Focus: The cat-and-mouse killer

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The Independent Online
Miami and Florida have developed a bad case of Cunanan phobia. The alleged murderer of Gianni Versace has been "seen" in bars, in discos, in Key West. Police crowded into the Normandy Plaza apartment hotel on Collins Avenue, Miami Beach's main drag, on Friday night after the manager reported that he was sure a guest who had been there for about two months until 12 July was Andrew Cunanan, using a French-sounding name not unlike his own.

A sex shop manager near Versace's substantial villa has talked of a well- dressed, well-spoken regular customer resembling Cunanan.

"He came into my bar on Wednesday at five for happy hour," said Gannon Woekel, a barman in the Lake Worth area. Woekel said he was "too terrified" to call police until the man had gone. He gave them a Heineken beer bottle the man drank from and police were checking it for fingerprints.

Even a Miami Herald newspaper reporter, Johnny Diaz, was briefly "fingered" as Cunanan after a source he was interviewing decided he looked a lot like the alleged serial killer. The interviewee called the FBI, who questioned Diaz briefly.

And a video camera above the door of Versace's Mediterranean-style villa reportedly picked out a young man fitting Cunanan's description in the crowd of people laying flowers at the site of the designer's death only a few hours after it happened. Cunanan may have mingled with sightseersopposite the villa throughout that day, before his wanted posters were widely distributed, police sources said.

What we know for sure is that the 27-year-old homosexual rentboy-turned- serial killer was in Florida for at least two months before the killing, living in an oceanfront hotel four miles north of Versace's villa. He may have beaten one Miami homosexual on 12 May and strangled another, a wealthy Cuban doctor, last Thursday.

But the alleged sightings of Cunanan would fit in with the theory that Cunanan is playing a cat-and-mouse game with police, teasing them with a deliberate trail of clues during a rampage of killings that could number as many as seven. Police sources said he left his American passport in the stolen pick-up van found after Versace's murder last Tuesday, possibly part of a plan to keep police warm on his trail.

He could just as easily have fled in the van, stolen from an earlier victim in New Jersey, but instead took a taxi. He had left the van in the public car park for five weeks without using it, except to change clothes after the Versace murder when he may have deliberately scattered the blood-stained clothes around it to attract police to it.

This suggests he may be planning a major coup - either another celebrity killing, or staging his own death in a final shoot-out with police - and does not intend to flee the country, though he is now thought to have a forged French passport, police sources said.

Four days after Gianni Versace's murder, there is already sufficient evidence to show that Andrew Cunanan's behaviour is so unpredictable and bizarre that nothing he might do will come as a surprise.