Murder in park was latest in spate of anti-gay attacks

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The Independent Online

Friends of the 24-year-old bar manager said he had left home to find wider acceptance of his sexuality in the more cosmopolitan climate of Clapham, south London. But shortly after midnight on Friday, Mr Dobrowski became the latest victim of homophobic violence in the capital.

As he made his way home from visiting a friend, Mr Dobrowski was kicked and punched to death on the edge of a well-known gay cruising area on Clapham Common. Scotland Yard said yesterday the violence was so extreme that his killers had no use for a weapon. Fists and feet, rather than a club or knife, were enough to inflict the injuries to the head, neck and chest from which Mr Dobrowski died in hospital at 10.30am on Saturday.

He was the 141st victim of a homophobic assault in the borough of Lambeth, which adjoins Clapham Common, in a year - the 31st in two and a half months.

In the past month alone, three vicious assaults have been made on gay men in the scrubland part of the common where Mr Dobrowski was killed. In one incident, on 13 September, the victim only escaped from being garrotted with a piece of wire by poking an assailant in the eye. Two weeks ago, a man was beaten unconscious by three attackers in the same area.

Detectives are investigating whether the attacks are linked to Mr Dobrowski's murder. But gay rights campaigners called on police to do more to tackle homophobic crime, as friends of Mr Dobrowksi spoke of a diligent and self-conscious man who, although he did not hide his sexuality, did little to flaunt it either.

Emma, a friend who had known him since he arrived in London, told The Independent: "Jody told me once that he had come to London because he felt his face didn't fit where he grew up. He would get a rough time and he felt he couldn't be himself. He hadn't even told his parents [he was gay] - he was going to tell them over the Christmas holiday."

Police appealed last night for a witness from Surrey to contact them again after giving vital information in an earlier call which indicated he saw the attackers on a tree-lined path next to some sandy football pitches.

Mr Dobrowski had left his friend's home at 10.30pm on Friday and was assaulted shortly before midnight, leaving 90 minutes for which his movements are unaccounted.

It is believed up to 12 people were in the wooded area used as a gay pick-up spot when Mr Dobrowski was attacked amid a volley of homophobic verbal abuse. He was walking from the eastern side of the common to his home in Lavender Street, near Clapham Junction.

Chief Superintendent Joe Royle, the Wandsworth borough commander, said: "Anyone with information should come forward. We are not interested in the private lives of individuals."

The 24-year-old, who is understood to have come from the Fromebridge area, had spent the past four years working at Jongleurs comedy club and its adjoining bar, Rise, next to his rented flat.

As police forensic scientists continued working, friends laid flowers and six identical photographs of Mr Dobrowski, each carrying a message. One read: "Dancing in the living room will never feel the same again." Mr Dobrowski's family also laid tributes.

Peter Tatchell, of the gay rights group Outrage!, said: "It is unlikely to be [the attackers'] first queer-bashing attack and unless they are caught it may not be their last. These killers could kill again."

Police denied a claim from Mr Tatchell that it had taken 24 hours before a witness appeal was issued after the attack.