Of the smiling faces that filled the streets from the Embankment to Hyde Park, five stood out. They stared out from 10,000 leaflets being distributed by police, desperate for information that could lead to the arrest of the man responsible for killing five gay men since March.
OutRage, the militant gay rights group, was issuing advice: 'Given there's a maniac on the loose preying on lone individuals, group sex is safest.'
Before the procession moved off, patchwork quilt-like banners lay in the street bearing the names of Aids victims, or 'Absent Friends' as they were described: Denholm Elliott, Tommy Nutter and Michael. Next to 'Michael' were the words: 'Your last name is in under a strip. Perhaps one day your family will re-learn their pride in you.'
Frank Storm, from Brighton, said: 'We're not here to put two fingers up at the murderer but at a society that refuses to acknowledge we exist.'
Daniel Curry, who was selling whistles for OutRage, added: 'We've been faced with HIV and Aids for some time now, so we're used to living with threats and taking precautions.'
The crowd streamed down Pall Mall, cheering as it passed the Athenaeum, the RAC and the Carlton Club. The loudest whistles were saved for bare-chested builders high above Piccadilly and a lorry-load of squaddies.
Detectives hunting the serial killer may seek active help from the Lesbian and Gay Police Association, Scotland Yard said yesterday. Members of the association, formed two years ago, have already given advice.
Gay police officers could be used to interview homosexuals reluctant to talk to ordinary detectives or to join teams touring gay bars and pubs.
The Yard has stressed that the police are not working undercover.
Det Supt Ken John, who is co- ordinating the hunt, said that police were not sure the killer was gay, but he repeated warnings to the gay community not to have casual liaisons with strangers.
All the killings are believed to have occurred during bondage sessions.
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