Merseyside police yesterday appealed to the city's gay community to help in the investigation. Detectives believe that Gordon Miller, 36, may have been a victim of an anti-gay attack or could have been set upon by robbers as he took a short cut back to his hotel.
He was found in St John's Gardens on Monday morning. He died from a hail of blows to his head and face from a blunt object, which has not been recovered. His jeans and shirt were wrapped around his head, but an expensive watch, credit cards and some money were not taken. There was no indication of sexual assault.
Police said yesterday that Mr Miller had a girlfriend in Oxford and there was no evidence he was homosexual.
Nevertheless, he was killed in a park that was a known area for gay "cruising", and members of the homosexual community fear this could be the latest incident of "gay bashing". More than a third of gay men and women - and half of those aged under 18 - have been victims of homophobic violence in the past five years, according to a new national survey. Earlier this month, three teenagers were charged with murder and attempted murder after an alleged attack on two men in a Plymouth park.
Mr Miller, an accounts manager from Oxford, had arrived in Liverpool on Sunday evening for a business meeting the following morning. He checked into the Adelphi Hotel, which is close to St John's Gardens, and left his room at about 8pm.
The small park, in an attractive part of the city, is used as a short cut between the business sector and an area of shops and bars. Police say there have not been any previous reports of attacks taking place in the park, although people are notoriously reluctant to report anti-homosexual assaults.
Detectives believe Mr Miller may have been one of three men seen arguing violently at about midnight on Sunday. Chief Inspector Frank Thompson, who is in charge of the investigation, said: "It may be that this is a one-off and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time."