Mystery deepens after fatal siege

"All across the nation, our citizens can stand down and breathe a sigh of relief," was the verdict of Miami Beach police chief Richard Baretto. "The reign of terror brought upon us by Andrew Cunanan is over."

Cunanan, the suspected gay serial killer thought to have murdered the fashion designer, Gianni Versace, was found dead from a gunshot wound, apparently self-inflicted, after a police assault on a houseboat on Miami Beach.

Mr Baretto said at a dawn press conference yesterday that Cunanan, a 27-year-old Californian described as a high-flying homosexual prostitute, had been identified from a thumbprint which matched one he gave when he pawned a gold coin here before Versace's murder last week. He apparently panicked after a caretaker spotted him on board the houseboat on Indian Creek, alongside Miami Beach's busy Collins Avenue.

Police removed his body early yesterday and said a .40 calibre pistol, similar to the one that killed Versace and two of Cunanan's other alleged victims, had been found near his head.

It appeared Cunanan, America's most wanted man since the Versace killing, was already dead when a Florida police Swat team and FBI agents surrounded the houseboat, across Collins Avenue from the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday afternoon. The caretaker reported hearing a gunshot and seeing an intruder, matching Cunanan's description, on board the two-storey floating home, which was supposed to be unoccupied.

After a four-hour siege and a barrage of tear gas, the Swat team moved in, just after 8pm. Initially, they said they found no-one inside. Then, after a second search, they announced at 10pm they had found a body. Only at 5am yesterday, more than 12 hours after the drama began, did Mr Baretto confirm it was Cunanan and that he appeared to have shot himself through the head.

Many people expressed scepticism at the police version, questioning how they could have missed the body on an initial search of a relatively small area.

Some speculated police may have killed the man suspected of the murder of Versace and four other men, but reporters at the scene heard no shots during the assault, other than the tear gas grenades. Police said they fired no shots.

The sceptics noted that Cunanan reportedly left no suicide note, despite the fact that he was known to have kept newspaper cuttings on his crimes and appeared to have basked in the publicity surrounding his alleged murders.

The police and FBI agents never looked totally tense during the "siege," suggesting they either thought no-one was on the boat or that whoever was on board was already dead. Several officers strolled around without cover within what would have been easy firing range of the boat.

Whatever the case, the bizarre ending to Cunanan's alleged three-month killing spree was likely to renew speculation that Cunanan was not working alone when he killed Versace. Those who believed that theory had predicted Cunanan would never be brought in alive. "Now we'll never know what really happened, why he did this," said Stanley Trail, father of one of Cunanan's alleged earlier victims, Jeffrey Trail.

Police said the houseboat, berthed around two miles north of the beach- front mansion where Versace was shot, apparently belonged to Thorsten Reineck, a 49-year-old German wanted in his own country for tax fraud. Some reports said Cunanan may have known Mr Reineck, who reportedly owns a gay health spa in Las Vegas. One report said that Mr Reineck had fled Miami after hearing Cunanan was in the area.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments