Eight gay men have been murdered in their homes in Gauteng in the past two years in strikingly similar circumstances.

Police have finally assembled a task team to investigate the murders of eight gay men found dead in their homes across Gauteng in a killing spree that has spanned almost two years.

The police action was announced on the same day as the gay rights and lifestyle group OUT formed a task team of its own to put pressure on the police to be seen to be acting.

When The Star originally reported on the first four deaths in October last year, police said there was no reason to believe there were any links between the crimes.

However, four more deaths were uncovered in the intervening months. They each involved gay men murdered in similar ways: all of them were found bound and murdered in their homes.

Yesterday, provincial police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said a task team of top detectives would be investigating the eight murders.

He did not confirm whether the cases had been officially linked.

This development means that if a suspect is caught in connection with one of the cases, DNA evidence and forensic data can be easily compared to determine if the person is responsible for any of the other crimes.

The group of detectives will be investigating all the murders instead of eight officers from eight police stations working on eight different cases.

Manolis Veloudos was the first to be killed, in April 2010. His death was followed in 2011 by the deaths of Jim Cathels, Oscar O’Hara, 33, an unnamed landlord and, in September, Siphiwe Selby Nhlapo, 36, and Barney van Heerden, 39, were found dead.

HIV activist Jason Wassenaar was murdered in his home in December and theatre manager Rulov Senekal was found dead last month.

Another gay man has also gone missing after an internet relationship led him to Joburg.

Thebe Mogamisi had met a potential love interest online late last year, and travelled from Bloemfontein to Joburg to meet a man known only as Sipho on New Year’s Eve.

His family last heard from Mogamisi on December 31, when he said he would finally be meeting his new friend in person. That was the last his family and friends have heard from him.

OUT’s task team proposed an aggressive campaign on Tuesday - to call on police at a national, provincial and station level to get a task team to tackle the cases.

They also want to ask the Department of Justice to establish the status of each of the investigations.

The head of the organisation, Dawie Nel, said he was glad that the murder cases would be receiving the attention they deserved. - The Star