before his death.
The confusion and uncertainty surrounding the murder in Cumnock have not just confounded police -- who are busy questioning friends and the party-goers in the area late Friday night -- but also the whole community.
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, a card on a bouquet of flowers outside Walker's house read. Life will never be the same again - or any party! We are all so devastated and heartbroken.
No one seems to understand how Walker, a well-respected and well-liked man, could have been the victim of such a brutal and tragic event. Unless he was targeted because he was gay.
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.
Stuart Walker might not have been killed because he was gay. His murderers could have had no idea that he was. But until what happened between 2:30 and 4:50 a.m. Friday night is clear, his sexuality can be the only assumption. It may not be correct, but for a town, county, country and world, it feels better than knowing nothing.