Monday, January 20, 2003

Scenes of horror in massage parlour

CAPE TOWN — Scenes of utter horror greeted journalists on Monday when they were finally allowed to enter a house in Sea Point where six men were found tied up and shot dead. Their throats had also been slit.

A seventh victim of the gruesome early-morning attack at the well-known Sea Point gay massage parlour, frequented by men, died in Groote Schuur Hospital.

Two others were in the hospital's intensive-care unit while another man was admitted to Somerset Hospital. He was due to be transferred to Groote Schuur.

About seven hours after the massacre, journalists were allowed into the main bedroom of the white, red tiled house, one at a time and only for a few seconds.

From the outside, the house, with its picket fence, shrubs and flowers, is partly hidden from the road and appears neat and tidy. It gives no clue as to what transpired inside.

Teddy bears lying on the floor

The main bedroom was dark and dingy. Heavy curtains covered the windows and there was blood everywhere.

The room contained six bunk beds — apparently for guests wanting to spend the night.

The place appeared to have been ransacked with items of clothing and teddy bears lying on the floor.

Inside the house, there were television sets and video cassette recorders, but police did not divulge what was on the tapes.

There were also cubicles inside the house with massage tables and pornographic photographs of men stuck to the walls.

'Where's Eric?'

About 09:30, a woman, apparently the domestic worker, arrived at the house and immediately started crying uncontrollably. She cried out: "Where's Eric, where's Eric", as she was comforted by police.

It could not be immediately ascertained, but Eric is believed to have owned or managed the massage parlour.

The woman was later taken away by police.

Captain Etienne Terblanche, who was at the house, said the three survivors were in a serious condition.

Five bodies had been found inside the main bedroom, all tied up together and all shot close range. Some of them had their throats slit. Another body was found in an adjacent bedroom.

Terblanche said three injured people were found inside the house with similar injuries.

Victims found bleeding and screaming

A fourth injured man escaped from the house and stumbled into a nearby service station. A petrol attendant said the man was able to say only where the bloodbath had taken place before he collapsed.

Another police source said the injured were found crawling around the house, bleeding and screaming.

Terblanche said police were questioning neighbours and people living in the immediate vicinity as well as street children… everyone who could be questioned as witnesses.

A statement had also been taken from a client who arrived at the house shortly after 04:00.

Terblanche confirmed the house was used as a gay massage parlour. They had had dealings in the past, after complaints from some neighbours.

Scope of investigation 'very wide'

Terblanche did not want to speculate about whether the killing was related to a gay protection racket or whether drug dealers were involved.

All he would say was that police were investigating all avenues.

"The scope of our investigation is very wide at the moment. We are looking at all possibilities."

Asked whether there could be a link to attacks on other gay clubs, Terblanche again said all possibilities would be investigated.

He said it might be difficult to identify the victims as men who frequented such places usually used aliases.

Safety and security MEC Leonard Ramatlakane who was at the house early on Monday said he was shocked that people could be massacred in that way.

Ramatlakane said an integrated police task team had been put together to investigate the massacre which looked like "organised crime was behind this."

The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project said in a statement that it had learnt with shock about the massacre.

The organisation's director, Evert Knoesen, said indications were that the murders could be a hate crime.

Sex workers vulnerable

"People who work in the sex service industry are particularly vulnerable (to violence) as they operate outside the parameters of formal society," said Knoesen.

He said crimes against "these people" were often not investigated as thoroughly as they could be.

"Further, we are concerned that this could be an instance of a hate crime perpetrated against gay men as an identified minority.

"We have been concerned about threats issued by various fringe groups in society in recent months that indicated an intention to perpetrate acts of violence against lesbian and gay people," said Knoesen.

He called on the national commissioner of police and the commissioner of police in the Western Cape to appoint a special investigation team to urgently investigate the mass murder and to spare no effort in apprehending the perpetrators of these crimes.

The Equality Project conveyed its sympathies to those who had lost family and friends and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

Flat owner woken by shots

An Oliver Court flat-owner, who declined to be identified, said he had been woken by shots and had seen a man with a gaping wound to his neck, running up Oliver Street to a service station in Main Road.

Police had been called.

The flat-owner said 15 police vehicles and four ambulances had arrived at the house shortly after 04:00. All roads leading to Graham Road were immediately sealed off.

'Nothing surprises you anymore

Another elderly couple, out from the United Kingdom to escape the British winter said they had heard the shots from their flat in Rhona Court.

"We came here from England to escape the weather and this is what happens," said the husband, who did not wish to be named.

"At the age of 77, you've seen quite enough so nothing surprises you anymore," they said.

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Created: January 24, 2003
Last modified: January 24, 2003
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